What the Heck is it?
Vodka is a distilled spirit with a high alcohol content that can be produced from a number of different materials and possess different characteristics depending on the creator. Most produced these days is made from a grain, though some is still made from potatoes. The exact history of this spirit is unknown, though it most likely originated somewhere in the region of Poland or Russia between the 14th and 16th centuries. The word is thought to derive from Russian, meaning roughly “little water”.
The majority of vodkas produced today for consumption in the United States and Western Europe are made from either wheat or rye and are heavily filtered. By law, in these regions, vodka cannot have a distinctive color, smell, or flavor. It is, in many ways, an essential spirit, which is one reason it is so popular in mixed drinks and as a base alcohol for flavored spirits.
Traditionally, vodka may be made from virtually anything — grapes, soy, beets, potatoes, corn, wheat, and rye. Some are even made from leftover material in the oil refining process. In many Eastern European countries, vodka is not as heavily filtered as it is in the West, and so the flavors, smells, and colors from the source materials may shine through.