Today, October 4, is National Vodka Day, and we’ve got the low down on everybody’s favorite clear spirit. Let’s start off with some facts about Vodka that you may not have known.
- “Vodka” is a diminutive form of the Slavic word “Voda” (water), essentially translating to “Little Water”. The earliest recorded use of the word was in Polish court documents, dating back to 1405.
- The original history of Vodka is somewhat contentious: The Russians claim to have invented it in the 9th century, while the Poles claim to have first created vodka in the 8th century. Both sides insist that Vodka came from their country to this day.
- Wherever Vodka originated, its earliest incarnations was quite different from Vodka as we know it today. It had a different flavor, color, and smell, and only contained around 14% alcohol (the highest percentage possible through natural fermentation). It also had a different use, employed primarily as a medicine rather than a beverage. With the invention of the still, however, the alcohol content shot straight up, and Vodka became popular as a drink rather than a medicine.
- One of the most influential reasons why vodka became so popular in Russia and Poland was because the spirit never froze in the hard Eastern European winters, due to its high alcohol content.
- You might think that flavored Vodka is a modern trend, but it’s actually almost as old as Vodka itself. Since early production methods were crude and faulty, fruits, herbs, and spices were used to mask imperfections. Later, flavored Vodka became a trademark for a producer and a display of his skill. Flavors included lemon, orange, ginger, coffee, cloves, pepper, and aromatic bison grass.
- Russian chemist D.M. Mendeleev spent years perfecting the ideal recipe for Vodka (40% ethanol, 60% water), which he revealed in 1894. His methods are still used by distilleries all across the world.
- Though rye and wheat are classically used to make Vodka, it can be made from pretty much anything that ferments, including potatoes, sugar cane, barley, molasses, and even vegetables like onions, cabbage and beets.
- Vodka is considered one of the “purest” spirits. A low level of congeners (byproducts of fermentation) means that Vodka is less likely to leave you hung-over and reeling the day after you imbibe.
- Besides being optimal for boozing, Vodka has a whole bevy of other uses in everyday life. In your bathroom, Vodka can be used to kill mildew and mould, and to prevent razor blades from rusting. It can be used to remove poison ivy oil from affected skin, and to disinfect jellyfish sting. If you’ve spilled some red wine, spraying Vodka on the stain, scrubbing, then blotting dry will help clean your carpet. Vodka: it’s not just for drinking anymore.
- Vodka is the most popular spirit in the world. It currently accounts for 10% of the Russian GDP.
Okay, now that you've honed up on your Vodka trivia, you're undoubtedly in the mood to hit the town for some killer Vodka drinks. Here are the top ten places to celebrate National Vodka Day like a champ.
The Black Hound joins the likes of the Dead Rabbit as one of the excellent cocktail bars that are popping up all around the Financial District and Battery Park City. One of the best offerings is the Painting as a Pastime, made with Tito’s vodka, Pistachio syrup, ginger and lime.
301 South End Ave New York, NY 10006
Get back to Vodka's roots at the Russian Vodka Room. Pair any selection from their extensive Vodka list (with or without fruity infusions) with traditional, delicious Russian food from their menu.
265 W 52nd St New York, NY 10019
SingL is the airy, chic lounge located in the Union Square Hyatt, and their Vodka cocktails are spot on. Try a classic martini or go green with the Old Bitter Mule, a Vodka-based concoction made with Greenmarket lemons and radishes and infused with ginger beer,
134 4th Avenue
This speakeasy-style pharmacy-themed Chinatown hotspot is a great place to spend Vodka's special day. Opened in a former opium den, the sultry, curious ambiance is as intriguing as the drinks. Apotheke is the first bar to adhere to strict "Farm-to-Bar standards, so all of the drinks in their intriguing, elaborate cocktail program contain locally sourced ingredients (some of which come from their own rooftop bar. For something special--especially if you're out with a date--try the Deal Closer. It's made with cucumber Vodka, mint, lime, vanilla essence, and (here's the kicker) local Chinatown aphrodisiacs.
9 Doyers St #1 New York, NY 10013
Head down to Houston Street and this veritable art piece of a bar. A recent addition to the cocktail menu is the spicy Sea Witch Cocktail, which incorporates Jalapeno Chartreuse and a lime and passion fruit puree into a Vodka base. Don't miss the menu offerings from Chef John Parlatore (formerly of Fig & Olive), like the velvety Roasted Bone Marrow or the fennel-crusted upstate Veal Chop.
177 E Houston St New York, NY 10002
Sammy's Roumanian Steak House Sammy's is another old-school Vodka culture throwback, and if you want to go traditional with your Vodka celebration, this is the place to go. Get serenaded by the in-house Borsht-belt-style kibbitzer and enjoy an entire bottle of Kettle One Vodka, frozen in a block of ice and served to your table. Come hungry: the top-of-the-line Jewish cooking is to die for.
157 Chrystie St New York, NY 10002
Pair awesome, Mexican-inspired dishes like the Seafood Ceviche (made with shrimp, lobster, tomatoes, mango, and avocado) with the kickin' Vodka cocktails at A.G. Kitchen. Our favorite is the Mango Mayhem, made with fiery mango, lime, and chili pepper infused Vodka .
269 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10023
Named for the Russian Communitst Party's newspaper and decorated accordingly, Pravda could be most accurately described as Soviet Chic. This is a swanky spot to raise your Vodka-filled glass. Splurge for some subterranian caviar while you sip on a selection from the Vodka list, or on inspired, Russian-themed cocktails made with house-infused Vodka. Creations like the Vladimir Martini (fig Vodka and Russian tea syrup) and the Leninade (citrus Vodka, lemon juice, and fresh mint) are as delicious as they are punny.
281 Lafayette St New York, NY 10012
Classic curry house Brick Lane is famous for their punishing P'hall curries: some even come with a free beer if you finish an entire serving. We suggest something a little stronger, though, especially on National Vodka Day. Fight spice with spice with their cocktails, designed to give the same eye-watering kick as the hotter-than-hot cuisine. The Madras Pepper Martini (made with Absolut Pepper, cranberry, and garam masala paneer-stuffed olives) with set your taste buds buzzing, but if you really want a challenge, try the Bell Pepper Ghost. Absolut, bell peppers, and Cointreau are set aflame with a drop of oil from the Ghost Chili, the world's hottest pepper.
306-308 E 6th St New York, NY 10003
If you're still mourning LES cocktail haven Milk & Honey, definitely check out this spin-off by creator Sasha Petraske. Attaboy offers up bespoke cocktails catered to your specific tastes and expertly crafted by friendly and adept bartenders. Ask for something that highlights Vodka in honor of the holiday.
134 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
And special for the holiday, the newly launched AnestasiA Vodka, with a bottle designed by the only and only Karim Rashid is available at 10% off from DrinkUpNY byusing code AV10. Valid through 10/8/13. Drink up in style with this American made, handcrafted vodka created by Ukrainian-born, American Yuliya Mamontova, AnestasiA.
“I went out with a guy who once told me I didn’t need to drink to make myself more fun to be around. I told him, I’m drinking so that you’re more fun to be around.”