Vodka is a distilled alcoholic beverage containing water, ethanol, and flavoring. There are tons of things that add to the many flavor varieties available today, namely, a fermented grain mash or vegetable starch that’s transformed into glucose (sugar).
Vodka is one of the most preferred favorite beverages at the bar today. It’s considered a classic base, and has been sold as everything from “table wine” to “white whiskey.” Vodka’s universal appeal stems from it’s flavorless, odorless, functionality.
Vodka is not only a great mixer and base, but it also stands alone or on the rocks. But there have been many changes over the years, and the vodka we consume today uniquely differs from vodka our grandparents and great grandparents grew accustomed to.
During the 1950s, vodka was primarily made using potatoes. Prior to this, vodka was distilled from grains like barley and wheat. Vodka was popular in the California film industry and even helped the industry survive during the great depression of the 1930s and mid-1940s.
The many benefits of vodka like improved circulation, and the reduction of stress levels made it appealing to the masses, while the overall ability to manufacture and sell the vodka underground contributed it’s aid in keeping the industry alive.
In 1941, Russian immigrant Sophie Berezinski, walked into the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub, where owner Jack Morgan was trying to popularize the bar’s ginger beer. Sophie was in a similar bind and had brought over 2,000 solid copper mugs (which she was having trouble selling) from her father’s factory in Russia.
At the time, vodka was unpopular and cheap. The pub’s owner was also trying to introduce America to his own ginger beer, and the two developed a vodka + ginger beer drink that’s still wildly popular today. It came to be known as Moscow Mule and was incredibly popular throughout the 1950s.
In the 1960s, we took our first steps on the moon. Hollywood was near the end of its Golden Era, and as movie stars ordered cocktails, the Moscow Mule began to popularize vodka as a liquor base. The new trend was the Vodka Martini. It was one of the most iconic cocktails of the 1960s.
A simple drink, comprising vodka and vermouth, garnished with an olive – it was the go-to for the upper class, and bourgeoisie. The ideal ratio of vodka to vermouth at the time, was about five to one.
During the 1970s, fruit infused vodka recipes were the talk of every small town in America. A period of free love, drug wars, and increased immigration from central and south America made a huge impact on the liquored beverage industry.
Along with these fruity beverages, vermouth, brandy, rum, and gin were mixed into vodka recipes, popularizing the Harvey Wallbanger, Tequila Sunrise, Grasshopper, Cuba Libre, Rob Roy, and Long Island Iced Tea.
The 1980s introduced premade mixers, and cheap, artificially flavored drinks that would still get you drunk. Despite this, the color and flavor of the drinks remained consistent and made a comeback in recent years with beverages like the Four Loko, Joose, Jack Daniel’s Hard Cola, and Tequiza.
Some popular recipes from the era that are still popular today include the Fuzzy Navel, Alabama Slammer, Mudslide, Slippery Nipple, and Sex on the Beach.
The 1990s was known for V-shaped glasses and various extensions of the martini family. This is when chocolate martini bars first began to appear around the country. A bar, literally fashioned for the purpose of selling chocolate martinis was all the rage.
The fashion for clean vodka-based cocktails continued. So, any cocktail mixed with fresh fruit, and vodka in a V-shaped glass was destined to be hit. In the late 90s, shows like Sex in the City further popularized this cosmopolitan lifestyle – with NYC bars introducing drinks like the Bloody Mary, Cable Car, Breakfast Martini, Champagne Cocktail, Daiquiris, Mimosas, Dry Martini/Vodkatini, Espresso Martini, Mai Tai, Mojitos, Seabreeze, Tommy’s Margarita, Whiskey Smash, and the like.
During this period, cranberry juice and white cranberry juice became very popular because of the perceived health benefits. Cranberry juice was added to numerous cocktails and attracted nationwide fanfare.
In the 2000s, we witnessed overt sexuality from artists like Britney Spears, and probably the sexiest TV shows, magazine covers, and alcoholic drinks to date.
This is when the vast majority gained access to video cameras, digital collections, mobile phones, and wireless connectivity. Clothing fell off, political correctness went out the window, and high society lost its appeal. People began taking a look behind the scenes, and wanted to see reality and know the truth. This is when reality TV gained popularity. With so much technology, consumers began dictating where the market was headed and what they wanted to see on store shelves, rather than being led toward what marketers wanted to sell.
The popular drinks at the time included the Vodka Gimlet, Aqua Velva, Tom Collins, Dr. McGillicuddy’s Schnapps, Jäger Tap, Smirnoff Ice, Hpnotiq, Jack Daniels’ Lynchburg Lemonade, Bacardi Razz, and more.
Modern Day – 2018
Modern day drinks combine health-conscious alternatives with creativity. As modern consumers become increasingly more health conscious, they seem to be moving away from the artificially flavored, genetically modified products they once loved.
Today, consumers are buying artisan, organic, gluten-free liquors. According to Hell’s Half Acre Vodka company, their organic Texas made vodka appeals to modern consumers because of it’s low viscosity (minimal bite). Hard liquors with low viscosity reduce hangover symptoms, and are smooth on the palette.
Many new vodka recipes are published every single day online. With uniquely flavored beverages, like the Golden Roots, the Peacock, the Botanical Gardens, Raspberry Cosmopolitan, Limoncello Mule, and so on – each decade seem to bring innovation and creativity to the alcoholic beverage industry.