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Vodka is a strong, clear, typically colorless liquor, usually distilled from fermented grain. It is commonly thought that the term is a diminutive of the Slavic word "voda" (woda) for "water," although there exists another opinion (see below).
Except for insignificant amounts of flavorings, vodka consists of water and alcohol (ethanol). Vodka usually has an alcohol content ranging from 35 percent to 60 percent by volume. The classic Russian vodka is 40 percent (80 degrees proof), the number being attributed to the famous Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. According to the Vodka Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Mendeleev thought that the perfect percentage to be 38, but since spirits in his time were taxed on their strength the percentage was rounded up to 40 to simplify the tax computation.
Vodka is the basis of a number of popular drinks, including the Bloody Mary, the Bullshot, and the Vodka Martini (also known as a Vodkatini), a dry martini made with vodka instead of gin.
Many vodka consumers claim they can tell a difference in taste between different brands. To test this ability the ABC News program 20/20 conducted a non-scientific survey of 6 individuals aged 21-40 who sampled 6 different brands of vodka. There were 5 different super premium vodkas ($30-$60, 750ml, 2005) and an economy priced vodka, Smirnoff ($13, 750ml, 2005). At the beginning of the survey the participants were asked to name their favorite vodka brand; four individuals chose Grey Goose ($30, 750ml, 2005). After sampling each of unmarked vodka samples "straight up", five of the six testers choose the same vodka as their least favorite sample. They were all surprised to discover that they had selected Grey Goose. When the 6 brands were mixed into a cosmopolitan mixed drink (3 parts vodka, 1 part triple sec, 1 part lime juice, & 1 part cranberry juice) they were mostly unable to differentiate between the brands. The suggestion was made to select the 'house' or inexpensive vodka next time one orders a vodka based drink.
In the United States federal regulations require that domestically produced Vodka be produced with a neutal taste and cannot contain any type of flavoring. This regulation does not apply to imported Vodkas from other countries such as Absolut from Sweden and Smirnoff and Stolichnaya from Russia because they were not produced in the U.S.
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