Vodka—stemming from the Russian word “voda” for water—first came into being when it was realized that grapes wouldn’t grow in a cold climate. The idea to try and ferment grain was then conceived, leading to the eventual development of a liquid then called “bread wine.”
Vodka was mostly used for medicinal purposes and gunpowder during the middle ages. It was first documented during the 14th century that vodka was Russia’s national drink; however, they too used vodka as medicine—it was considered to be a short-term relaxant that could be taken at any time with little preparation needed.
During this time, Russia also produced many variances of vodka, such as “plain wine” which was considered as standard, “good wine,” and “boyar wine” of the highest quality. There were also stronger concentrations of vodka, called “double wine,” that were distilled two or more times.
These ancient forms of alcohol were crude and contained impurities, so the vodka was often flavored with such things as fruit, spices, and herbs in order to mask them.
The first recorded export of Russian vodka was recorded in 1505 to Sweden.
Russian vodka advertisement