The creation of vodka, a drink which appears simply like water, is often speculated upon. However, some believe that Prince Vladimir of Kiev, who said that “drinking is the joy of the Rus,” chose Christianity over Islam in the year 987 in order to avoid the Muslim prohibition on alcohol. Vladimir’s countrymen probably learned the art of alcohol distillation from the Tatar invaders, and a historian, Pokhlebkin, suggests that vodka was first produced in a Moscow monastery in the 15th century. Others argue that doctors in Persia (today Iran) in the 11th Century were the first to have a similar drink to vodka, and that the first to distill it was an Italian monk using an Arab process. When Genoese merchants brought to Moscow “aqua vitae,” the Russians used rye instead of grapes to extract the ethanol, leading the Russians to first call vodka “bread wine.” From across the globe, people used different food leftovers (potatoes, sugar cane, grains, fruits) to brew “alcoholic” beverages for traditional ceremonies. The 80-proof Russian Vodka was a standard set by Tsar Alexander III, in 1984, based on a formula created by Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian scientist. Russians often use starters such as pickled vegetables, bread, or salted fish to accompany the shots of vodka.
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