Vodka is Russia’s gift to the world. Over centuries they have perfected the art and are happy to share it. Now South Africans can enjoy Russian Standard Vodka, just recently launched in our country. The label is eye-catching and I found myself reading the back with an increasingly eager hand to crack the lid. The label reads:
“At the Imperial Court in St Petersburg, the Czars of Russia were legendary for demanding only the finest in luxury and quality. Their national spirit, vodka was no exception. In 1894, Dmitri Mendeleev, the greatest scientist in all Russia received the decree to set the Imperial quality standard for Russian vodka, and the “Russian Standard” was born. Today, in St Petersburg, our state of the art distillery allows us to bring this vodka heritage into the 21st Century. Using winter wheat from the Russian Steppes, pure glacial water from Lake Ladoga and advanced distillation technology, we have created the genuine taste of Russian vodka that is once again being celebrated throughout the world.”
Although predominantly a wine drinker I can appreciate good vodka when I come across it. I tasted the Russian Standard Vodka over ice and added just a splash of berry juice over the top. It had a smooth, pure taste with a pleasant nose and it left everyone at the table wanting more.
10 things you need to know about vodka:
1. The word “vodka” comes from the Russian word for water, “voda”. In Russian, vodka literally means “little water”
2. Vodka was first made for medicinal purposes, and to this day many Russians use vodka for its great medicinal powers.
3. In 13th century Russia, vodka was believed to contain its own spirit and it was used at religious events. A cup would be passed around and those who refused to partake would be considered impious.
4. According to Russian vodka drinking tradition, if you look into the eyes of the person you are toasting, you can see into his soul. On a more racy note, it is said that if you do not look into the eyes of the person in front of you during a toast, then you are cursed with 7 years of bad sex.
5. Vodka was all that Napoleon’s soldiers took from Russia, bringing it with them in large quantities as they retreated back to France.
6. In 1751 the taxes on vodka were a key element of government finances in Czarist Russia, providing at times up to 40% of state revenue.
7. Russian standards for vodka production were introduced in 1894 by Alexander III, based on a formula created by famed Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev, the inventor of the Periodic Table of Elements.
8. True Russian vodka is produced from hardy winter wheat from the southern steppes of Russia.
9. Vodka shouldn’t be stored in the freezer, because extreme temperature begins to undo the distillation process and overpowers the natural, bread aroma of good vodka. Ideally, vodka needs to be chilled between 5 and 7 ¬∞ C.
10. Russia represents the world’s largest vodka market today, five times the size of the second market in the world. Vodka has also been part of Russian history for over a thousand years.
You can also find great vodka cocktail recipes on their website. These cocktails not only knock the socks off the term “aesthetically pleasing” but they are easy and quick to make.
Russian Standard Vodka is available from R169 per bottle at leading liquor outlets.