Scholars debate the beginnings of vodka. It is a contentious debate because not much of the historical material is available to us. But what we do know, is that it originated in Eastern Europe. The name comes from the Russian word ‘voda’ meaning water. In the 14th century, a British ambassador to Moscow described vodka as the Russian national drink. Later in the mid-16th century, it became the national drink in Poland and Finland. We learn from the Novgorod Chronicles of 1533 that in Russia vodka was also being used as a medicine. Until the mid-18th century, the drink remained relatively low in alcohol content, not exceeding 40% proof. Since early production methods were crude, vodka often contained impurities. The mid 15th century saw the first appearance of pot distillation in Russia. Prior to that, seasoning, aging and freezing were all used to remove impurities. In the 18th century, a professor in St. Petersburg discovered a method of purifying alcohol using charcoal filtration.
After each glass of vodka one ought to have a tidbit of food. And here Russian culture truly stuns with an assortment and wealth of appetizers expected particularly to go well with vodka. Here are the top four, that pair well with dark bread like rye or pumpernickel: Pickled Vegetables, Vobla (any dry or smoked fish), Salo (pork lard) and Herring.