PNG images: Vodka
Vodka is a distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol, sometimes with traces of impurities and flavourings. Traditionally, vodka is made by the distillation of cereal grains or potatoes that have been fermented, though some modern brands use other substances, such as fruits or sugar.
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Since the 1890s, the standard Polish, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Czech vodkas are 40% alcohol by volume ABV (80 US proof), a percentage that is widely misattributed to Dmitri Mendeleev. The European Union has established a minimum of 37.5% ABV for any "European vodka" to be named as such. Products sold as "vodka" in the United States must have a minimum alcohol content of 40%. Even with these loose restrictions, most vodka sold contains 40% ABV. For homemade vodkas and distilled beverages referred to as "moonshine", see moonshine by country.
Vodka is traditionally drunk neat (not mixed with any water, ice, or other mixer), though it is often served chilled in the vodka belt countries: Russia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. It is also commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the Vodka martini, Cosmopolitan, Vodka Tonic, Screwdriver, Greyhound, Black or White Russian, Moscow Mule, and Bloody Mary.
The name "vodka" is a diminutive form of the Slavic word voda (water), interpreted as little water: root - (vod-) [water] + -к- (-k-) (diminutive suffix, among other functions) + -a (ending of feminine gender).
The word "vodka" was recorded for the first time in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. At the time, the word vodka (wódka) referred to medicines and cosmetic products, while the beverage was called gorzałka (from the Old Polish gorzeć meaning "to burn"), which is also the source of Ukrainian horilka. The word vodka written in Cyrillic appeared first in 1533, in relation to a medicinal drink brought from Poland to Russia by the merchants of Kievan Rus'.
Although the word vodka could be found in early manuscripts and in lubok pictograms, it began to appear in Russian dictionaries only in the mid-19th century. It was attested in Sámuel Gyarmathi's Russian-German-Hungarian glossary of 1799, where it is glossed with Latin vinum adustum ("burnt [i.e. distilled] wine").
In English literature the word vodka was attested already in the late 18th century. In a book of his travels published in English in 1780 (presumably, a translation from German), Johann Gottlieb Georgi correctly explained that "Kabak in the Russian language signifies a public house for the common people to drink vodka (a sort of brandy) in." William Tooke in 1799 glossed vodka as "rectified corn-spirits". In French, Théophile Gautier in 1800 glossed it as a "grain liquor" served with meals in Poland (eau-de-vie de grain).
Another possible connection of "vodka" with "water" is the name of the medieval alcoholic beverage aqua vitae (Latin, literally, "water of life"), which is reflected in Polish okowita, Ukrainian оковита, Belarusian акавіта, and Scandinavian akvavit. (Note that whiskey has a similar etymology, from the Irish/Scottish Gaelic uisce beatha/uisge-beatha.)
People in the area of vodka's probable origin have names for vodka with roots meaning "to burn": Polish: gorzała; Ukrainian: горілка, horílka; Belarusian: гарэлка, harelka; Lithuanian: degtinė; Samogitian: degtėnė, is also in use, colloquially and in proverbs); Latvian: degvīns; Finnish: paloviina. In Russian during the 17th and 18th centuries, горящѣе вино or горячее вино (goryashchee vino, "burning wine" or "hot wine") was widely used. Others languages include the German Branntwein, Danish brændevin, Dutch: brandewijn, Swedish: brännvin, and Norwegian: brennevin (although the latter terms refer to any strong alcoholic beverage).