The Origin Of Vodka Goes Back Longer Than You Might Expect

From the classic cosmopolitan featured in "Sex and the City" to the Moscow Mule, vodka serves as the base alcohol for a massive amount of cocktails. The liquor is easy to find, has a wide variety of brands and flavor options, and can be paired with a host of ingredients. Unlike spirits like whiskey or brandy, vodka can work with pretty much any flavor profile due to its more neutral flavor, making it an uber-popular choice for mixologists or those who don't love the taste of alcohol (via Business Insider).

The spirit really took off in the U.S. (partly thanks to the Moscow Mule and some pointed advertising) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, reports Atlas Obscura. Hollywood soon snapped up the beverage because it left little scent on the breath of its drinkers. At the time, many contracts came with a clause that prohibited actors from imbibing. Vodka continued to gain popularity and remains a cocktail staple to this day, gracing many a bar — both the ones you visit and at home.

But while the spirit's popularity in the U.S. didn't really kick off until the last century or so, its origins go back much, much further.

Eastern Europe has been drinking vodka for centuries

Eastern Europe definitely invented this clear liquor, but its exact origin location and timing is a bit up in the air. Wherever it first stemmed from, vodka was invented a long, long time ago, first appearing in at least the 9th century (via Drink Stack).

The first vodka creation claims come from Poland in the 8th century, but records show whatever spirit they were distilling actually came from wine first, making it not really vodka by definition. True vodka comes from fermented grain and water, which is distilled until it reaches its desired strength, as explained by Britannica. Russia probably holds the title for first in the official vodka race, with its first vodka on record near the end of the 9th century.

A documented distillery doesn't show its face until two centuries later in Khylnovsk, Russia, right about when definitive Polish vodka started to circulate. Medical authorities used the drink for curative purposes during this time.

The term vodka and the drink as we know it was coined towards the end of the 19th century as Russia began exporting the product in larger quantities. The liquor spread across Europe, distillation increased, and processes were standardized.