Raise a Glass to National Vodka Day

Did you celebrate National Coffee Day the other day (September 29)? What about Drink Beer Day right before it (September 28)? It seems this is a big time of year for liquid “holidays” as now it’s time to raise a glass to another beverage—vodka. Since the spirit’s special day is on October 4, which is a Tuesday, you will most likely want to celebrate the occasion a little early over the weekend.

Want to know more about that adult beverage while you enjoy your drinks? This spirit known for being clear, odorless and flavorless has come a long way from its beginnings in medieval Poland and Russia. Precisely which country is often the source of some debate, but many believe it is Russia, especially since the name itself stems from the Russian word voda, meaning water. Made from different types of grain or vegetables including rye, wheat, barley, corn, potatoes or even grapes, vodka is a purer form of alcohol than others due to a carbon filtering process, which removes impurities created by distillation. 

When Vladimir Smirnoff sold immigrant Rudolph Kunett the American rights to his family’s vodka recipe in the 1930s, vodka found its way to the United States. Remaining in the shadows, it only started to gain some popularity in the 1940s, when the first Moscow Mule—vodka and ginger beer with a splash of lime juice—was mixed up at the Cock ‘n Bull tavern in Los Angeles.

Flavored vodkas may have started to appear on liquor store shelves in the 1980s, but with the increasing popularity of martinis, and an increasing variety of flavors, the range of tasty and creative cocktails developed by “mixologists” around the country has created quite a stir. Sure, some Polish and Russian vodkas have been making flavored vodkas for years, but their buffalo grass flavor and slight green color can’t hold a swizzle stick to today’s flavors. Adding flavor without extra sweetness, the array of vodka flavors runs the gamut from citrus and other fruit flavors to vanilla and chocolate, pepper and more. And, more flavors seem to be pouring into the market every day.

With this National Vodka Day holiday upon us, I received recipes from several vodka brands including UV, which, along with Prairie Organic, is from Minnesota’s own Phillips Distilling. So we’ll raise a glass to locals! This drink, which mixes in the seasonal flavor of pumpkin, uses unflavored vodka, but there are numerous flavored vodkas to choose from in the UV lineup. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your mixology this season. Cheers! 

Smashed Pumpkin

2 parts UV Vodka
2 parts apple cider
1 part pumpkin puree
1 part ginger ale

Pour vodka and apple cider into a shaker. Add pumpkin puree and shake. Pour in glass(es) over ice, add ginger beer and stir gently.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.