shots of vodka on a wooden table


The origins of vodka are clouded in mystery.

Historians say that it is impossible to ascertain with any certainty where and when it was first made.

That’s because the people who were there were drinking it.

The consensus is that the Poles invented vodka and the Russians ran wild with it.

The word Vodka is derived from the Polish and Russian words for water.

The Irish confuse the word for water with Whiskey.

The Poles sometimes make vodka from potatoes.

There is a pattern here.

Even for the Irish drinking with Russians is a bad idea. Anthony Bourdain says that no matter how good you think you are at holding your liquor that any twelve-year-old Russian can drink you under the table.

I am not big on Vodka. I was mauled by vodka as a young man.

My hard liquor experience had begun with a few sips of lemon gin that Mikie O’Leary stole from his mom.

Juvenile Catholic males at one time attributed mystical properties to lemon gin.

We believed it could cure virginity.

We got the gin concept all wrong.

You don’t lose your virginity by drinking lemon gin, you lose it by getting other people to drink it.

Mrs O’Leary’s gin was training wheels for my tragic bout with vodka.

It was a warm and sultry, summer Saturday night. The plan was to procure vodka from a bootlegger and share it with my buddies before we all went to a dance.

I got off work late and everyone had already left for the dance.

Determined to catch up, I sat down with a pint of vodka and a pint of orange juice.

The first thing I learned about vodka was that, unlike gin, vodka does not taste like anything.

A tumbler full of vodka and orange juice tastes a lot like a tumbler full of orange juice.

I drank three or four tumblers in rapid succession.

I never made it to the dance. There is an old saying that Baptists don’t approve of liquor – “because it leads to dancing”. It did not lead to dancing that night.

Fifteen minutes after quaffing the pint I was sprawled in anguish on the bathroom floor. I stayed there until I crawled out of the bathroom, virginity intact, on Monday morning.

I pleaded with God to deliver me from that Vodka hell. I promised that I would become a priest and dedicate the rest of my life to his service.

One little miracle and he didn’t deliver.

Aside from my personal scarring I have other reservations about vodka. I am in the business of making stuff that tastes great. I am inclined to disdain a beverage that acquires a reputation for greatness by not tasting like anything.

Vodka makers generally distill their product three times to approximate pure ethanol and then add water and filter the product through treated carbon, sand or even diamonds to remove the kind of substances that give character and flavor to rums and whiskeys. Most of our inexpensive vodkas are made by adding water and flavorings to almost pure alcohol made by the large agricultural conglomerate, Archer Midlands.

My favorite use for vodka is as a subtle presence in foods.

A little vodka is great in the Bistro’s famous tomato soup or with an oyster shooter with clam juice and V-8.

The craziest vodka cocktails are the ones where it is mixed with caffeine.

The Espresso Martini – “makes you alert but stupid.”

My new favorite crazy is Vodka and Red Bull – “…because you want to be wide awake for this mistake.”

At one time Mr Trump started a vodka company. That did not go well either.

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Sean Murphy

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