The History of Vodka
The exact origins of vodka (the modern day country) is unknown, but it is known that vodka comes from eastern Europe, in either modern day Poland or Russia. The word Vodka comes from the Slavic word voda, meaning water, with the first record of the word Vodka coming from Poland in 1405. Vodka was originally used as a medicine and had a much lower alcohol content at approximately 15%ABV. With the invention of the still in the 8th century, Vodka could now be distilled, increasing purity and alcohol content, leading to it being watered down and sold as an alcoholic beverage. Vodka soon became the drink of choice in an area known as "The Vodka Belt", which includes modern day Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine. With the coming of the Napoleonic wars and France's invasion of Russia, troops brought back Russian Vodka, which quickly became a highly appreciated drink and not just another foreign novelty.
Vodka is best known for being a neutral alcohol with little to no flavor, and the explosion of flavored vodkas is believed to be a modern phenomenon. This is simply not true, as flavored Vodka dates back to the 1700's, where everything from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries; to herbs and spices, were added to the distillation process to create Vodkas with a range of flavors that could easily rival today's market. It is commonly believed today that the "best" Vodkas should be distilled many times to make it extremely smooth and flavorless, however some argue that fewer distillations leave behind subtle flavors and sweetness that should be appreciated; much like wine terroir.
With the rise of grape and even carrot based Vodka, many countries from the Vodka belt successfully campaigned in the European Union to have Vodka be defined as a spirit only made from grain or potatoes. Few countries outside of Europe follow this ruling however.