Vodka is a distilled beverage, composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings.
Vodka is made by distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or molasses. Traditionally prepared vodkas had an alcoholic content of 38% by volume. Today, the standard Polish, Russian and Lithuanian vodkas are 40% abv (80 proof), although many non-export Russian brands are sold at 38%. The European Union has established a minimum of 37.5% alcohol by volume content for any European vodka to be named as such. Homemade vodka, referred to as "samogonka" in Russia and Ukraine, is sometimes have an ABV as high as 62%.
Apart from the alcoholic content, vodkas may be classified into two main groups: clear vodkas and flavored vodkas. From the latter ones, one can separate bitter tinctures, such as Russian Yubileynaya (anniversary vodka) and Pertsovka (pepper vodka). Vodka flavorings include red pepper, ginger, fruit flavors, vanilla, chocolate (without sweetener), and cinnamon. In Russia and Ukraine, vodka flavored with honey and pepper (Pertsovka, in Russian, Z pertsem, in Ukrainian) is also very popular. This tradition of flavoring is also prevalent in the Nordic countries, where vodka seasoned with herbs, fruits and spices is the appropriate strong drink for midsummer seasonal festivities. In Sweden, there are forty-odd common varieties of herb-flavored vodka (kryddat brännvin). In Estonia, vodkas are spiced with barbaris, blackcurrant, cherry, greenapple, lemon, vanilla and watermelon flavors.
Vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt countries of Eastern Europe and around the Baltic Sea. It is also commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, the Screwdriver, the Sex on the Beach, the White Russian, the Black Russian, the vodka tonic, and the vodka martini.
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A Guide to Popular Vodka Brands, cocktails.about.com