World Events

National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis

Whether you like your vodka cocktails shaken, stirred, dry or dirty, there’s a lot to learn about this clear spirit. So in honor of National Vodka Day, Fox News consulted a range of experts to deliver some insights — and recipes — regarding one of America’s preferred spirits.

Bob Nolet, the vice president of marketing and the master distiller at Nolet Spirits, the producer of Ketel One, tells Fox News the drink has been “popular in the U.S. for a very long time,” but credits the “cocktail mania” of the ’80s for inspiring his own father — among other spirit innovators — to develop their brands suited to new tastes.

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And after long and careful consideration, he’s pretty confident that 007’s preferred martini was made with vodka as opposed to gin.

“James Bond’s preferred martini is a vodka martini, judging by how often he orders them in his novels,” Nolet says. “He orders 19 vodka martinis, 16 gin martinis and one Vesper martini, made with both.” (The website VinePair also credits the 1962 film adaptation of “Dr. No” with popularizing the notion of a vodka martini, after Bond is provided with one at his request.)

“James Bond’s preferred martini is a vodka martini, judging by how often he orders them in his novels,” claims Bob Nolet, the vice president of marketing and the master distiller at <a data-cke-saved-href=”https://www.noletspirits.com/” href=”https://www.noletspirits.com/” target=”_blank”>Nolet Spirits</a>. (Bond also specifically ordered a vodka martini in the film version of “Dr. No.”)
(LMPC via Getty Images)

And not only is Bond fond of vodka —so are Americans. In the United States, vodka commands about 33% of the market share (by volume) among all spirits categories, and it ranks as the largest spirits category in the U.S., by volume, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

The popularity of vodka very much predates James Bond, however. Jonathan Hemi of Crystal Head Vodka says the spirit can be traced all the way back to the 15th century.

“The word ‘vodka’ has many different origin stories tracing back as early as 1405, and is said to be a Slavic word for water,” said Hemi.

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As explained by Miguel Aranda, expert mixologist of Osteria 57, vodka became popular with monks and apothecaries in Eastern Europe around the 1800s. “It was used to cure illness, and was a very high-proof amount, and they used to give people a very little bit,” he said.

Aranda added, however, that the history gets complicated when it comes to whether vodka was created in Russia or Poland.

“A monk from Poland went to Russia, and then from Russia, another monk perfected the recipe,” said Aranda. “So both countries are really the motherland of vodka.”

Vodka's interesting history goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.

Vodka’s interesting history goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.
(iStock)

So how do Russia, Poland and the United States rank in vodka consumption? According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the per capita adult consumption of vodka in Russia is 12.6 liters, versus Poland’s 7.1 liters and the United States’ 2.8 liters.

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When it comes to making vodka, Aranda says the spirit is typically made from grain or potatoes but adds that vodka “can be made out of anything that produces sugar.”

Josh Gandee, the beverage director at Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio, notes that his company’s vodka focuses on Midwestern staples.

“There are two ingredients that shine through in Watershed Distillery Vodka: corn and apples — sourced close to home in the Midwest,” explained Gandee.

Crystal Head Vodka’s Hemi, meanwhile, says the company’s original vodka uses Canadian corn while its Aurora vodka is distilled from English wheat. The founder of Empower cocktails, Tiffany Hall, opts for sweet potato vodka in her product, “as it has a unique smoothness and pairs well with other ingredients.”

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To find out more about the history of vodka and the distillation process, watch the full video above. For some vodka cocktails to enjoy see below:

The Perfect Ketel One Martini 

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 ounces Ketel One® Vodka
  • 0.25 ounces dry vermouth
  • Lemon twist 

Method:

  • Stir vodka with ice in a mixing glass
  • Strain into a martini glass
  • Garnish with a lemon twist

Pop Art

Pop Art, by Tyler Moschler and Kate Fitzgerrell, is served at Brooklyn's Vietnamese gastropub Bricolage.

Pop Art, by Tyler Moschler and Kate Fitzgerrell, is served at Brooklyn’s Vietnamese gastropub Bricolage.
(Bricolage)

 Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces lemongrass-infused Vodka
  • 1 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1 ounce lime
  • 2 ounces sencha tea

 Method:

  • Mix ingredients together
  • Carbonate (with at-home carbonation or soda machine) and bottle
  • Garnish with dehydrated lime and serve

Polish 75

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Belvedere Vodka
  • .75 ounces simple syrup
  • .75 ounces lemon juice
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut

Method:

  • Add all ingredients, except champagne, to a shaker with ice and shake
  • Strain into a champagne flute
  • Top with Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut

Remember the Grain

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Belvedere Smogory Forest
  • .60 ounces Cherry Heering
  • .30 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes absinthe
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters

Method:

  • Stir all ingredients over cubed ice in mixing glass
  • Strain into chilled glass over large ice cube and serve

The NEFT Henry Africa Martini

Ingredients: 

  • 1.75 ounces NEFT Vodka
  • .75 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • .25 ounces simple syrup
  • Splash of orange liqueur
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Tajin sugar (one part Tajin seasoning mixed with three parts sugar) for rim
  • Lemon wheel for garnish

Method:

  • Shake all ingredients with NEFT Vodka and ice
  • Strain into a Tajin sugar-rimmed martini glass
  • Garnish with a citrus wheel

Espresso Martini

Trevor Schneider, National Reyka Vodka ambassador, shares his recipe for the espresso martini.

Trevor Schneider, National Reyka Vodka ambassador, shares his recipe for the espresso martini.
(iStock)

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Reyka Vodka
  • 1 part espresso
  • ¼ part Sugar in the Raw
  • Coffee beans, for garnish

Method:

  • Shake all ingredients, apart from coffee beans, with ice
  • Strain into coupe glass
  • Garnish with coffee beans

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