Vodka has no color because it is distilled from pale grain or vegetables including rye, wheat and potatoes. Vodka also frequently has little or no taste, and as such it is preferred as the base for mixed drinks that use other ingredients to add color and taste. Vodka is available in a wide range of strengths, depending on the origin and local restrictions.
The strongest vodka available in the United States was given the green light for consumption by New York State in 2010. The Polish product is called Spirytus and comes in at 192 proof. That means it contains 96 percent pure alcohol and is considered extremely powerful. New York has no laws governing the strength of the alcohol sold inside its borders. It does have laws that require labels and advertising to be true, and since in this case they are, Spirytus is legal. Theoretically vodka that contains 100 percent alcohol can be produced. On today's legal market, 96 percent is as close as you can get.
The aptly named Balkan Vodka is manufactured in Bulgaria but is not yet legal to sell or consume in the United States. That does not prevent people in over 20 other countries from indulging in this 176-proof vodka. With 88 percent pure alcohol, Balkan is not the strongest in the world, but it is the strongest available in many of the countries where it is sold.
High-powered liquors are not typically better tasting or more refined in any way. Instead their payoff is in the uniqueness of a product that most people have not tried and the element of challenge that they embody. The highest-proof vodkas are no different since they often enjoy a limited market seeking the novelty of the experience and not necessarily the taste of the product.
Proof vs Strength
Every vodka bottle lists the strength of its contents in proof. For example, your vodka bottle may read 100 proof rather than explaining the alcohol content in percentages. Proof is a term that reflects the need to prove the actual alcoholic content rather than leaving it up to the manufacturer to be honest about things. There was a time when distilleries would dilute the finished product with water. A simple volatility check using gunpowder and a match would reveal if water had been added or not. If not, the liquor was considered proven and the proof was stamped on the side. The proof is equal to double the percentage of alcohol, such that 100-proof vodka contains 50 percent alcohol.
- Travel and Leisure Magazine: World's Strongest Liquors
- The Huffington Post: What Does an Alcohol's 'Proof' Actually Mean?
- The New York Times: Spirits That May Be Stronger Than Their Fans
- Tastings: All About Vodka
- New York Daily News: That's the Spirit! State Approves 192-Proof Spirytus, Allowing New Yorkers to Get Quite the Buzz
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