Who Really Invented Vodka?

Who Really Invented Vodka?Vice traveled to the front lines of the Vodka Wars and discovered that the tortured history of Russian-Polish relations can be saved in a bottle.

In the fall of 1977, Poland instigated a trade war with Russia over the right to produce vodka. It was the first time that Poland officially tried to claim the drink as its own, but it would not be the last. This is the story of the Vodka Wars.

Vice headed to the Russian vodka museum, where they were celebrating 500 years of Russian vodka. As soon as they got into the museum, they were stuck in a screening room and hosts showed them the history of Russia according to vodka.

The museum was a little light on any evidence regarding the Russian origins of vodka. But this isn't just about vodka. It's about Russian nationalism. And vodka, like oil and gas, is just another commodity that can be traded for power. To really understand the Vodka Wars, we had to understand who the hell we're dealing with.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 33 minutes)

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Ratings: 8.33/10 from 9 users.
  • http://www.facebook.com/harry.nutzack.1 Harry Nutzack

    funny, the subject reminds of the "pisco wars" between peru and chile. i have friends of both nationalities (one of the joys of south florida living is exposure to a taste of the truly bizarre nationalism, and "matters of pride" related to it, of south americans). both camps have told me they actually fought border wars in the 19th century over which country has the original claim to a fortified wine beverage "pisco", which is basically a brandy spiked red wine. both countries still engage in trademark litigation back and forth over claims of "the original pisco". if you sit down in a bar in miami that happens to have both chilenos and peruanos you will eventually (most often sooner than later) hear the trading of barbs back and forth (they have been regional rivals since the days of simon bolivar), and the topic will quickly turn to pisco (if the barflies are chilean and equadorian, then it is whose nation has more volcanoes, roflmao), each accusing the other of being usurpers of the coveted title. of course, the reality is the beverage dates back to the days of spanish rule of both countries, so neither nation really has a claim of origination, though this factoid never seems to quell the discussion (or rare bloodshed) related to the original blender of the potent potable. it's refreshing to see such rivalry occurs in europe for equally ridiculous prideful claims. perhaps on my next encounter with "snowbirds" i'll claim american origins of maple syrup, and see if i can spark a similar rivalry. our 200 year long peace may well hang in the balance, roflmao

  • Jack1952

    I don't know how we would react to the maple syrup claim but try telling us that it was Americans that invented hockey and you might have a fight on your hands.

  • http://www.facebook.com/harry.nutzack.1 Harry Nutzack

    no, i'm pretty sure it was the atlanteans that invented hockey as a leisure activity to while away their time between building pyramids with alien technology, roflmao... maybe i should try poutine, as most snowbirds are quebecois ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644961821 Fabien L'Amour

    Maple syrup was invented by Native americans.

    In 1606 Marc Lescarbot, a lawyer, traveller and writer in Acadia, described the Indians collecting it and decribed what he called the distillation of maple water. Gabriel Sagard, a missionary and Recollect friar, confirmed the use of maple water among the Indians and the said evaporation process. He described it as a fortifying drink. This idea of a drink that revive your strength was also expressed by father Lejeune in 1634, relating the accounts of the mountain people [Montagnais], who ate the bark of the maple to combat hunger during a famine. He described maple water as a sweet sugar like honey.

  • http://www.facebook.com/harry.nutzack.1 Harry Nutzack

    fabien, i'm an american, we rarely let inconvenient things like facts stand in our way, lol. seriously though, thanks for the info, i was completely clueless on that historical tidbit. i guess i'll have to go with poutine to spark the border rivalry with our seasonal resident quebecois ; )

  • Jack1952

    It's a Christmas tradition, in our family, for everyone to go to the pond behind the barn and play hockey all afternoon. It makes us even hungrier for the turkey and fixings...and we would kick Atlantean butt if they had the nerve to show themselves.

    I helped collect and boil sap while growing up and still, time permitting, help my brother with his small operation. Love the syrup and remember fondly the nights in the sap shack, out in woods, listening to the coyotes and doing my homework. The kids love it when you drop the finished syrup, while its still hot, into the snow. It hardens immediately into a maple syrup freezie.

    Poutine is a Quebecois original but we love it in Ontario too. I highly recommend it. A lot of the snowbirds are from Ontario and the Maritimes but they seem to blend in more than the Quebecois due to the language similarities.

    And we love beer in Canada. Real beer. Not your watered down American swill.

    That should cover every Canadian stereotype...and its all true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/harry.nutzack.1 Harry Nutzack

    jack, i have often said the beer, maple syrup, and poutine are proof of who the truly civilized folk of north america are. i totally agree our beer down here is a crime. i spent a winter of my youth in vermont, and got to experience the joys of sap collection and concentration (as well as the "instant candy"), ours ended up with a smoky pine bouquet to it from being boiled on an open fire of pine logs. though we do get our share of ontarians and maritimites in the migration, our predominant snowbirds are quebecois here in the fort lauderdale area. the southern end of ft laud to hallendale beach becomes the most southern suburb of montreal for a few months, lol. i saw my first ""plymouth parisienne" and "acadian canso" courtesy of the seasonal migration. if i came across as being critical of canada and canadians, forgive me. i actually find the influx refreshing, as for the most part our northern neighbors tend to be much more open minded and friendly than our local populace. my intent was much more to make light of nationalistic rivalries than actually promoting one with the folks who whipped us so badly in the war of 1812, lol.

  • Jack1952

    Only Americans would find criticism in your post. Canadians love this kind of verbal sparring. You should hear us go at each other. Stuff is said that would get a person shot in the States and we laugh about it.
    Its another difference in out culture. Americans tend to take themselves to seriously and Canadians not enough.
    There is some pretty good wine coming out of Canada now too. Just south of where I live, in Prince Edward County, the wine industry has exploded. The warmer winters have allowed for a better growing season for the grapes. It has become a tradition to get together with a bunch of friends in the fall and rent a bus and driver and do the wine tour in the county. There is a vodka distillery on an old farm, complete with a barrel making shop, which is a favourite stop. Also an apple cider brewery (?) and you can stop at all these places in one trip. Great stuff.

    And those were Canadian Indians that Fabien L'Amour was talking about. Acadia refers to the Maritimes and is the original homeland of the Cajuns. So we did develop maple syrup.

  • http://1iotofoto.wix.com/otofoto oQ

    Your story doesn't say who invented maple syrup, it describes who made it known to the world.
    Indigenous peoples from North America....Americans or Canadians?...neither or both, in their days there were no borders.
    1i

  • Jack1952

    I thought this film made a stronger case for Poland as the birthplace for vodka. It may not be this way but on the "expert" investigation of VICE I'm going with Poland. Poland wins the third round of the vodka wars. This third round is unofficial of course.

  • Jack1952

    Poutine is definitely Canadian, though, and so is hockey. Those indigenous people lived in what was known as Acadia which is now a part of Canada. That means it's Canadian. Canadian...I'll fight any American that says different. Not literally...I'm too old. But I'll argue till I'm blue in the face. It's what patriotism is all about.

  • http://1iotofoto.wix.com/otofoto oQ

    Poutine is French Canadian. I was the one who introduced it to Nelson BC when i ran the food concession in the city park.
    That was summer 1994. I even ordered my cheese from Quebec, now there is a company who makes it in Grand Forks but it's not the same.
    Le "fromage en crottes" as we call it in Quebec or more appropriately fromage en grain, is a fresh unpressed cheddar cheese and when you eat it (fresh of the day) it does this funny noise in your mouth... it sounds like zuick zuick zuick.
    1i

  • Achems_Razor

    oQ...lol, it goes "zuick zuick zuick"? you are a funny gal there toots!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644961821 Fabien L'Amour

    I never used Canadian or American (as people that live in the United States label themselves) in my post. I used Native Americans, as in people that lived in America before Canada and the United States of America were founded.

    It' impossible to know for sure when or where Maple Syrup was invented because there are no written records prior to the colonization of North America by Europeans. The only conclusion possible is it was invented where Sugar Maples grow.

    ACER saccharum is naturally present in the following provinces and states.

    Canada : NB, NS, ON, PE, QC

    U.S.A : AL, AR, CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV

    A specific Native tribe must have invented it and the technique probably spread to other tribes. I suspect the information is long lost.

  • http://1iotofoto.wix.com/otofoto oQ

    It is also possible to make birch syrup...takes a lot more sap to produce the equal quatity you can make with maple. 1/40 approx for maple, 1/100 for birch.
    You are right natives knew about sugar from trees way way way long long long ago.
    Have you ever tasted spruce beer?...that's also a Quebec thing (i think).
    1i

  • http://1iotofoto.wix.com/otofoto oQ

    I swear it does, no joke.
    You did make me smile!
    1i

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644961821 Fabien L'Amour

    I tasted spruce beer (bière d'épinette) a long time ago,
    can't say I really remember that it was any good. Vodka is better but not as good as Tequila. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644961821 Fabien L'Amour

    yes, the cheese used in poutine does a very distinctive noise when you chew it. 'Zuick Zuick Zuick' is pretty close, but I would say 'Kwik Kwik Kwik' myself, there isn't really a Z in the noise to my ear.

  • http://1iotofoto.wix.com/otofoto oQ

    I would have to agree on the Tequila preference. I celebrated Dec 24th 2009 in Tequila Mexico, it's a great drink for such celebration...lol!
    As for bière d'épinette, it is alcool free, and i love that sappy taste.

    az

  • Jack1952

    We call it curd in Ontario and the fresher it is the more it squeaks when you chew it. There are many small cheese factories in the area where I live. Sunday afternoon drives would always have a stop at one for fresh curd.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BJDBODCYLZVSOVMAK2Q7A2JQOM jvr

    GOOD JOB IVAR !!! VERY MUCH enjoyed your war reportage :)

  • Matt van den Ham

    so basically this documentary proves nothing...ah well, at least it was entertaining.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arek.husak Arek Husak

    It proves that vodka originally comes from Poland and during soviet regime was embedded into soviet/Russian documentation.Really good, modern attempt to complexed and problematic issues during soviet domination in Eastern Europe.Well done Ivar, great sense of humor and yet very educating piece of documentary.

  • fk_censors

    I usually like Vice documentaries, but this one was an exception, despite an interesting subject. They could have picked a smarter reporter - this guy's questions were generally idiotic and his narration was simplistic and parallel to the subject in many cases. He saved face toward the very end, with the conclusions, but I wonder how much better this doc could have been with a marginally sharper guy in charge. Seeing him party for half the documentary didn't bring any new insight to the subject (nor was it that entertaining). The sources and investigative method were decent, but I would have liked to hear more from the ex-KGB guy in Washington DC and from the Western vodka expert in Poland, they were the most articulate and had the most intelligent things to say.