How Russian-Born Vodka Became An American Favorite

When you think of America's favorite spirits, you'll undoubtedly think of the sweet and firey Kentucky bourbon, or even prohibition's sweetheart, bathtub gin. So it can be shocking to learn that America's top-purchased liquor of 2020 was Tito's Handmade Vodka, with Smirnoff following closely behind, reports VinePair. How did vodka and its Russian origins survive the Red Scare and make its way to becoming the most-loved booze in America? That all has to do with mixing. 

Tomato, cranberry, or orange juice, soda water, lime and lemon, and olive brine are just a few of the go-to pairings for vodka. Vodka is an incredibly subtle spirit and is even described as flavorless or tasting like nothing. That's why it's more common to see it infused with flavors than other spirits, like Ketel One's Botanicals. All vodka has some subtle flavor, but ultimately has a clean taste that pairs well with lots of mixers. That puts vodka at the top of the list for American drinkers. 

A spirit for all

The tradition of drinking brown spirits on the rocks extends long before the American West was more than a glint in a colonizer's eye. Scotch whisky, in particular, has a long and storied reputation for never being mixed, only on ice if not neat, and perhaps with just a drop or two of water. That same reverence continued in the states, and bourbon was consumed in much the same way, though that would one day give way to the ultra-American cocktail, the Jack and Coke. Gin was typically paired with tonic, or used in the hardcore but classic vermouth-laden martini. However, gin's botanical notes overpowered many mixers. But vodka, oh vodka, could mix with nearly anything.

That's sort of how vodka earned its reputation as being an alcohol for people who don't like the taste of alcohol. Its elusive flavor can be masked by mixers, and all that is left is more the sensation of the spirit than the flavor. It's also almost certain that America's obsession with carb-cutting has helped fuel vodka's popularity, as it contains 0 grams of carbohydrates. With all that said, there's more to love about vodka than not — it's truly a spirit for the masses.