Here at the Mule, we all know how great a well-made vodka cocktail – of even a vodka straight-up – can be at the end of a long day. But there’s something to be said about diving deeper into that spirit that we all so enjoy. Vodka is nothing if not a drink with an extremely deep and complicated history, and taking the time to learn some of the nuances and elements of that can not only make your vodka drinking more enjoyable, it can also make you one hell of an interesting party guest.
So with that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of 5 of our favorite books on our favorite spirit: vodka. From the definitive history of the Vodka King himself Pyotr Smirnoff (for lighter reading, check out our condensed article on the man and the brand here), to a fantastic and educational book on how to approach vodka as an ingredient, there page turners will having you treating your next pour with more knowledge than you thought possible.
1. The King Of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnoff & The Upheaval of an Empire: This history of vodka scion Pyotr Smirnov and his family is the story of a humble serf who rose to create one of the most celebrated business empires the world has ever known. Pyotr Smirnov comes to life as a hero of wonderful complexity — a man of intense ambition and uncanny business sense, a patriarch of a family that would help define Russian society, and a loyalist to a nation that would one day honor him as a treasure of the state. Set against a backdrop of political and ideological currents that would determine the course of global history — from the fall of the tsars to the rise of communism — this is much more than a biography of an extraordinary man. It is a story of triumph and tragedy and a work of narrative history on an epic scale.
2. Vodka: A Global History: Vodka is the most versatile of spirits. While people in Eastern Europe and the Baltic often drink it neat, swallowing it in one gulp, others use it in cocktails and mixed drinks—bloody mary’s, screwdrivers, white russians, and Jell-O shots—or mix it with tonic water or ginger beer to create a refreshing drink. Vodka manufacturers even infuse it with flavors ranging from lemon and strawberry to chocolate, bubble gum, and bacon. Created by distilling fermented grains, potatoes, beets, or other vegetables, this colorless, tasteless, and odorless liquor has been enjoyed by both the rich and the poor throughout its existence, but it has also endured many obstacles along its way to global popularity.
3. The Vodka Companion: describes the history of the spirit (its name comes from the Russian for water, voda), how it is distilled – with detailed explanations of how flavored vodka is created, classic Vodka-based cocktails, where to buy the premier brands, even recipes, all in a handy pocket-sized book. Lavishly illustrated and written in an easy-to-read style,Vodka: The Discerning Vodka-Drinker’s Companion will go down as well the most lovingly created Martini.
4. Vodka Distilled: The Modern Mixologist on Vodka & Vodka Cocktails: Vodka Distilled appeals to both enthusiasts and aficionados by explaining how traditional-style vodkas–those produced in Eastern Europe–differ in character from those made in the West, and how different raw materials and distillation and filtration methods contribute to these variations in character. By breaking down the characteristics of each highlighted vodka, Abou-Ganim helps readers better understand, appreciate, and enjoy this noble spirit.
5. Abosolut Book: The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story: A New York Times bestseller, Absolut Book is the behind-the-scenes account of the birth and growth of this award-winning campaign and provides a definitive illustrated history of one of the most successful ad campaigns ever. It is a collector’s delight with nearly five hundred ads.