Vodka is a distilled beverage and one of the world's most popular liquors. It is composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made from fermented substances like grain and potatoes.
Vodka's alcoholic content usually ranges between 35-70% by volume; the standard Polish, Russian and Lithuanian vodkas are 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).
Historically, this alcoholic-proof standard derives from the Russian vodka quality standards established by Tsar Alexander III in 1894. The Moscow Vodka Museum reports that chemist Dmitri Mendeleev determined the ideal alcohol content as 38%; however, because in that time distilled spirits were taxed per their alcoholic strength, that percentage was rounded upwards to 40% for simplified taxation calculations.
For such a liquor to be denominated "vodka", governments establish a minimum alcohol content; the European Union established 37.5% alcohol by volume as the minimum alcohol content for European vodka.
Vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt — Eastern Europe and Nordic countries — and elsewhere. It is also commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, the Screwdriver, the Sex On The Beach, the White Russian, the Vodka Tonic, and the Vodka Martini.