Vodka is a popular alcoholic spirit that originated in Eastern Europe. It is made from a grain mash of wheat, rye, potatoes, beets, or a variety of other vegetables that is fermented and then distilled. Different regions in the world use different grains: vodka from Russia, Sweden, and other Baltic states is made predominantly from wheat where as vodka from Poland is made from rye.
Vodka produced within the United States must be, by law, neutral in flavour. Consequently, after being distilled the spirit is treated with charcoal or other material that removes most of its distinctive flavour. The advantage of this is that this particular type of vodka is ideal for blending with other drinks, like blended Scottish Whiskey, which is often "padded out" with vodka. The vodka dilutes the whiskey to the desired taste without diluting the alcohol content or introducing new flavours. Fortified wines such as sherry and port may also have vodka as an ingredient.
Like whiskey (another distilled grain-based liquor), vodka is distilled twice to achieve a desired potency. Where vodka differs is that it is not usually aged. Once produced, the vodka is bottled.
Vodka has a naturally clear colour from the distillation process but will retain some flavour and character of the original mash (fermentable starchy mixture of grains).
Vodka may be consumed "neat" or "straight up" — no ice or mixer — or mixed with other drinks. Typical "mixers" include orange juice (to create the screwdriver, fruit juice, cola or other soda drinks.
Alcopops is a slang term for a range of bottled drinks containing alcohol, many of which are vodka-based. Alcopops have been criticized for encouraging people to over-consume alcohol (ethyl alcohol) and have been associated with encouraging under-aged (juvenile) drinking. The sweet taste and resemblance to soft drinks makes vodka alcopops popular with younger drinkers.