Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America

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9780762786992: Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America

It began as poisonous rotgut in Medieval Russia—Ivan the Terrible liked it, Peter the Great loved it—but this grain alcohol “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color” has become our uncontested king of spirits. Over a thousand brands fight for market share, shelved in glass skulls, Tommy guns, bulletproof bottles; flavored with pears, currants, chipotle; or quintuple distilled by Donald Trump. But it wasn’t always thus. For 200 years, America drank the brown stuff, which gave us Colonial rumrunners, the Whiskey Rebellion, and Bourbon County, Kentucky. So how did Russia’s “little water,” originally a medieval rotgut medicine, unseat America’s favorite hooch? Vic Matus takes us on an incredible visual journey from vodka’s humble American origins in a Depression-era Connecticut factory—using the family recipe from a poor Russian exile in France named Vladimir Smirnov—through its rise to glamour and fame at the hands of James Bond and the 1990s boom enshrined in Sex and the City’s Grey Goose Cosmos to today’s craft distillery movement, which approaches the drink as an art form. You’ll see in clear, intoxicating detail how hippie culture, women’s lib, and an absolutely ingenious Swedish company all played their part, transforming the booze into a status symbol. By 1975, the war had ended: Vodka officially became our favorite spirit. Today, a third of all cocktails ordered contain it. Last year $20 billion in sales poured in from more than 140 million gallons of the stuff. Here is the crisply distilled, bracing story of how risk-taking entrepreneurs defied the odds and turned medieval medicine into a multibillion-dollar industry.

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About the Author:

Victorino Matus is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard. He has written for the New York Post, Salon.com, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Washingtonian magazine and provided commentary on CNN, NPR, C-SPAN, The Laura Ingraham Show, and the BBC. For a Washington Post piece on the FDA’s menu label mandate, he consumed 3,000 calories in a single sitting to prove a point, and his essays have covered the greatest culinary insult to Italian-Americans (The Olive Garden) and the foie gras wars. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Kate, and their two children.

Review:

"Fascinating ... the finished product goes down nice and smooth, providing great insight into the vodka industry in its current state."
—Publishers Weekly

“Make mine a double! I’ll be reading Vodka more than once, and I don’t understand how ‘Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless’ got into the subtitle of this vivid, pungent, and savory book.”
—P. J. O’Rourke

“Fantastic. Victorino Matus has written one of the most interesting books of the year. Vodka is a great story, and he tells it perfectly. I got so absorbed, I missed cocktail hour. Buy three copies.”
—Tucker Carlson

“An excellent book on a spirit remarkable for being unremarkable, Vodka is a brilliant social history, an incisive study of business and marketing, and a lot of fun to read.”
—Michael Ruhlman, New York Times–bestselling and James Beard– and IACP Award–winning author of The Soul of a Chef, The French Laundry Cookbook (with Thomas Keller), Charcuterie, and Ruhlman's Twenty.

“Vodka made me laugh, learn, think, and savor the journey. On every page, I thought: I want one now. Put this great book on its own shelf with a tall bottle of vodka next to it. You’ll love it.”
—Larry Miller, actor, comedian, and host of This Week with Larry Miller

“Matus’s book is anything but bland. He guides us through the history of how this colorless drink became the most popular tipple in America by mixing a cocktail of anthropological insight and reportorial legwork, dashed with a perfect measure of tongue-in-cheek wit.”
—Max Watman, author of Harvest and Chasing the White Dog

“With a business writer’s acumen, Victorino Matus carefully brings the cloudy world of the international vodka industry into focus. Both millionaire distillers and mom-and-pop operations invite him inside their world, where he explores super premiums, celebrity endorsements, the flavor craze, and the seamier side of the industry. Part history lesson and part marketing examination, Vodka will make you think twice the next time you look at a bottle of it.”
—Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, author of Under the Table

“Vodka comes alive in the hands of Victorino Matus, who blends historical background with pop culture and weaves together a cast of characters ranging from the czars of Russia and James Bond to Dan Aykroyd and P. Diddy. This book will please casual readers and cocktail geeks alike. Reading Vodka might not be as satisfying as drinking it—but it comes close!”
—Mark Spivak, author of Iconic Spirits and Moonshine Nation

“Matus casts his gimlet eye over a range of brands, from tiny craft distillers to industry giants, and recounts how they've found their place in the crowded vodka ecosystem...And by the end, it's hard to disagree—not just in the sales figures but also in its conquests. Haters will still say there's no craft in vodka, that it's an industrial product. But Mr. Matus convinced me there's true craft here...Vodka didn't conquer America; America conquered vodka.” – The Wall Street Journal

“The whole book is a tour de rires of the American vodka industry. Mr. Matus, with a feature reporter’s eye and a nice, light touch, shows us Vodka USA in all its glory...Literary merits aside, this is a beautiful book. It smells good, too...One can only hope more publishers follow this example.” – The Washington Times

“Vodka is one part intriguing history lesson, one part reporting, and one part percipient marketing study. Suffusing his book with an easy charm and engaging wit, Matus draws the reader in as he charts vodka’s origins and its rise to become America’s top-selling spirit.” --The Federalist

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Book Description ROWMAN LITTLEFIELD, United States, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. It began as poisonous rotgut in Medieval Russia-Ivan the Terrible liked it, Peter the Great loved it-but this grain alcohol without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color has become our uncontested king of spirits. Over a thousand brands fight for market share, shelved in glass skulls, Tommy guns, bulletproof bottles; flavored with pears, currants, chipotle; or quintuple distilled by Donald Trump. But it wasn t always thus. For 200 years, America drank the brown stuff, which gave us Colonial rumrunners, the Whiskey Rebellion, and Bourbon County, Kentucky. So how did Russia s little water, originally a medieval rotgut medicine, unseat America s favorite hooch? Vic Matus takes us on an incredible visual journey from vodka s humble American origins in a Depression-era Connecticut factory-using the family recipe from a poor Russian exile in France named Vladimir Smirnov-through its rise to glamour and fame at the hands of James Bond and the 1990s boom enshrined in Sex and the City s Grey Goose Cosmos to today s craft distillery movement, which approaches the drink as an art form. You ll see in clear, intoxicating detail how hippie culture, women s lib, and an absolutely ingenious Swedish company all played their part, transforming the booze into a status symbol. By 1975, the war had ended: Vodka officially became our favorite spirit. Today, a third of all cocktails ordered contain it. Last year $20 billion in sales poured in from more than 140 million gallons of the stuff. Here is the crisply distilled, bracing story of how risk-taking entrepreneurs defied the odds and turned medieval medicine into a multibillion-dollar industry. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780762786992

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