Vodka may be distilled from any starch- or sugar-rich plant matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat. Among grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are generally considered superior.
Some vodkas are made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice, sugar beets and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. In some Central European countries, such as Poland, some vodka is produced by just fermenting a solution of crystal sugar and yeast.
In the European Union there are talks about the standardization of vodka, and the Vodka Belt countries insist that only spirits produced from grains, potato and sugar beet molasses be allowed to be branded as "vodka", following the traditional methods of production.
In the United States, many vodkas are made from 95% ethanol produced in large quantities by agricultural-industrial giants Archer Daniels Midland and Midwest Grain Processors. Bottlers purchase the base spirits in bulk, then filter, dilute, distribute and market the end product under a variety of vodka brand names
Vodka has traditionally been made by processing equal amounts of alcohol and water with some trace additives to soften the taste and then filtering the alcohol water mixture through carbon. The word vodka is a diminutive form of the Russian word for water.
The origin of vodka is unclear. Both Russians and Poles claim they invented it. According to a Soviet historians hired to look into the matter in the 1970s, vodka was first produced by monks at the Chudov Monastery in the Kremlin in the late 15th century. Their first concoctions were made with alcohol imported from Genoa through the Crimean port of Feodosiya. Later is was made with grain alcohol made from locally grown rye or wheat and spring water.