The Ingenious Chemistry of Vodka

Parth Bhavsar, Ishika Khare, and Palak Shah

 

Disclaimer: The following blog is not advisable for Teetotalers and Sober curious as it might change your mind….

Don’t Worry

Don’t Cry,

Drink Vodka and FLY.

(Source-Instagram)

 

The Preliminary Excitation:

For some, it’s the ‘Happy water’, while for the others it’s the way to get over a bad break-up. This is no secret that this particular liquid is actually the LIFE of every party. This liquor can make anyone dance. Well, readers, Vodka might not be the answer for you, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Vodka is the top choice for many drinkers in almost all parts of the world. It's known to be the most popular liquor in all the bars worldwide. Mixologists prefer vodka for its immense versatility and it’s an essential component of some of our favorite cocktails. But you all must be wondering, Why do we have to write a science blog on vodka…. Well, according to chemistry, alcohol is a solution…so let’s get started!

The Composition Summation:

As mentioned above, vodka, just like all other alcohols, is primarily a solution. Researches have

suggested that vodka is mainly composed of ethanol and water molecules. Most vodkas contain ethanol that has been diluted with water to nearly forty percentage purity (40% alcohol content). Vodka exists generally as a colorless, clear well as a flavorless drink. Despite such simplicity, drinkers prefer vodka over other alcoholic beverages often. The answer to this lies in the composition and structure of vodka.


Reports suggest that vodka, ethanol, and water molecules group together in clusters, and form ethanol-water hydrates. These hydrates depict a cage-like structure with the ethanol molecules trapped within and the water molecules surrounding. Analysis done via means of infrared spectroscopy suggests that there exist two hydrates in vodka composition. Among these, the concentration of the E5.3H2O (E-ethyl alcohol) hydrate varies across vodka types. It is this hydrate that strikes the palate of the person drinking vodka. As its concentration changes, the water and alcohol content changes. This stimulates distinctive character in the various brands of vodka. Thus the taste of vodka is perceived by its internal structure.

At times flavored vodkas are also prepared by adding additives. These vodkas contain the constituents of the general vodka and also contain citric acid or glycerol, for smoothening purposes. Some vodka’s like the bison grass vodka contains coumarin as a flavoring agent. In some vodka, 3-Hexanone serves as a flavoring agent owing to its grape/wine-like smell.


The Alcohol Extraction:

The ethanol used in vodka preparation comes via means of fermentation of grains, molasses, and vegetables. Generally, yeast is also added in the overall process as its enzyme causes the conversion of sugar to ethyl alcohol. Once formed, the ethyl alcohol is subjected to distillation. It is by this distillation process that the alcohol percentage is raised in the spiritual preparation. Once the alcohol percentage is reached around 96, it is diluted with water. For obtaining a further soft taste in the vodka, the ethanol formed is filtered through activated charcoal. Reports suggest that is difficult to obtain 100% ethanol content and at any point in time other chemicals are always present in trace amounts it like acetaldehyde, isoamyl alcohol, methanol, and propanol. These exist as impurities but also affect the flavor in cheaper vodka brands.

The Hangover Hypothesis:

The main constituent of vodka, ethanol, contributes to the hangover and dehydration effect in the human body. Ethanol entering the human body is metabolized in the liver to acetaldehyde by an enzyme named alcohol dehydrogenase. Initial acetaldehyde content contributes to headaches and dizziness. This acetaldehyde, with increasing concentration, is attacked by another enzyme name acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and a chemical called glutathione. They combine to form an acetate complex which reduces the antioxidant activity of glutathione leading to more hangover symptoms like vomiting.

On the contrary, ethanol present also contributes to dehydration. Ethanol acts as a diuretic. It causes sugar loss via urination and reduces fluid content and thus makes us feel dehydrated. That is why occasional drinking of water is preferable while/after having a vodka.

Relief Never Felt So Good:

While most people relate vodka to drinking, only a few actually know that vodka was in reality formed and used as a potential medicinal source. Even today a small ounce of vodka can prove to be a boon in improving one’s health and thus sometimes even health specialists recommend its intake:

· Stress-Buster: Vodka is world-wide mainly taken as a stress reliever. When taken in moderate amounts, vodka serves to relax the body from depressant effects and makes the person calm and composed after a stressful day.

· Heart-Healthy: Vodka when taken in small ounces occasionally serves to enhance the circulation and blood flow in our body. Thus it reduces chances of clotting or stroke (unless one takes it in too much excess). In addition, it enhances the concentration of good cholesterol in our arteries ensuring the removal of the bad cholesterol and thus reduces the risk of myocardial infections.

· Oral Hygiene: A small sip of vodka can serve to relieve one from toothache and also helps get rid of bad breath.

· Diabetes control: A fortnight intake of a shot of vodka can serve to reduce blood sugar levels and control/prevent diabetes.

· Inflammation Reducer: Small intake of vodka shot at regular intervals of time, helps reduced inflammation, among patients having suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.

· Hair-care: Vodka intake can promote good hair growth, ensuring removal of toxins from the hair and thus ensuring scalp cleaning.

· Weight reduction: Any person aiming for a weight reduction can prefer using vodka as a beverage because the calorie contribution of vodka is significantly lower than other alcoholic drinks like beer.


The Analysis Termination:

Well, after knowing more or less everything about vodka, we would like to say that it should be consumed wisely and inadvisable limits. After all, everything except decisions mixes well with vodka. Indulgence is enjoyable only if we know the limits and if we go against that, it becomes a threat. Our parting advice to all you wonderful readers is - If life gives you lemons, ADD vodka !!


References:

· Abramova M. I., Medrish E.M., Romanova G.A., Gavrilova A.D. and Pavlenko V.S., September 2020. Chemical Characterization of ethanol and vodka in Russia [present in the IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 548 082059].

· Wisniewska Paulina, Sliwinska Magdalena, Dymerski Tomasz, Wardencki Waldemar and Namiesnik Jacek., January 2015. The Analysis of Vodka: A Review Paper [Present in the Food Analytical Methods].

· Justo Di Patrick., January 2013. What’s Inside: Vodka [on the site: https://www.wired.com/2013/03/whats-inside-vodka/ ]

· Perry Lacy., October 2004. How Hangovers Work [on the site: https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/drugs-alcohol/hangover4.htm]

· Anonymous., June 2010. Ethanol Structure Affects Vodka Brand Preference [on the site: https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/beverages/ethanol-structure-affects-vodka-brand-preference]

· Hindle Georgina., October 2018. Learn about Vodka [on the site: https://www.decanter.com/spirits/learn-about-vodka-402177/]

· Nagdeve Meenakshi., last update: February 2021. Vodka: Calories, Nutrition Facts and Risks [on the site: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/beverage/vodka.html]

· Rowlings Ella., September 2020. 8 Health Benefits of Vodka: Is Vodka Actually Good for You? [On the site: https://www.themanual.com/food-and-drink/benefits-of-vodka/]

· Silverman Leah., March 2018. 7 Ways Vodka is Actually Good for you [on the site: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/drinks/a18825988/vodka-health-benefits]

· Lalloo Manisha., May 2010. Vodka’s Molecular Cocktail [on the site: https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/vodkas-molecular-cocktail/3004253.article]

· Compound Interest., June 2016. The Chemistry of Vodka- Structure, Additives and Impurities [on the site: https://www.compoundchem.com/2016/06/08/vodka/]

· https://www.sharecare.com/health/alcohol-and-health/why-alcohol-cause-dehydration]

· https://www.healthline.com/health/does-alcohol-dehydrate-you

· https://www.wired.com/2013/03/whats-inside-vodka/

· https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/the-story-of-vodka-and-how-it-is-prepared/photostory/75672348.cms?picid=75672379

· https://www.compoundchem.com/2016/06/08/vodka/


Pictures-

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/256748/lemon-drop-shots/

https://elemental.medium.com/what-alcohol-does-to-a-stressed-out-brain-af3771a36dba

https://in.pinterest.com/pin/229120699779346504/

http://www.compoundchem.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/The-Chemistry-of-Vodka.pdf

https://www.liquor.com/articles/vodka-ingredients/

https://www.thelist.com/185598/when-you-drink-vodka-every-night-this-is-what-happens-to-your-body/

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