As is known, the paternity of Vodka is disputed between Poland and Russia, but perhaps few know that the archetype of this spirit has been brought to those countries by the Italians. At the end of the fourteenth century, in fact, the enterprising Genoese traders introduced the distillates to the Russian court of the Tsars. According to the historian William Pokhlebkin, the Genoese, during their commercial journey to Lithuania, passing from Moscow, would in particular have let the great Russian Prince Dimitri Ivanovich Donskoi taste their wine’s Aqua Vitae. Given the big success of the tasting, the Russian nobility would then have decided to import the spirit and the technology necessary to produce it in Poland to start marketing it.
So, they immediately tried to distill the raw materials easily available in their immense empire.
Although the wine was available in good quantities, coming from Crimea and Bulgaria, its supply, however, would have involved excessive costs on the final distillate, due to the long journey to the capital or to St. Petersburg. So, the choice of the raw material to be distilled fell on potatoes and rye, poor products available in abundance in the cold Russian steppes.
Italy therefore played a fundamental role in convincing Poland and Russia to develop the Vodka, whose name can be translated as “little water” and which unequivocally recalls that “water of life” (acqua vitae) that was the wine spirit imported by the Genoese.
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