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Vodka is now one of the world's most popular spirits.  It was rarely consumed outside Europe before the 1950s.  But by 1975, vodka sales in the United States had overtaken those of bourbon, previously the most popular hard liquor and the native spirit of the country.  In the second half of the 20th century, vodka owed its popularity in part to its reputation as an alcoholic beverage that "leaves you breathless", as one ad put it — no smell of liquor remains detectable on the breath, and its neutral flavor allows it to be mixed into a wide variety of drinks, often replacing other liquors (particularly Gin) in traditional drinks, such as the Martini.  Vodka is made from a fermented substance of either grain, rye, wheat, potatoes, or sugar beet molasses.  Historically, this alcoholic-proof standard derives from the Russian vodka quality standards established by Tsar Alexander III in 1894.  The name "vodka" is a diminutive form of the Slavic word voda (water), interpreted as little water.

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