Vodka is a distilled liquor that is traditionally colorless and flavorless, either enjoyed neat (entirely on its own) or as the base spirit of several cocktails, including the Vodka Martini and the Cosmopolitan. Traditional vodka is made from two raw materials: water and ethanol from the fermentation of [cereal grains](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/all-about-grains-21-types-of-grains) (like wheat, [sorghum](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-cook-with-sorghum), or rye). Many vodka brands incorporate other base ingredients (like [potatoes](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/different-ways-to-cook-all-types-of-potatoes) and sugar beets) and additives (like botanicals and spices) to achieve distinctive character in their liquor. After fermenting and distilling, vodka undergoes a filtration and refining process to remove impurities and achieve a smooth mouthfeel. \n\nFor an alcoholic beverage to be classified as vodka in the United States, it must contain no less than 40 percent [alcohol by volume](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/understanding-alcohol-proof) (ABV); in the European Union, vodka must be at least 37.5 percent by volume.\nWhile vodka’s origins are uncertain, some historians believe that the distilled spirit originated in Eastern Europe in the fifteenth century. The first record of the word “vodka” (from the Slavic *voda* and *k* for “little water”) came in 1405 in Poland, where Polish court documents mention the alcoholic beverage. Another origin story suggests that a Moscow-based monk named Isidore used the distillation process to make a liquor out of wheat, which was eventually called “vodka.” \n\nBy the 1500s, vodka production was in full swing, often made in distilleries and home stills across Poland, Russia, and Sweden. Eventually, distillers began distributing the liquor to Western Europe and the United States, where it is now among the best-selling spirits in those areas.\nAs a simple, usually unflavored neutral spirit, vodka has similar properties to rubbing alcohol. If you have an unflavored, unscented bottle of vodka, you can use it in many ways:\n\n1. __As a spirit__. Imbibing is the most common way to use vodka, either neat or as the base spirit in a flavorful cocktail.\n2. __As a disinfectant__. Alcohol kills bacteria (the key ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol), so you can spray or wipe down surfaces or your hands with unflavored vodka to destroy germs. You can use vodka as a replacement for many alcohol-based cleaners, like window cleaner and razor cleaner. \n3. __As an odor neutralizer__. You can use unflavored vodka to kill odor-causing bacteria by spraying it on rugs, shoes, and clothes. When using vodka on fabric, first perform a spot test on an inconspicuous area to avoid possible discoloration. \n4. __As insect repellent__. Insect repellent typically uses an alcohol-based formula to prevent mosquitos and other biting bugs from landing on you. In a pinch, you can spray or apply vodka to your clothes to dissuade insects from landing on you. \n5. __As aftershave__. Aftershaves are alcohol-based products, so you can use vodka as a replacement after shaving. \n6. __As a mouthwash__. Mouthwashes use alcohol to kill bacteria on your teeth and gums so that you can use vodka in precisely the same way. (Avoid vodka with flavoring since the added sugar will compromise the mouthwash.)\nVodka is the base spirit in several mixed drinks. Here are some classic vodka cocktails you can mix at home:\n\n1. __Bloody Mary__: A [Bloody Mary](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/easy-bloody-mary-recipe) is a vodka cocktail that features tomato juice, horseradish, [Worcestershire sauce](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/worcestershire-sauce-recipe), hot sauce, and a mix of herbs and spices.\n2. __Cosmopolitan__: A [Cosmopolitan](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-make-a-cosmo-cocktail) cocktail combines vodka, an orange liqueur like triple sec, cranberry juice, and fresh lime juice. To double down on the citrus notes, many bartenders also use flavored vodka.\n3. __Godmother__: The [Godmother cocktail](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/classic-godmother-cocktail-recipe) is an easy, two-ingredient drink recipe—vodka with a splash of amaretto served over ice. The Godmother is similar to the Godfather, which uses Scotch whiskey as its primary liquor. \n4. __Greyhound__: The [Greyhound](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/classic-greyhound-cocktail-recipe-with-vodka-or-gin) is a classic cocktail, traditionally made with just two ingredients: grapefruit juice and either gin or vodka as the spirit. \n5. __Long Island Iced Tea__: The [Long Island Iced Tea](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-make-a-long-island-iced-tea-cocktail) is a cocktail known for its high alcohol content—it contains vodka, tequila, gin, rum, and triple sec. Despite its name and appearance, the Long Island Iced Tea neither tastes like nor contains any tea at all—its signature amber hue comes from only a tiny splash of cola.\n6. __Kamikaze__: The [Kamikaze cocktail](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/the-kamikaze-cocktail-recipe) recipe contains equal parts vodka, triple sec, and lime. Sometimes blue Curaçao liqueur is added to this classic cocktail in place of triple sec to turn it into a Blue Kamikaze.\n7. __Moscow Mule__: The [Moscow Mule](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/white-russian-cocktail-recipe) is a classic cocktail with a great balance of fizzy, refreshing flavors. The cocktail contains vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice and is traditionally served in a copper cup.\n8. __Screwdriver__: The [Screwdriver](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-make-a-screwdriver-cocktail) is a simple cocktail made from vodka and orange juice. \n9. __Seabreeze__: The [Seabreeze](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-make-a-sea-breeze-cocktail) is a fruity cocktail consisting of vodka, grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice. It is traditionally served in a Highball glass and garnished with a lime slice. Learn [how to choose the right cocktail glass](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-choose-the-right-cocktail-glass) in our complete guide.\n10. __Vodka Gimlet__: A [Gimlet](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/classic-gimlet-cocktail-recipe) is a cocktail with spirit, lime juice, and simple syrup. The classic cocktail is known as a Vodka Gimlet when it is made with vodka. \n11. __Vodka Martini__: A [Vodka Martini](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/classic-vodka-martini-recipe) is a classic cocktail, usually made with vodka, dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a lemon peel or olive garnish. The key to making a classic Vodka Martini is to use high-quality vodka and vermouth.\n12. __Vodka Stinger__: A traditional [Stinger](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/classic-stinger-cocktail-recipe) is a combination of brandy and white crème de menthe, but a Vodka Stinger is a variation that swaps vodka for brandy. \n13. __White Russian__: A [White Russian](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/white-russian-cocktail-recipe) consists of vodka, coffee liqueur, and heavy cream. The added sweetness from the coffee liqueur makes the White Russian one of the milder cocktail recipes.\nLearn more about mixology from award-winning bartenders. Refine your palate, explore the world of spirits, and shake up the perfect cocktail for your next gathering with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com/). \nGenerally odorless and flavorless, vodka is one of the most versatile and popular spirits in the world.