Final Word from Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Everyone knows what vodka is, right? Wrong. It's traditionally known to be an alcoholic spirit of Russian origin made by the distillation of rye, wheat or potatoes, but that was before the European Union got ahold of it. Officially, vodka is now a "spirit drink produced from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin obtained following fermentation with yeast from either (i) potatoes and/or cereals, or (ii) other agricultural raw materials." Among those "other agricultural raw materials" is sugar cane. The most popular Czech vodkas are actually made from fermented molasses and a few additives. They're not vodka at all, in the traditional sense of the word. If the EU had tougher standards, and if producers of cheap vodka adhered to them (which, granted, is a big if), fewer people might have died in the methanol scandal. Instead of buying tainted ethanol sold as vodka, some of them might have bought the real thing. [Czech Republic affair liquor methyl]

Glossary of difficult words

spirit - strong distilled liquor, such as brandy, whiskey, gin or rum;

to get ahold/hold of something - to get something; (in this context) to take possession of or power over;

granted - admittedly;

a big if - a big uncertainty;

tainted - contaminated or polluted with something bad or undesirable.

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