October 4 is National Vodka Day, but no one knows precisely when, where, or even why vodka was first made. (Even NationalVodkaDay.com admits that “we have not found the origins of why, but it works for us. No harm celebrating responsibly on other days as well.”) It depends on your definition of vodka.
We can go as far back as the eighth century A.D., when alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan, known to the West as Geber, invented the alembic to capture vapor from heated wine, which he described as “of little use, but of great importance to science.” (If only he had placed it in a frosted glass bottle and had beautiful women sell it at the local taverns!) In the fourteenth century, the Italians were drinking aqua vitae, which supposedly they learned to make from alchemists in southern France, who, in turn, had studied the methods of the Arabs. In any event the Italians brought their product to Moscow, and around 1430 a Russian monk named Isidore supposedly turned this into vodka.