Can you freeze vodka?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can you freeze vodka?” and will discuss the composition of vodka.

Can you freeze vodka?

No, vodka cannot freeze. Because vodka’s ethanol concentration is very high, vodka will become chilly but will not freeze solid beyond -27 degrees Celsius (-16.6 degrees Fahrenheit). However, storing it in the freezer can obscure some of its greatest characteristics, such as its delicate aromas and tastes.

What is vodka?

There’s nothing cloudy or cloudy-looking about vodka since it’s made by distilling grain alcohol. Poland, Russia, and Sweden all have their distinct types. Some residues of contaminants or flavorings may be found in vodka, which is mostly water and ethanol. Distilling liquid from fermented cereal grains is the traditional method. There are also current brands that employ fruits like honey or maple sap as a foundation instead of potatoes (1).

Standard vodkas have had an ABV of 40% since the 1890s (80 U.S. proof). Vodka must have a minimum of 37.5 percent alcohol by volume. American vodka must contain at least 40 percent alcohol by volume. Besides pure vodkas, there are flavored vodkas, which are characterized by a dominant flavor different from the taste of raw materials used in their production. Flavored vodka can be artificially sweetened, blended, flavored, matured or coloured. It can be sold under the name of any dominant taste, which is added to the name “vodka” (1).

Vodka Production

Vodka is made from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin that has been produced via fermentation of potatoes, grains or other agricultural products. The starch must be broken down into fermentable sugars, which is done differently depending on the starting material. With most grains, water is added and the mixture is heated until a substance called ‘wort’ is formed. This substance is then drained leaving only the water and fermentable sugars called the ‘wash.’ The sugars in the wash are then converted to ethanol 2 via fermentation, which is a chemical reaction that naturally takes place when a glucose based organism is in an environment which lacks oxygen (2). The obtained ethanol-containing solution is distilled or rectified to selectively reduce the intensity of taste and smell of the raw materials and the by-products of fermentation. The distillation process takes place in a distillation column. Vodka owes its neutral character to the separation of the heads fraction (higher alcohols) from the tails fraction (the least volatile esters). The soft taste of vodka is achieved by multiple filtering of alcohol through activated charcoal, followed by dilution with water, the latter being distilled, demineralized or treated with Permutit or water softeners (1).

Any starch or sugar-rich plant materials may be used to make vodka, although most of today’s vodka is made from grains like sorghum, maize, rye, or wheat. Rye and wheat vodkas are typically regarded as the best grain vodkas. It is possible to make vodkas from everything from potatoes to sugar cane to leftovers of oil refining and wood pulp manufacturing. According to the US Code of Regulations, Title 27, Volume 1, vodka is a spirit that is treated and distilled to be “without 1 distinctive character, aroma, taste or color” (2).

Some vodka is made in Central European nations like Poland by fermenting a crystal sugar and yeast solution. Vodka Belt nations argue that only spirits made from grains, potatoes, and sugar beet molasses may be marketed as “vodka” in the European Union, following the traditional techniques of manufacturing.

Archer Daniels Midland, Grain Processing Corporation, and Midwest Grain Products are three of the largest agricultural-industrial conglomerates in the United States (MGP). They buy the basic spirits, dilute, distribute, and sell the final product under several vodka brand names. Other areas, such as Europe, use similar strategies.

Agricultural ethyl alcohol, often known as neutral spirit or rectified spirit, is sold directly to consumers in certain regions as Everclear, Polmos spirytus  rektyfikowany, and other similar brands of pure grain alcohol. While certain high-ABV vodkas, such as Bulgarian Balkan 176° at 88 percent ABV, may be called “vodka,” these grain alcohol products have not yet undergone the filtering and refinement necessary to be classified as such.

Vodka’s Composition in Chemical Terms

The word “vodka” is a deviation from the Russian word for water, voda, and literally translates to ‘little water.’ When he was director of the Russian Bureau of Standards, Mendeleev, the scientist behind the periodic table, standardized the proportion of ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol) in vodka. Vodka made in Russia has 40% ethanol and 60% water by volume (80 proof). Vodka from other nations might have an ethanol content ranging from 35% to 50% (2). 

Hydrogen bonding can be described as the attraction between hydrogen and another nearby atom within the mixture.  In vodka, hydrogen bonding takes place between a hydrogen atom found on one water molecule and an oxygen atom found on another water molecule. These strong attractions act as bonds and result in structures within the mixture.  The research done on vodka found that this hydrogen-bonding differs between commercial and non-commercial solutions and between commercialized brands. When hydrogen bonding takes place in vodka, it happens between multiple water molecules and results in the formation of a lattice called a clathrate.  Because hydrogen bonding happens between numerous molecules at once, the clathrates of water molecules take on a cage-like structure around ethanol molecules.  Clathrate structures can also be formed between multiple ethanol molecules.  Because of this, in brands of vodka with higher alcohol content, such as 80-proof vodka, both water clathrates and ethanol clathrates are formed. These differences give different types and brands of vodka a distinguished taste (2).

There is enough alcohol in each of these numbers to have a considerable impact on the freezing point of the liquid in question. It would freeze at 0 C or 32 F if it were pure water. Vodka would freeze at -114 C or -173 F if it were 100% pure alcohol. The mixture’s freezing point is in the middle range.

Freezing Point Depression and Ethanol

To reduce the freezing point of water, you must dissolve any liquid in it. Freezing point depression is the name given to this occurrence. Vodka can be frozen, although not in a standard freezer at home. It’s important to note that 80 proof vodka has a freezing point of -26.95 C (-16.51 F), whereas the average home freezer is closer to -17 C (-22 F).

When a solute is added to water, the freezing point of water decreases. The difference between the freezing temperature of pure water and that of a solution is denoted as freezing point depression. This is due to the fact that electrolytes when dissolved into water dissociate into ions, thus generating more particles in solution. In the particular case of NaCl, the largest freezing point depression is reached at the eutectic point, at a concentration of 77% salt in water, which is found at about  -21°C (-6°F) below the melting point of pure water. This is the minimum temperature at which a NaCl aqueous solution could be present as the stable phase (3). However, this may not be enough to freeze vodka, depending on its alcoholic degree.

How to freeze vodka?

Salt and ice may be added to a bucket to keep your vodka extra cold. As an illustration of freezing point depression, the contents will then become colder than typical ice. To produce a vodka-sicle out of a product with lower alcohol content, add salt to bring down the temperature till it is just below freezing point (-21 C). When making ice cream without a freezer, salting ice is a great alternative to the traditional method.

Dry ice or liquid nitrogen may be used to freeze vodka if you want to do so. Dry ice reduces the temperature of vodka to -78 C (-109 F). The sublimation of carbon dioxide creates bubbles in vodka when dry ice chips are added to the beverage (which also has a different flavor). While adding a tiny quantity of dry ice to create bubbles is OK, freezing the vodka will result in a beverage that is much too chilly to consume (think instant frostbite) (4).

Fog forms when liquid nitrogen is added to vodka and allowed to evaporate. Using this approach may result in a little amount of vodka ice. Liquid nitrogen has a temperature of -196 C or -320 F, making it very cold. While bartenders may utilize liquid nitrogen to create (literally) cool effects, safety should always be used. Because frozen vodka is colder than a freezer, it’s impossible to drink.

Other FAQs about Vodka that you may be interested in.

Can you cook with vodka?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can you freeze vodka?” and discussed the composition of vodka.

References

  1. Wiśniewska, P., Śliwińska, M., Dymerski, T. et al. The Analysis of Vodka: A Review Paper. Food Anal. Methods, 2015, 8, 2000–2010. 
  2. Ives, Valerie. Vodka: distinct tastes of. 2013. 
  3. Lamas, Cintia P., Carlos Vega, and Eva G. Noya. Freezing point depression of salt aqueous solutions using the Madrid-2019 model. J Chem Physics, 2022, 156, 134503.
  4. Miller, J.P. 1991. The Use of Liquid Nitrogen in Food Freezing. In: Bald, W.B. (eds) Food Freezing. Springer Series in Applied Biology. Springer, London.