Not all drinks are created equal. And National Vodka Day is a good time to take a closer look at this staple of every corner bar.
Vodka may have some virtues. Clear liquor contains fewer congeners, compounds besides alcohol produced during fermentation and may contribute to the severity of hangovers. Many drinkers look to vodka as a lower calorie option that could be healthier than drinking “antioxidant-rich” red wine.
Vanessa Risetto, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Hoboken, New Jersey, says that vodka may be healthier than wine. “If you want antioxidant benefits [from wine], you’d have to take in a lot of the grape,” Risetto tells Newsweek. “Vodka has no sugars, so you’re less likely to get hungover, because you’re going to feel less calories.”
A study published in the journal Circulation found wine and vodka share similar heart-friendly benefits. When pigs were given red wine (pinot noir), vodka, or no alcohol on a high-fat diet, those given wine or vodka experienced a significant increase in blood flow to the heart and “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. The researchers concluded that the alcohols worked differently: red wine helped the blood vessels relax, and vodka increased capillary density, which means more oxygen could be delivered to the blood.
Vodka is made up of 40 percent alcohol and the other 60 percent is water with no flavor. A 1.5-ounce shot of the clear spirit, 80 proof, contains 92 calories, without fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, sugars or carb. This makes vodka a solid choice for dieters or weight-maintainers.
This spirit is metabolized by the body in the same way as any alcohol. Enzymes break down alcohol in the liver after it’s been metabolized, taking up to one hour to process one ounce of liquor in the liver. The more we drink, the more excess alcohol builds up in the blood and the body’s tissues until it’s ready to be metabolized again.
Martin Silver, CEO of Star Industries, which makes Georgi-brand vodkas, says vodka is considered one of the purer liquors because it is distilled numerous times per batch. This process eliminates sugars coming from fruits and vegetables. The purity of vodka means, “that you could have one or two cocktails per night and wake up feeling fine the next day,” says Silver. (Of course, Silver has an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to the merits of vodka, but in the spirit of celebrating National Vodka Day, we will allow it.)
Similarly, for those who want to limit their alcohol calories, Risetto suggests to avoid mixing vodka with anything that is high in sugar and preservatives, like a French martini or a Sea Breeze cocktail. She recommends vodka and club soda with lime.
“If you feel you need something sweeter, add a splash of cranberry and do seltzers in between, so you can still be active with your friends,” says Risetto.
Risetto suggests doing away with the guilt and drinking responsibly, “as long as [we’re] not drinking vodka everyday.” It’s a good thing every day is not National Vodka Day.