Vodka is one of the most versatile alcohols there is. It can be combined with almost any flavor, making it one of the most popular liquors on the market today. In 2019, 74.1 million cases of vodka were sold, generating 6.6 billion dollars in revenue. While vodka is fairly neutral in flavor, not all vodka brands are created equal.
Let’s go over some of the things to keep in mind when shopping for vodka, and we’ll give you some recommendations for our top vodka brands on the market today.
What to look for in a bottle of vodka
Vodka is made from two main ingredients: water and wheat. Vodka can technically be made from other starchy plants, such as potatoes, but wheat, specifically rye, is what you’ll see most commonly. The quality of your vodka is mostly dependent on the quality of wheat used.
When looking for wheat to make vodka, distillers look for the perfect balance of starch and protein. Vodka made with winter wheat is usually a sign of quality vodka, as it allows the grower to limit the use of pesticides. Distillers will either purchase wheat from a supplier or grow it in company-owned fields. Wheat grown in company-owned fields is usually ideal, as it is raised in perfect conditions for making vodka.
Water also plays an important role in the final quality of the vodka, thanks to its role in the dilution process. This involves adding demineralized water to the pure alcohol, bringing the ABV of the vodka to bottling strength. There are various ways that water can be purified before being added to the vodka, from charcoal to filtration. High-quality water contributes to a smoother vodka.
The other indicator of vodka’s quality is the country of origin. Russia and Poland are considered to be the gold standard of vodka distillers. Russian vodka usually has a higher sugar and alcohol content than Polish vodka. Russian Standard is a great example of a popular, premium brand of Russian vodka, made with Siberian wheat and water from Lake Ladoga in St. Petersburg.
Polish vodka tends to be softer than Russian vodka. The first official Polish reference to vodka was in 1405, and it was used medicinally and as an aphrodisiac. Zubrowka is a famous example of Polish vodka made with bison grass and has been distilled since the 1500s.
There are also high-quality vodkas that come from other countries around the world. Some vodkas are better for sipping, while others are better for mixing into cocktails. There are so many different amazing brands of vodka out there, and you’ll definitely want to try them all.
The Best Vodka Brands
Whether you want your vodka for sipping neat or mixing into cocktails, you’re sure to find your new favorite brand on this list.
Belvedere Vodka is a Polish brand of luxury vodka made from Dankowskie Gold rye. It is quadruple distilled and incredibly smooth. Inspired by over 600 years of Polish vodka-making tradition, Belvedere makes their vodka using nothing artificial. It has a wonderful balance of character and purity and is completely free of additives, sugar, and glycerin.
Belvedere is diluted with purified water from Belvedere’s own artesian wells, which enables the character of the rye to shine. Belvedere is wonderful on the rocks, in a martini, or in your favorite cocktail.
Absolut Elyx Vodka
From Swedish vodka maker Absolut, Absolut Elyx is made from all-natural ingredients, and every detail has been refined and perfected. Absolut works to craft everything from the wheat to the water that goes into the distillation to the glass bottles packaged in. The Elyx range is ultra-luxurious, and all the grains are sourced from a single estate. Elyx is manually distilled in vintage copper stills to create an intensely smooth spirit.
Grey Goose Vodka
Grey Goose is a French premium vodka made from the highest-grade wheat and pristine, limestone-filtered spring water. The flavor is incredibly clear, fresh, and elegantly aromatic. It offers unparalleled smoothness and exceptional flavor, with subtle hints of almond and a long, satisfying finish. It has toasty notes and hints of spice, and the finish is creamy and smooth.
Chopin Potato Vodka
If you’re interested in trying potato-based vodka, Chopin Potato Vodka is a great choice. Chopin is a Polish vodka with an incredibly creamy mouthfeel and earthy notes that play off the hints of sweet apple. Chopin is both creamy and full-bodied, distilled four times to achieve a distinct character and mellow sweetness. Chopin is wonderful served alone over crushed ice and pairs wonderfully with the ginger flavors in a Moscow Mule.
Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka
Smirnoff was founded in Russia in 1864, and you’ll be able to taste the years of experience when you sip Smirnoff No. 21. It’s one of the world’s top-selling vodkas because of its easy-drinking mouthfeel and neutral flavor profile. Smirnoff 21 is triple distilled and filtered ten times, with a robust flavor and a dry finish for ultimate smoothness and clarity. This is an incredibly versatile vodka and can blend flawlessly into any cocktail. It’s a great bottle to keep on your bar cart.
Hangar 1 Straight Vodka
Hangar 1 is an American premium vodka distilled in California. It is made from wine grapes and Midwestern grains for a smooth spirit with hints of fruit on the palate and florals on the nose. It is a wonderfully balanced vodka with a slightly fruity aroma and floral notes with honeysuckle and Asian pear hints.
Hangar 1 Vodka is distilled in a converted WWII-era aircraft hangar, where it gets its name. The slightly fruity flavor profile means Hangar 1 pairs beautifully with fruitier cocktails, such as a Cosmopolitan.
Ketel One Vodka
Ketel One, a Dutch vodka, is carefully crafted using 100% non-GMO European wheat, offering incredible smoothness and neutrality. Ketel One is distilled in copper pot stills, filtered over loose charcoal, and stored in lined tanks. It has a crisp, unique flavor and a strong finish.
The Ketel One family distillery was founded in 1691 and has been producing high-quality, incredibly smooth vodka ever since. It’s amazing in various cocktails, but to let the flavors really shine, Ketel One recommends serving with a splash of club soda and a cucumber ribbon.
Suntory Haku Vodka <
Suntory Haku Vodka is incredibly unique, as instead of being made from wheat or potatoes, it’s made with 100% white rice. The word “Haku” means white in Japanese. It can also be defined as “brilliant,” which describes this vodka’s clean, clear, luminous taste. Suntory Haku is charcoal filtered, which lends it a uniquely light, fresh flavor. Overall, the palate is soft, smooth, and subtly sweet, meaning it goes great in various cocktails or can be sipped on the rocks.
Ciroc is a French vodka distilled from grapes harvested from the Gaillac and Cognac regions. Ciroc uses an innovative cold fermentation process and is distilled five times to produce an amazingly smooth vodka. Ciroc is distilled from grapes, but the flavor isn’t overly grape-like. Instead, you’ll notice lightly fruity notes, including those of orange and anise. The vodka culminates in a crisp finish. Ciroc mixes wonderfully into fruity cocktails.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Tito’s Handmade Vodka is distilled in Austin, Texas. Tito’s founder, Tito Beveridge, obtained the first legal distillery permit in all of Texas since Prohibition in the mid-nineties. Tito’s is a corn-based vodka and is made in batches using old-fashioned pot stills. It is incredibly versatile and goes wonderfully in various cocktails, from Moscow Mules to vodka lemonades.
Effen Vodka is an incredibly light and crisp Dutch spirit. The word “Effen” means smooth, balanced, and even in Dutch. Effen is a super-premium vodka made from high-quality French wheat and uses natural ingredients to create a smooth taste on the palate. Effen also uses a continuous distillation process, resulting in an incredibly smooth, vibrant final product.
Whether you prefer your vodka Russian, Polish or Dutch, and made with wheat, potatoes, or grapes, one thing is for sure: vodka is incredibly versatile. A good vodka can be used in almost any cocktail. With so many amazing vodka brands on the market, you’ll have a hard time choosing which one to try first.
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