Today's vodka market is crazy! There are many brands to choose and prices range from $10-60 or more. Some vodkas are good, some are great, and some, well, they might be best left in the bottle or used to disinfect your home.
Navigating the world of vodka can be a challenge and choosing the right brand for you can be a long road. The great news is that there is good vodka at almost every price range, so no matter your budget, you should be able to find one that you enjoy.
How to Choose a Good... Vodka
It is difficult to give specific advice about finding a great vodka. First of all, there are too many vodkas out there and they vary so much that generalizations don't hold true.
Personal taste aside, there are a few generalizations that we can make about vodka...
- Less expensive brands will generally be hotter and burn in the mouth. These are good for a tight budget or for cocktails with flavorful mixers like a Sex on the Beach.
- If you're looking for a decent vodka at a good price, look in the middle of the liquor shelf. Stores stock the cheap stuff on the bottom and put the premium brands right at eye level so it grabs your attention. The best bargains are found right in the middle - usually about waist high - and many of these vodkas will work in almost any mixed drink.
- In general, the more you spend, the better the vodka. Premium and super-premium brands are going to be good choices for sipping and lightly flavored drinks like the Vodka Martini.
- Just because you pay more, doesn't guarantee you'll like it! Quite honestly, some vodkas are pure hype and their popularity is a result of nothing more than great marketing. I have tasted many 'premium' vodkas that are not worth the money, so drinker beware!
Again, all of these are generalizations. Some of my favorite vodkas - namely Deep Eddy and New Amsterdam - are among the most affordable on the market.
If you really enjoy vodka, it may be best to stock two or three brands and use them in specific drinks. For instance, I may stock Svedka for a Black Russian and Bloody Mary, choose a vodka like Charbay or 42Below for Moscow Mules and fruity martinis, then save a premium bottle like Chase for special occasions that deserve the really good stuff.
The beauty of having so many choices in vodka is that you'll never get bored!
Does 'Distilled 6 Times' Really Matter?
You will notice that I do not note in these listings how many times each vodka has been filtered or distilled. There is a very good reason for that.
For years, consumers were led to believe that a vodka which was filtered six times or distilled five times was naturally superior to one filtered or distilled only two or three times. These numbers were marketed to us as creating a smoother vodka with less burn. Quite simply, this is not always the case and many vodka brands have backed down from this emphasis.
It is entirely possible for any vodka, no matter how many times it is filtered or distilled, to be just as smooth or smoother than its competition. These are only two factors in vodka's quality and much of it actually relies on the quality of the ingredients - the grains, potatoes, etc. - the vodka was distilled from as well as other quality control factors in the process.
If you begin with cheap ingredients or use poor practices, no amount of filtration or trips through the still can remedy the situation. Many great vodkas are filtered and distilled just once and are significantly smoother than those with five or six filtrations.
The point? Don't rely on statements like 'Filtered 6x' or 'Distilled 5 Times' as the only indication of a quality vodka.
Not all brands are listed and price points are based on an average, dependent on particular markets.
01 of 04
Just because it's cheap, doesn't mean it's bad vodka! Notice that I don't include the really cheap stuff - Hawkeye, Aristocrat, and the like - that you can get for $10 a liter. I happen to believe that just because you're a little cheap, doesn't mean you can't have a decent drink.
It's quality over quantity and that mantra will serve you well when buying vodka.
- Denaka - Wheat. $12. 80 proof. Denmark. A few flavors available.
- Leaf Vodka - Wheat. $17. 80 proof.... Michigan, United States. Certified organic, made with mineral and glacial waters.
- Luksusowa - Potato. $15. 80 proof. Poland.
- Olifant - Grain. $16. 80 proof. Netherlands.
- New Amsterdam - Grain. $15. 80 proof. California, United States.
- Pinnacle - Wheat. $13. 80 proof. France. Over 40 flavors, specialists in dessert vodkas.
- Seagrams - Grain. $12. 80 proof. Indiana, United States.
- Smirnoff - Grain. $14. 80 proof. United Kingdom (originated in Russia). Many flavors available.
- Sobieski - Rye. $12. 80 proof. Poland. Many flavors available, popularly called Sobi.
- Svedka - Winter wheat. $15. 80 proof. Sweden. Many flavors available including many interesting combinations.
- UV Vodka - Grain. $10. 80 proof. Minnesota, United States. Many flavors available, known for bright colors.
02 of 04
Spending $20 on a bottle of vodka is a safe bet. This range includes many of the biggest names in the vodka market, but again, that does not mean they're the best.
What you will find in these vodkas is a nice range. Some are popular and some are a bit more obscure and it is this latter group that I want to draw your attention to. For around $20, you can find a spectacular vodka if you simply step away from the big names!
- 1.0.1 Vodka - Grain. $24. 80 proof. California, United States.
- 360 Vodka ...- Grain. $19. 80 proof. Missouri, United States. A few flavors available.
- Absolut - Winter wheat. $20. 80 proof. Sweden. Higher proof and many flavors available.
- Blue Ice - Potato. $22. 80 proof. Idaho, United States. Organic Wheat, multi-grain and flavored vodkas available.
- Deep Eddy - Corn. $20. 80 proof. Texas, United States. A few flavors available.
- Finlandia - Barley. $20. 80 proof. Finland. Many flavors available.
- Han - Rice and barley. $22. 80 proof. China. A few flavors available.
- Prairie Organic - Corn. $25. 80 proof. Minnesota, United States. Organic. Gin and cucumber vodka available.
- Skyy - Grain. $20. 80 proof. United States. Many flavors available.
- Stolichnaya - Wheat and rye. $25. 80 proof. Russia. Higher proof and many flavors available. Popularly called Stoli.
- Sonnema VodkaHERB - Grain. $25. 80 proof. Netherlands. Herbal-infused.
- Tanqueray Sterling - Grain. $25. 80 proof. England. Higher proof available.
- Three Olives - Wheat. $20. 80 proof. England. Many flavors available.
- Zodiac - Potato. $25. 80 proof. Idaho, United States. Flavors available.
03 of 04
At around $30 we start to see the really good vodkas. These include a handful of the big brands that are actually worth the money as well as many craft vodkas.
If you really like vodka and can swing a few extra dollars, almost any brand in this list will be a winner.
- 42 Below - Wheat. $30. 80 proof. New Zealand. A few exotic flavors available.
- 44˚ North - Potato. $32. 80 proof. Idaho, United States. Wheat vodka and a few flavors available.
- Blavod - Grain. $30. 80 proof. United Kingdom. Black... catechu gives it a black color.
- Cape North - Golden wheat. $36. 80 proof. France.
- Belvedere - Rye. $30. 80 proof. Poland. A few flavors available.
- Charbay - GMO-free corn. $36. 80 proof. California, United States. A few flavors available.
- Chopin - Potato. $30. 80 proof. Poland. Rye and wheat vodkas available.
- Christiania - Potato. $35. 80 proof. Norway.
- Ciroc - Grape. $35. 80 proof. France. A few flavors available.
- Corbin - Sweet potato. $38. 80 proof. California, United States. Gin and rye whiskey also available (all distilled from sweet potato).
- Dry Fly - Winter wheat. $30. 80 proof. Washington, United States. Gin and whiskies available.
- Grey Goose - Wheat. $30. 80 proof. France. A few flavors available.
- Hangar 1 - Grapes. $35. 80 proof. California, United States. A few flavors available.
- Imperial - Grain. $30/liter. 80 proof. France
- Ketel One - Wheat. $30. 80 proof. Netherlands. A few flavors available.
- Oval - Grain. $36. 84 proof. Austria.
- Reyka - Wheat and barley. $30. 80 proof. Iceland.
- Square One Organic - Rye. $33. 80 proof. California, United States. A few 'botanical' flavors available.
- Van Gogh Vodka - Corn, barley, wheat. $30. 80 proof. Netherlands. Many flavors available.
- Winter Palace - Wheat. $30. 80 proof. France.
- Zyr - Wheat and rye. $33. 80 proof. Russia.
04 of 04
Vodka is a tricky liquor because when we get up into the $40 or more range, we have to wonder what we're really paying for.
Don't get me wrong, the vodkas I've included in this list are really good - I've tried them all and recommend each. However, for most people, spending this much on vodka is not realistic so you really need to weigh your options carefully.
These are not even the most expensive vodkas! I simply choose not to include many of the others because, well, it's vodk...a, not Scotch, and we live in the real world filled with real drinks.
- Anestasia - Corn. $39. 80 proof. Oregon, United States.
- Chase - Potato. $50. 80 proof. United Kingdom. A few flavors available, single-estate.
- Cold River - Potato. $40. 80 proof. Maine, United States. Flavors available.
- Crystal Head - Corn. $50. 80 proof. Newfoundland.
- IS Vodka - GMO-free wheat. $40. 80 proof. United Kingdom.
- Snow Queen - Wheat. $50. 80 proof. Kazakhstan. Organic.
- Stolinaya Elit - Wheat and rye. $60. 80 proof. Russia. Popularly called Stoli.
- Tru Organic - Wheat. $40. 80 proof. California, United States. Organic. A few flavors available.