From Bloody Mary, Moscow mule, Screwdriver, Cosmo, Caipirovska to White Russian, there are many cocktails you can make and we are all familair with the branded ones (Smirnoff, Absolut, Grey Goose, Belvedere, Crystal), and the one’s in the supemarket but when presented with a choice of all the best vodka brands out there, you may reach for whatever tastes the closest to water and the least like rubbing alcohol.
Whilst Americans view vodka as: a clear, flavorless liquid that can only be judged by how quickly it can mess you up without burning on the way down (or out).
Vodka is a fairly neutral spirit, but you’d be surprised by how nuanced and tasty it can be when you drink it straight—yes, you can sip vodka like you would a whiskey—and opt for a more flavorful variety. Endlessly versatile, whether enjoyed alone or as the base of a tasty cocktail, it’s like the plain white tee of the spirit world. And because you should only have top-shelf picks in your bar cart, we surveyed a number of experts in the spirits world on the best vodka brands to buy at every price point.
The Best Vodkas, at a Glance
Guests are coming over and you need an immediate restock of your bar. Here you go: Our picks, on the house.
- The Best Vodka, Overall: Reyka Vodka, $22
- The Best Top-Shelf Vodka: Harridan Vodka, $59
- The Best Cheap Vodka: SKYY Vodka, $20
- The Best Vodka for Shots: Ciroc, $30
- The Best Vodka for Cocktails: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, $21
- The Best Craft Vodka: St. George All Purpose Vodka, $28
- The Best Vodka for Martinis: Haku Vodka, $29
- The Most Unique Vodka: ISCO Ostreida vodka, $39
- The Best Vodka for Sipping: Chopin Potato Vodka, $31
- The Best Low-ABV Vodka: Body Vodka, $30
- The Best Flavored Vodka: St. George Green Chile Vodka, $32
- The Best Sustainable Vodka: Good Vodka, $30
How is vodka even made?
Vodka is a clear distilled spirit, usually made from fermenting grains. Almost any grain can be used to make vodka—whether it’s rye, barley or wheat—but it can also be distilled from potato or fruit. Vodka is distilled many times to create a clean taste, before being filtered and bottled anywhere between 40% and 55% ABV. A lot of vodka comes from Russia or Poland, but it can be made anywhere in the world from the US to Japan.
Is vodka better for you than other spirits?
Sorry, no alcohol is truly good for you, but many folks will reach for vodka when they want to imbibe more “responsibly.” A serving of vodka, around 1.5 ounces, typically contains 96 calories (compared to whiskey’s 105 calories) and zero carbohydrates. Just beware of all the sugary mixers, sodas, and other assorted flavorings that can go into making a vodka-based drink that’ll balloon that calorie count.
What sorts of drinks pair well with vodka?
Thanks to its muted flavors, vodka makes an excellent base to a number of cocktails. Some of the most famous ones include a classic martini, Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, and Moscow Mule. Of course, you can substitute vodka into cocktails typically made with other spirits, or simply shoot or sip it. Whatever your preference, we’ve drummed up a definitive list of the best vodka brands to know and love right now (according to us and plenty of other spirits experts).
The Best Vodka, Overall: Reyka
Iceland’s Reyka is one of those rare vodka brands that’s able to make a damn good product in small batches, and at an affordable price point. Its unique taste and flavor owes a lot to the natural environment where each batch is made: Reyka sources naturally-purified water from a glacial spring in Iceland that runs through a lava field. The same rocks that make the region’s water so unbelievably pure are also used to filter the vodka to create a superbly crisp and clean spirit. It’s kind of sweet on the palate, with hints of grass and citrus, but it’s backed by a black pepper-like spice for a bit of heat. We like it for basically any occasion—whether you’re taking shots or stirring up mixed drinks—and the fact that you can find that quality flavor at just around $20 truly makes it a “vodka for the people” that’s perfect for stocking in multiples ahead of parties.
The Best Top-Shelf Vodka: Harridan
Harridan is a woman-owned craft distillery based out of New York (we told you vodka can be made anywhere) that uses corn as the base of its vodka. According to Camille Wilson, founder of The Cocktail Snob blog and author of Free Spirit Cocktails, Harridan is one of her favorite bottles to keep at home. It has a higher alcohol content than most other vodka varieties, clocking in at 88 proof, and Wilson notes that it’s “super smooth” if you decide to drink this neat or on the rocks. Its corn factor adds some sweetness to it, plus a fuller, creamier mouthfeel than lower-proof vodkas.
The Best Cheap Vodka: SKYY
Owned by the Campari Group, SKYY was one of the first to produce its spirits using American-sourced grain and water, and helped to put US-made vodkas on the map. It’s more of a well spirit than anything else and tends toward a neutral or straight-up flavorless taste, but we’ve had little to no issues with using this to shake up a cocktail. It’s still a far cry from the stuff you sipped in college that tasted like rubbing alcohol, and at $20, it’s one helluva deal.
The Best Vodka for Shots: Ciroc
In the booze industry, celebrity-backed brands don’t usually yield a very good product, but Diddy’s Ciroc is one of the rare exceptions. Made from French grapes, as opposed to grains, Ciroc has a subtle sweetness to it that’s even more pleasurable to drink (or shoot) thanks to its charcoal filtering process that helps tone down any harsher notes in the spirit. It’s an excellent vodka for doing shots, and comes in eight flavors—from French vanilla to pineapple—that go down easy when your shot-loving friends call for another round.
The Best Vodka for Cocktails: Tito’s
What once started as a craft distillery is now one of the largest producers of vodka in the United States. Tito’s is another of Wilson’s favorites because of how affordable it is, which is a major reason why so many bars across the country keep their shelves stocked with the stuff. Made from corn, it’s a fairly soft and inoffensive vodka for mixing into cocktails. The brand recognition (and fandom) is so strong that some people will specifically ask for a “Tito’s and soda” at the bar instead of messing around with anything else.
The Best Craft Vodka: St. George All Purpose
St. George All Purpose vodka
California’s St. George is one of the first craft distilleries in the United States, and has been in the business for the past 40 years. Rashaun Hall, a spirits writer for FoodBeast and The Whiskey Lifestyle, gives props to St. George for sticking to its craft for all these years. He favors its most basic All Purpose varietal among its trio of vodka options (that also include the California Citrus vodka and the Green Chile vodka—more on that below). Hall explains that the All Purpose is “simple and clean, yet distinctive when compared to others.” What makes it special? St. George takes its flagship pear brandy, blends it with a grain base spirit, and filters and bottles it as an 80 proof vodka. That combination of fruit and grain in the mashbill offers a distinct full-body mouth feel, with a blend of fruity, floral notes that take it over the top.
The Best Vodka for Martinis: Haku
Vodka had been the most popular spirit to mix up a martini for a minute before folks started turning to gin because it actually had flavor. Now, people are getting back to vodka martinis, and for that we think you should be using Suntory’s Haku. It’s produced in Japan from rice, which Tony Sachs—a drinks writer for The Whisky Advocate and Alcohol Professor—says gives it a “lovely starchy mouthfeel and a slightly sweet flavor that actually tastes a little like sake.” Thanks to its unique depth, body, and flavor, Sachs adds that “it makes a killer martini, and—surprise, surprise—an excellent saketini as well.”
The Most Unique Vodka: ISCO Ostreida
Allow us introduce you to one of the funkiest vodkas you’ll ever drink. Made in Rhode Island, this vodka uses locally-sourced oysters—shell and all—during distillation, producing exactly the type of flavors you’d expect from the boogers of the sea. Namely, “pronounced minerality from the shells and a light brininess from the oyster liquor inside,” as Sachs describes. He recommends using this “distinctive and delicious” oyster vodka in a martini—regular or dirty, to complement the vodka’s inherent savoriness—though straight up you’ll get to savor even more of the fun.
The Best Vodka for Sipping: Chopin
Originally, vodka fell into two main camps: grain-based or potato-based varieties. With potato vodkas, you’re getting more flavor out of the tuber than you would with a grain, which means you’re likely in for an excellent sipper. Chopin is one of the most popular names among potato vodkas, and over the years, the Polish spirit remains at the top of its game. It doesn’t taste potato-y, per se, but it does have some starchy notes combined with a mild nutty sweetness. We recommend sipping this to get the full effect, but by all means, mix up a nice Bloody Mary with it for an even bigger veggie flavor.
The Best Low-ABV Vodka: Body
Both low-ABV and non-alcoholic drinks have been trending for the past few years as more people start to reevaluate their relationship with booze. And if you’re trying to have a gentler night in, Body’s low-ABV vodka is an excellent spirit to shuffle into your bar cart. Made from corn and a hint of agave, it’s distilled 10 times, resulting in an ultra-silky and smooth spirit that won’t get you as drunk as fast as a typical 80 proof vodka would. Just swap in Body for your usual vodka of choice and you’ll see how much longer into the night you’ll last before crashing.
The Best Flavored Vodka: St. George Green Chile
St. George green chile vodka
St. George’s green chile vodka is the furthest you can get from its standard All Purpose blend, but that’s what makes it truly special. This spicy vodka is a thing of its own, bringing absolute heat—both literal and figurative—in the form of serrano, habanero, and bell peppers. It’s like a punch in the mouth of savory flavors that linger on the palate, maybe longer than you’d like if you’re not a fan of spicy things. It’s guaranteed to turn any Bloody Mary or dirty martini into a fiery good time.
The Best Sustainable Vodka: Good Vodka
New York-based distillery Good Vodka is a newish name on the scene, but what it really has going for it is its eco-friendly production process. Good Vodka takes spent coffee fruit—or the stuff that basically grows with the coffee bean—and uses it to distill its spirit. By repurposing a byproduct that’s typically discarded (generating around 15 million tons of waste per year, according to the brand), Good Vodka is doing the earth a solid and also providing coffee farmers with an extra revenue stream. One espresso martini, coming right up.
Renée has carried out many celebrity interviews for us from boybands to hanging backstage at showbiz parties. The Aussie stars acting credits include Home and Away + Across The Pond.
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