The origins of vodka are a little hazy. Perhaps that’s appropriate, given the effect of drinking too much of it at once! Although there have been drinks that have been called vodka for centuries, going back to the Middle Ages, the distillation process for vodka as we know it today doesn’t appear until the middle of the 18th century.
Even then, we don’t start seeing recognizable vodka until the 19th, when it has already cemented itself in many cultures across Europe, especially Poland and Russia. Whatever its history though, it has cemented itself as a core part of any spirit connoisseur's store, among the classics like brandy and whiskey (see also 'Vodka And Whiskey: The Differences And The Similarities').
Since the end of the 20th century, however, with international trade bringing ingredients, goods, and recipes to every corner of the globe, plenty of new formulas and brands have decided to make a name for themselves with this particular spirit. As a result, the vodka market has exploded in the last thirty years.
Whilst this sounds great for any enthusiastic drinker of liquors and spirits, it’s also brought an unexpected new challenge with it: Just picking one!
But don’t sweat it: We’ve collected a list of some of the best vodka money can buy from across the globe.
OUR TOP PICK
If you’re looking for a classic vodka from one of its ancestral places of origin, then Belvedere’s vodka by Polish Rye Vodka is something you’ll want to think about buying.
Named after the presidential palace in the Polish capital city of Warsaw, this premium brand of spirit is an excellent addition to anyone’s collection.
Poland has a long tradition of producing vodka for hundreds of years, and this four-time distilled masterpiece of craftsmanship and purity is a worthy part of that long history.
With a faint, pleasant aroma that is almost cream-like to smell, this vodka manages to avoid that pungent bite that so many other brands fail to avoid.
With a smooth texture that contains the faintest hints of vanilla and white pepper that blend seamlessly together, and with just a hint of almond and clotted cream with its finish, this is a textbook example of what a classy vodka should be like.
- Brilliant Flavors - This vodka handles a perfect experience on the nose, taste, and finish brilliantly. A hard act to balance for any distiller.
- No additives - No artificial flavors or sugars have been added to this vodka. This is made from totally natural ingredients.
- Gluten-Free - Belvedere delivers on a difficult promise, making this spirit perfect for those that are gluten intolerant.
- Super-premium name - Being of extremely high quality, the experience of trying this vodka does not come cheaply. Think carefully about your options before purchasing, like other variants of this brand change in pricing.
Want to feel like a high-end member of society when you’re sipping on your vodka? Then perhaps you’d like to try Grey Goose, the premium vodka for the Ultra-Elite.
Unlike many other names in the business of making vodka, Grey Goose distinguishes itself by not coming from Eastern Europe but instead is made in France.
The wheat used is of a soft variety, grown in Picardy, then fermented into a kind of beer, then distilled in the same region, before it is blended for drinking with deep well-spring water in Cognac, where it is then bottled and shipped across the world.
The unique wheat of the region, plus the culinary and wine reputation of France, is what drew its creators to this region for their new highbrow vodka.
And with a variety of flavors to pick from, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding on how you want to take your Grey Goose.
- Premium Brand - If you want to feel like you’re one of the stars, this is the brand for you.
- Gluten-Free - A great drink for people who are gluten intolerant.
- Unique Spirit - Both its distilling process and its country of origin, make this vodka stand out compared to its Eastern European competitors.
- The flavor is too subtle perhaps - Although it is a smooth and soft spirit, it can be difficult to pick up on its flavors.
For a home-grown vodka from the United States, you can count on Hangar 1 to deliver with its premium vodka blend.
Although a fairly recent name in the vodka market, Hangar 1 has years of distilling experience behind it.
Distilled in an old converted aircraft hangar for World War 2, hence the name, this vodka, blended in the Midwest, is a unique combination blend of grapes and grains that makes for a more fruity take on the classic vodka formula.
It’s a perfect combination of both a sweet and savory experience, with a subtlety that doesn't disguise that pleasant warm sensation a well-balanced vodka should have.
An excellent vodka for parties, for both people who are new to the vodka-tasting scene, and for seasoned veterans of spirit sipping who want to try something a little different from the normal formula.
- Unique Character- No other brand of vodka has quite the same story behind it as Hangar 1. How many spirits can claim to have been made in a used military hanger?
- Rich Flavor - Made with a combination of Viognier grapes that have been pot-distilled and tried-and-tested American wheat that has been distilled by column still, the infusion of fruity flavors into the base vodka is an inspired choice.
- Cocktail Versatility - A great spirit to add to any old boring vodka cocktail. The fruits are an instant boost that any cocktail will need.
- Good to drink straight - This is a great drink for just on the rocks as well. Great chilled, or at room temperature.
- Perhaps a little too different? - If you are a vodka purist, the blend of wine grapes may be a turn-off for you.
Are you looking for an All-American vodka that is trying bold new flavors, and is also environmentally conscious? Then you might want to give Square One’s Cucumber vodka a try.
Made by a family-run distillery in Idaho, this spirit is crafted from organic American rye, combined with the essence of cucumber for a truly organic experience. The watery flavor of cucumber compliments the traditional vodka blend, making for an incredibly simple drink.
Plus, it has enough extra flavor that adds a little crispness to any mix this vodka is a part of. Something you’ll want to add to any cocktails you have planned for a social occasion. Try in a Gimlet to see what new flavors you find when drinking this vodka!
- Truly Organic - The sourced rye and cucumber essence are certified and ready for your consumption. You can drink this vodka knowing that you’re part of a growing wave of new ways of drinking vodka.
- A crisp flavor - The cucumber flavor blends well with the vodka’s smooth texture. For that extra wet feeling as it rolls around in your mouth, there’s no wrong way to go with Square One’s cucumber vodka.
- Excellent cocktail base - If you’re looking for a way to ice up a vodka-based cocktail that you’re sick and tired of, try adding this cucumber spirit. You’ll be surprised what a new flavor can do to an old classic!
- A decent new flavor, but not enough? - Whilst the addition of cucumber is a welcome and sets it apart from other vodkas, cucumber is a fairly subtle flavor. If you are looking for vodka with a strong flavor and texture that completely changes your tasting experience, you may want to look elsewhere. This vodka enhances the traditional spirit, rather than changing the whole formula?.
For a vodka with a Russian seal of approval, you can’t go wrong with the Green Mark vodka itself.
The clue for this vodka is in the name, as it is named after the green mark seal of approval that was used to judge the quality of a vodka, which was a popular measure used in Russia and Eastern Europe in the 20th century.
With a legacy like that to live up to, you certainly hope that vodka with this name is up to the task.
Fortunately, Green Mark’s vodka is an absolute treat however you take it, whether it is sipped on the rocks, or thrown into a cocktail to be that perfect base for a classy night out kind of drink.
The distillation process for this spirit leaves a smooth texture from the freshly sourced spring water in your mouth, and an aroma that lets itself be known, but doesn’t destroy our nose if you want to ruminate on the smell.
The subtle sweetness of the vodka is gentle on the tongue too, and the faint hint of aniseed as a part of its finish will make any drinker realize they are in good hands with this drink.
- A timeless classic - Made as a faithful descendant of the Russian vodka recipes of the late 19th and 20th centuries. You can taste the history with this name.
- Excellent serving options - Whether as part of a cocktail or mixer or even if you’re just drinking it straight with no extras, there’s no wrong way of taking this drink.
- Little character - The Green Mark bottle is a little on the plain side. Whilst that is no deal-breaker for the quality of what is inside, for vodka with this name, this seal of approval, you might expect a little more distinct that reflects the high-quality product that you’re about to drink, whether that’s at a bar, or in your home.
Potato Vodkas, which include some of the most distinct spirits on the planet, only come from Russia, right? Well, think again, because Wood Creek Distillers are bringing that special recipe home to the United States!
Distilled from Rio Grande potatoes that have been grown at Alpine altitudes, to emulate a few of the growing conditions in Europe, this drink brings with it an earthy texture, unlike any other home-grown spirit you’ll find in the country.
It’s so special, that Woody Creek had to obtain USDA approval just to be able to bring and grow the potatoes it comes from her in the US.
This is a vodka you want if you like bold flavors in your spirits and cocktails. Woody Creek recommends that you try this for an extra flavorful martini. And don’t forget the olive!
- Very unique spirit - You won’t find many other American vodkas quite like this one. High in starch, full of complex flavors, just like the best potato vodkas from Europe and Russia, only home-grown.
- Excellent Cocktail spirit - Whether it’s in a Vodka Martini, or added to a Bloody Mary, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this drink.
- Too flavorful? - For vodka drinkers who prefer a spirit that doesn’t bring too much flavor and doesn’t overpower others, you may want to try a grain-based drink. Potato vodka is loud and bold, but that doesn’t make it ideal for every situation.
If you're looking for a taste of some classic Russian vodka, you definitely can’t go wrong with Belugas Noble's line of spirits.
Having only been available in American stores and bars for a little over a decade, Beluga Noble has taken the drinking connoisseurs of the United States by storm.
With its smooth and clean texture that just hints at its grain of original, grown, and distilled from the Russian Steppes themselves, you know you have a quality vodka when the crispness of the drink hits you after taking a sip.
The Mariinsk distillers certainly know how to mix their incredible Siberian freshwater with good rain.
Not only that, but the barley malt spirit that makes up a part of these blends brings with it a hint of honey and oat extracts that complement the vodka perfectly.
And with a wide variety of other flavors to choose from besides the original, the most difficult part of Beluga vodka is figuring out which one you’re going to enjoy the most!
- High-Quality spirit - Every part of this vodka is an indication of its quality. From the malted barley to the artesian Siberian well-water, to the triple filtration, to the 30-day rest. It is an intense process used to make his spirit, and it is worth every penny.
- Excellent blend of flavors - From the trace of wheat to the infusion of honey and milk thistle from the barley, there are plenty of flavors to go around in this vodka, yet none overpower the other.
- Too premium for cocktails - Given the effort and quality that has gone into each bottle, this is certainly worth the money. But for the price range that Beluga Noble usually sits at, you may want to look elsewhere for vodka to mix into your cocktails and other drinks. This is a spirit to be savored ideally on its own on the rocks, rather than competing with ingredients.
Going from our last Russian vodka to the next, if you’re looking for a high-quality spirit that isn’t going to empty your drinking wallet when you buy it, then you can’t go wrong with Russian Standard’s original vodka drink.
Founded by Roustam Tariko in 1998, the same man who founded the Russian Standard Bank network, the grain gathered from the Russian step for this spirit is milled and fermented in a thorough four-step process, and distilled at least for times (the amount it is distilled increases depending on what version of the product you are buying), whilst it is blended with crisp glacial waters from Siberia.
For such a popular brand that is sold in the millions of units around the world, there is no expense spared when it comes to the manufacture of this.
Whilst there may be slightly cheaper vodkas on the market, there are few that are in this price range, whilst tasting as good as Russian Standard. Whether it’s drunk straight from the rocks or served in a mixer, or as part of a cocktail, this spirit has you covered any of your preferred drinking methods.
Plus, if you’re looking for other flavors in this particular family of drinks, and are prepared to splurge a little, then caramel and flavors of the Russian Standard Gold vodka will be on your drinking wish-list.
- Excellent price range - For costing around $20, you’ll struggle to find anything quite this good for the same amount. If you’re looking for the most bang for your drinking buck, you’ll want to go for Russian Standard.
- Excellent flavor - Money is very rarely a sign of quality, and Russian standard is proof of that. With a smooth texture to the tongue, and a crisp finish as you down it, you’ll be surprised what quality you can buy for so little if you know where to look.
- Great versatility - This is a spirit that is perfect for any occasion and serving suggestion. Through it in a cosmopolitan, or drink it in your finest glass on the rocks. When it comes to drinking, there’s no situation that this vodka isn’t covered for.
- Not a bar drink - Whilst a decent search in your local grocery store will help you find this liquor, You’ll find it harder to find a bar that serves this particular brand of vodka for whatever reason. It is popular in bars and clubs in Europe though, so keep your eye out if you’re on the road in Germany, France, or the United Kingdom.
Looking for a white spirit from around the Big Apple? Don’t worry, Harridan Vodka has got your back.
Handcrafted from organic ingredients in Ovid, New York. The brand name comes from the old word ‘Harridan’, which was used to describe a belligerent older woman.
This women-run business hopes to turn that word into a name synonymous with high-quality spirits. If this vodka is anything to go by, they’ve certainly made a big splash in a stormy market with stiff competition.
With just a hint of spice, this aromatic spirit is fresh and clean in every possible way you can think of. The corn used has been bought from farmers that have five generations worth of experience, that knows how to make a good crop.
The distilling process has left this vodka with a super-smooth texture to the mouth. Even the glass, which has been hand-crafted and blown from recycled glass, with a trademark black seal, is a brilliant piece of design. The strength of this vodka is nothing short of phenomenal, too.
All these separate elements, already amazing on their own, add up to a superb spirit that is greater than the sum of its excellent and high-quality parts.
- A strong spirit that's full of flavor - Probably one of the strongest in this guide, this is a drink for those brave vodka aficionados who want something that packs a punch, whilst also massaging your taste buds at the same time.
- Character-Filled bottle - I mean, just take a look at it. Each bottle is a work of art in itself.
- Organically made - From the corn to the distilling, to the glass itself. No expense has been spared for this amazing drink, and can proudly sit amongst the international heavyweight of vodka production for the care and attention given to it.
- Gluten-free - Thanks to the distilling process, this is another great drink to share with those who aren’t able to stomach the more wheat-filled drinks out there.
- Premium price - The amount of care given to this vodka is clear in the pricing of the bottle, which puts it above most other names we’ve talked about on this list. Whilst it is worth every penny, you may want to think twice if you’re not sure about the high alcohol content of this drink.
A true classic of the vodka world, no bar or personal spirit collection would be complete without the age-old name of Smirnoff on those shelves!
Originally founded in the 19th century in Russia, Smirnoff has since gone on to become one of the world’s top-selling names in the vodka market. Even with stiff competition from plenty of other names in the last thirty years, Smirnoff stays supreme, and for good reason.
Filtered up to ten times, distilled 3 times over, this is a tried and true recipe that’s easy on the nose, and easy-going into your mouth and down your throat.
Its simple flavor might seem off-putting at first until you stop to consider that not only is still great for a classic on the rocks experience, but it is also an excellent spirit to add to virtually any way of serving. Put it in a mixer. Add it to a cocktail.
Throw in some chilled Coca-Cola for a one-two punch of cool soda, and a sweet burn that can’t be rivaled.
It’s pretty much impossible to go wrong when serving Smirnoff.
- Simple, yet clean taste - The simple purity of a good Smirnoff drink cannot be beaten.
- Easy Availability - Thanks to its relatively low pricing for its quality, you’d be hard-pressed to find a good bar or nightclub that doesn’t have Smirnoff on its list of spirits. Plus, they’re stocked in most grocery stores too, in case you want to add this to your vodka collection at home.
- Versatile - Pick a way of serving alcohol. Straight in a glass. With soda. With fruits. With cocktails. Even with confectionaries. Smirnoff is a perfect addition to all of them.
Frequently Asked Questions
If Vodka Uses Grains, Why Are There So Many Gluten-Free Kinds?
This can seem a little strange at first glance. After all, most vodka recipes use a grain of some kind, usually wheat or rye. So why do so many brands sell their vodka as gluten-free, if gluten is a core part of these kinds of harvest?
The answer for this is the same as most other spirits, such as whiskey and wine; the distillation almost always removes most traces of gluten that you’ll find in these grains.
In theory at least, no matter how much barley you use in your spirit, so long as it has been distilled enough, most vodkas are perfectly safe to drink for those with gluten intolerance (in moderation, of course).
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