Vodka is one of those spirits that people from all around the world seem to favor and enjoy. Although most people use vodka as a base for a variety of mixed cocktails, it can be sipped too. We will look at some of the best-tasting vodkas on their own, the best ones for making Martinis, Bloody Marys, or any other popular drink you might fancy.
But first, let’s take a look at what exactly is vodka, how is it made, the different types of vodkas, and the best way to drink it.
What is Vodka?
Vodka is a clear alcoholic spirit that is composed primarily of water and ethanol, and it originates from Poland, Russia, and Sweden.
The name is taken from the Slavic word Voda, which is a diminutive for ‘little water’.
How is Vodka Made?
Traditionally, vodka was made by distilling the liquid from cereal grains that have been fermented. At some point, potatoes have become a substitute due to availability, and some of the newest brands are even using fruits, honey, or sap from maple as a base.
Therefore, vodka can be distilled from any starch or sugar-rich plants, such as grains or potatoes. Rye and wheat vodkas are considered superiors, and each country has its own special way of distilling, which differentiates them from one another. For example, Poland uses a solution of crystal sugar and yeast for its vodka production. Russia sometimes uses grapes, and Sweden prefers barley.
Whatever they choose to use, the potato or grain has to be heated to form a mash before mixing it with the yeast, which produces the ethanol. This process of fermentation can take anywhere from a day to two weeks. After that, the liquid has to be purified in order to remove any odors or anything else that might compromise the smell. Then it is distilled in column or pot stills, where it will reach its desired purity.
At this point, the vodka is at 95.6%, and it has to be diluted with spring water before being distilled again, to bring it to around 50%. At this point, infusions can be added, which will alter the final taste. Before it reaches the shelves, it has to go through a particle filter, then it can be chilled, and finally sold.
Types of Vodkas
There are three types of vodka on the market: plain, infused, and flavored vodka. The main difference between the three comes down to what’s included in the infusion process, or what has been added once the distillation process has been completed.
The best quality of vodka contains 96.5% alcohol, and the lower quality is 95%. This is obtained from only two single ingredients: ethanol and water. The ethanol percentage is at 60%, while the water is 40%. Since it is probably the less potent smelling spirit out there, it is also very popular. Its strong aroma is usually due to the distilling process rather than the spirit itself.
Some brands choose to infuse the vodkas with fruits or herbs, and this process takes about three weeks longer than plain vodka. In general, infused vodkas have a stronger flavor profile, and can have different colors and varying aromas.
What’s amazing about vodka is that it can be flavored in so many different ways, with an unlimited amount of combinations. Some companies stick to the more traditional flavors such as fruits, but some get really creative with their flavoring.
There have been offerings such as salted caramel, chocolate, red pepper, and even bacon in the past few years. The flavoring tradition is more prevalent in the Nordic countries, where they use the herb and spiced drinks for their winter festivities.
How to Drink Vodka
The possibilities are literally endless when it comes to this versatile spirit. Many people prefer to drink the flavored or infused vodkas straight up or on the rocks, just like Scotch whisky. Even if you don’t like to mix it with anything, vodka is best enjoyed cold, and many people are known to store their bottles in the fridge or freezer. Doing so will remove any harsh flavors, and it softens its aroma and taste.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys trying different cocktails, there are so many you can enjoy vodka with. Some of the most popular mixed vodka drinks are Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, Martini, or White Russian. There are a lot more recipes that you can Google if you so choose.
So now it’s time to look at a list of the 15 best vodka brands in the world right now.
This brand was founded in Russia in 1864, and it is one of the most popular in the world today. One of the reasons could be the affordable price, but the easy feel on the palate is probably more likely why.
This vodka is distilled three times and filtered ten times, which gives it its neutral-tasting profile. It is one of the most versatile drinks for mixing, and it pairs very well in any cocktail. A great quality drink at a reasonable price, you can’t go wrong with Smirnoff.
Also known as Stoli, Stolichnaya is a premium grain vodka for everyday drinking and cocktails. One of the best Russian vodkas on the market, it has a wide portfolio of flavored and unflavored vodkas. Their Stoli Gold is a 100-proof version and it is distilled from wheat, and their original version is 80-proof.
But their flavored vodkas are 75-proof and 37.5% ABV, and offer a range of flavors. Some of their most popular ones are the citrus ones, berry, cucumber, and peach. If you want something different, try their spicy one, Stoli Hot, or their desert one, The Salted Karamel.
13. Van Gogh
This Dutch vodka offers a smooth, clean, refreshing taste that your palate will love. It is distilled from a blend of Dutch, French, and German wheat, and they only use natural ingredients in their two-stage infusion. They are very well-known for their flavored offerings, although they do have the plain one as well. You must try at least once one of their impressive variety, in any flavor you prefer.
Their flavors range from fruity, such as mango, pomegranate, and pineapple, or if you’d like you can opt for their espresso, caramel, or chocolate dessert ones. Their flavored vodkas are bottled at 70-proof, while their clear, Citroen, and Oranje at 80-proof.
Although many companies these days are using mostly grains for their production, this Polish brand is still popularizing the potato for distilling their vodka. Chopin shows us that the potato is still a classic when it comes to vodka production.
The creamy feel on the palate, the earthy notes, and the hints of sweet apple make this spirit a favorite for many. They do use wheat and rye for the distillation of their other profiles, but their potato one seems to prevail.
This Austin, Texas distillery uses corn and the classic pot still method, which is pretty rare these days, but that is probably what makes them stand out from other brands. If you’re looking for a slightly sweeter and savory drink, you can sip this one just as is.
The black pepper notes marry perfectly with the sweetness from the corn for an interesting pairing. This 80-proof and gluten-free vodka is a best-selling newcomer on the scene. It only started taking off in the 2000s, but this unassuming bottle is a crowd favorite.
This brand is owned by Beam Suntory, the US company that bottles Jim Beam. Their vodka is distilled in France from wheat, then it is exported to the US where it is flavored and bottled by Beam. They are responsible for roughly 30 flavors, and one of their newest additions is the cinnamon-flavored one.
Their clear version is distilled five times, and it results in a clean, smooth finish. Perfect for drinking on its own, it makes a great base for the Moscow Mule, cucumber tonic, or even a peppermint hot chocolate. Check out their website for an array of flavors and recipes, you’ll surely find something up your alley.
9. Ketel One
A legacy of the Dutch Nolet family, this ultra-smooth vodka is a no-frills spirit. This wheat vodka is made by using a combination of modern column distilling and coal-fired copper stills. One of the cleanest tastes out there, you can enjoy it chilled or served over ice. Best for simple recipes such as the martini or vodka tonic, this base for all the brand’s flavors comes at 80-proof, or 40% ABV.
Not one to experiment with many flavors, the Citroen – a blend of four lemon and two lime varieties, as well as the Oranje – a blend of two types of oranges, will go down perfectly. Every now and then this 300-year distilling legacy will release a special edition, and it is worth the hype.
One of the world’s most iconic vodkas, this brand distills their vodka from grapes at Maison Villevert. Master distiller Jean-Sebastien Robicquet is keeping their more than 500-year tradition alive by using his family’s methods. Inspired by more than a century of wine-making craftsmanship, this modern vodka is a smooth, distinctive spirit that offers a fresh and fruity taste.
Some of their most popular offerings are the Ciroc apple, berry, mango, and French vanilla. The subtle nose followed by a smooth mouthfeel is delivered by a five-time distillation process. The delicate nuances of citrus and the hint of sweetness originating from the grapes allow its natural character to shine through.
7. Hangar 1
This California vodka stands out from others by calling an abandoned Navy aircraft hangar home. Of course, that is not the only reason. It is distilled from Viognier grapes and Midwestern grains, which is one of the other reasons its taste is quite different from other ones. The grapes give it a unique flavor, which most vodka distilleries don’t use.
Their unflavored offering has floral and pear notes for extra depth, and it is, like all of their portfolio varieties, 80-proof. Their most interesting profile has got to be their Rose Vodka, which is a blend of vodka and rose wine, but their Citron, Makrut Lime and Mandarin Blossom are all great offerings.
This Swedish vodka is not only accessible because of its price, but this easy-to-drink vodka is the perfect base for mixing a wide range of cocktails. Its initial sweet note is followed by a peppery bite, which falls nicely on your palate. Because it has a fairly neutral taste, if you mix it with a strong mixer will enhance its flavors.
The hints of vanilla and mint will come alive, before finishing off with its bitter citrus ending. Chill it for a few hours before enjoying it straight up or as a base for your cocktails. Its reasonable price makes this a crowd-pleaser.
This western Russian vodka, named after the most expensive caviar in the world, lives up to its name. The brand uses artesian water for their ultimate authentic taste, and once they distill it, Beluga adds honey, milk thistle, and oat for flavoring. The notes of vanilla, sage, white pepper, and cream give it its super smooth and pure taste.
This super-premium vodka is filtered twice through quartz sand and a silver filter. Its crisp vanilla finish makes it a great vodka for sipping just so, without adding anything other than maybe ice.
4. Crystal Head
If you’re one that loves to make an impression and has a love for beautifully interesting bottles, you must consider Crystal Head. It is technically an unflavored vodka, but its slight sweetness is noticeable. Distilled in Canada from ‘peaches and cream’ corn, and using glacial water from Newfoundland, it produces a delicious vodka that has notes of cake frosting and toasted corn.
Other notes that are prevalent are peach, black pepper, and lemon that create a creamy, smooth finish. Crystal Head is filtered seven times and bottled without any additives, which makes this perfect base for Cosmopolitans an award-winning brand.
This vodka originates from Poland, and it is one of the smoothest on the market. Best enjoyed neat, you can notice the aromatic hint of lemon zest and the black pepper that has a nice lingering finish. Produced at the Polmos Zyrardow distillery, which is known as the birthplace of vodka, it uses Dankowskie Gold Rye.
Because of its high starch content, the rye yields a soft velvety taste that falls so nicely on your palate. It is distilled using local water in a four-column still, and it is charcoal filtered and bottled. This delicious vodka is one of the best spirits in the world.
2. Grey Goose
One of the original ultra-premium vodka brands in the world, Grey Goose is beloved because of its crisp taste and smooth finish. Grey Goose is distilled five times, and the master distiller uses alpine spring water and French winter wheat. The high-quality ingredients used from the initial production to your glass come entirely from France.
Its burnt charcoal mixed with a touch of spice and a dash of sweetness makes this vodka one of the best in the world. A creamy texture and a peppery palate due to hints of star anise deliver a clear and grainy nose. Enjoy it chilled, and sip it slowly for best effect.
Some may disagree, but Absolut is considered the best-tasting and affordable vodkas on the market. Unlike most, Absolut contains no added sugar, which makes this the drink of choice for those watching their sugar intake. The brand has a few beloved flavors, but their original unflavored one is a must for any liquor cabinet.
One of the cleanest-tasting vodkas available, its crisp and pure taste is also full-bodied and complex. The slight herbal notes are noticeable from the locally grown wheat this spirit is produced with. Can be enjoyed neat or as a base for many popular cocktails, Absolut is an all-around favorite spirit.
We hope you agree with our choice of brands, we believe they are some of the best ones in the world.