Vodka is arguably the most popular liquor in the bar. It remains a top choice for many drinkers and offers excellent versatility in cocktails. While there are many vodkas to explore, a few vodka brands have risen to the top. They are reliable, reasonably priced, and appear on nearly every liquor store shelf and the back bar across the globe.
Names like Absolut, Ketel One, Van Gogh, and Tito’s are among the most popular premium vodkas on the market. Their portfolios often include impressive flavors, and they rarely disappoint when it’s time to mix up a great vodka cocktail.
Ketel One is an ultra-smooth vodka with no frills. It is truly one of the cleanest vodkas you will come across and an absolute delight when chilled or served over ice. You’ll find it best in simple recipes like the vodka martini and vodka tonic.
This vodka thrives on the 300-year distilling legacy of the Dutch Nolet family. It’s distilled in small batches from European wheat, offering a crisp but silky taste. The flagship vodka forms the base for the brand’s flavors, and all weigh in at 40 percent ABV (80 proof).
Ketel One’s flavor portfolio is minimal compared to others. It’s limited to Citroen (a blend of four lemon and two lime varieties) and Oranje (flavored with two types of oranges). On occasion, the brand releases special edition vodkas (flavored and unflavored) as well.
Chopin started out producing a brilliant Polish potato vodka named after the famous composer Frederic Chopin. The four-time distilled vodka is as enjoyable straight as it is when mixed into cocktails.
Potato vodkas are not numerous, though the quality of Chopin will turn anyone onto the spud-based liquor. Taste it alongside Ketel One to gain an appreciation for both grain and potato vodkas while training your palate to recognize each base in the future.
Chopin has remained an unflavored vodka brand. The portfolio includes a rye-based and wheat-based vodka; the rye is the base for the delicious Dorda Double Chocolate Liqueur. All of Chopin’s vodkas are 80 proof and designed to display the top-shelf taste available from locally-sourced, single-ingredient vodkas.
Grey Goose is a go-to vodka for many drinkers. You will rarely be disappointed as it is one of the most mixable vodkas you can find, and it is everywhere.
This is a French vodka distilled five times from winter wheat, which imparts a subtle sweetness. All Grey Goose Vodkas are 80 proof, and the flavor lineup is simple.
Le Citron, L’Orange, and La Vanille are staples for any well-rounded bar. La Poire, their pear-flavored vodka, is one of the best of its flavor, while Le Melon is fabulous for summer drinks. And, if you’re tired of cherry vodkas that taste like cough syrup, you’ll find Grey Goose Cherry Noir to be a welcome surprise.
Van Gogh Vodka is a benchmark in vodka, featuring a smooth, clean, and refreshing taste. This Dutch vodka is distilled from a blend of Dutch, French, and German wheat. All of the flavors use natural ingredients in a two-stage infusion.
While the clear vodka is impressive, Van Gogh’s portfolio really shines when it comes to flavor. It includes almost any taste you’ll need in the bar, from reliable citrus and vanilla vodkas to fruity flavors like açai-blueberry, mango, peach, and pomegranate. This is also the brand you’ll want to check out for caramel, chocolate, or espresso vodkas.
Van Gogh’s clear, Citroen, and Oranje vodkas are bottled 80 proof, while the other flavors are 70 proof.
Belvedere is a very fine Polish vodka. The original, clear bottling is the flagship of the brand and is an excellent choice for high-end cocktails. Its unique taste comes from rye, making it a vodka with a flavor backbone.
The brand is not as well-known for the rest of their product line, though they do have some nice flavored vodkas. Each is elegant and gentle, and the list includes citrus, peach, pink grapefruit, mango passion, and wild berry. It’s also one of the few brands to produce ginger vodka.
Belvedere regularly releases specialty bottles. Intense is 100 proof, while the others are 80 proof, and they offer two single-estate rye vodkas. You’ll also find illuminated bottles in Nigh Saber and Bespoke Silver Saber, which add a captivating beauty to the bar.
Tito’s is a one-bottle vodka brand that doesn’t mess around with flavors (though it all started with homemade infusions). That takes nothing away from the esteem this Texas distillery has gained in a very short time. The “handmade” vodka tagline is not a gimmick, either, as the company started as one guy (Bert “Tito” Beveridge) making vodka in self-built pot stills.
The vodka launched in 1997 and didn’t really take off until the 2000s. It has since become a top seller, even beating out giants like Grey Goose and Jack Daniel’s. You’ll find the unassuming bottle in bars and liquor stores nationwide.
What makes Tito’s great? It’s a pure, clean, smooth vodka that you can drink straight or mix into any cocktail recipe you like. Distilled from corn in small batches, it’s an 80-proof and naturally gluten-free vodka.
Absolut Vodka is instantly recognizable. It’s hard to find a bar or liquor store that doesn’t have at least a few bottles in stock. Most of the brand’s fame is the result of brilliant marketing campaigns that established it as an industry leader.
Launched in 1979, Absolut is a Swedish vodka that’s distilled from winter wheat and bottled at 80 proof (including the flavors). Though it may not be the best, it is a quality, reliable vodka with a clean taste.
Absolut’s flavor portfolio is continually changing, and you’ll find unique combinations that come and go. There are several staples, and many, like Citron, Kurant, and Vanilia, take on a Swedish name. The brand produces other fruit vodkas like mango, pear, peach, and raspberry as well. Absolut Peppar is their most unique offering, and it makes an exceptional bloody Mary.
This brand has an extensive portfolio of vodkas. The original is 80-proof, there’s a 100-proof version, Stoli Gold is distilled from wheat, and they offer a gluten-free vodka.
Stoli’s flavored vodkas (37.5 percent ABV, 75 proof) are numerous. They include the essential citrus bottles (Citrus, Lime, and Orange) and vanilla (Vanil), as well as berries (Blueberi, Razberi, and Strasberg), Cucumber, and Peachick. The brand also hopped on the dessert vodka craze, though Salted Karamel is the only remaining flavor. And, if you’re looking for a spicy vodka, try Stoli Hot. It’s one of the few commercial jalapeño vodkas available.
Hangar 1 Vodka stands out from this crowd for a few reasons. For one, the California vodka calls an abandoned Navy aircraft hangar home. Secondly, it’s distilled from Viognier grapes and Midwestern grains. Grape is an interesting base distillate that only a few vodkas use (most notably Ciroc). It takes skill to get it right, and Hangar 1 did it spectacularly.
Straight is Hangar 1’s unflavored vodka, though it has lovely floral and pear notes that give it extra depth. The brand also has just a few equally well-crafted flavors, and all in the portfolio are 80 proof.
Instead of the average citrus vodkas, Hangar 1 offers Buddha’s Hand Citron (an ancient lemon variety), Makrut Lime (a bumpy varietal), and Mandarin Blossom. The extra dimension these specialty fruits impart to the vodka is extraordinary. To round off the portfolio, Rosé Vodka blends their vodka with California wine.
Fun flavors fill the Three Olives’ line. These English vodkas are distilled four times from wheat, and the unflavored vodka (80 proof) is a nice addition to any bar. While they cover the flavors that no vodka company can ignore (e.g., berries, citrus, and vanilla), there are creative flavors that make equally imaginative cocktails.
Most premium vodkas shy away from flavors like grape, pineapple, and watermelon, but Three Olives offers all three. They also have tasty combinations like Apples & Pears and Cucumber Lime, plus there’s a delicious coconut water vodka.
There was a time when Three Olives offered a few espresso vodkas, though now there’s just one, and it is among the best you’ll find. The brand also got into the sweet vodka scene, with now discontinued flavors like Tartz and Dude (Mtn. Dew-flavored). Today, you’ll only find Loopy, which tastes like Fruit Loops cereal. If you’re looking for a vodka company that likes to experiment as much as you do, keep an eye on Three Olives.
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