A Little Bit About Vodka
Like the old favorites rum, whiskey or brandy, vodka is usually started with the same kind of grains, rye, wheat, corn, etc. However, unlike those other grain liquors it can also be made from a vegetable mashes like potatoes or white beets. The difference in producing this pure and colorless liquid however, requires that it must be taken through a few extra steps in the distillation process.
The goal of any vodka distiller is to produce an ethyl alcohol in its purest form. This means that the end result has to be free of any of the old flavors or substances that usually give character to other alcoholic drinks. To accomplish this the distillation process begins with either the vegetable or grain mash. This mash must be distilled at the highest possible proof, usually about 190. This stage of the distillation process needs to be done several times in order to remove any and all traces of congeners. Congeners are the chemical additives that give most liquors their distinctive taste.
Then the distilled vodka needs to be filtered. The filtering process will initally include the use of charcoal and filter pads. Some filters may have activated carbon. This helps to remove any unwanted flavors and aromas that are popular in other liquors. Like with the distilling phase, filtering will likely be repeated several times until the product is considered to be pure ethyl.
Finally, it’s time to add the next important ingredient. The pure ethyl has to be cut with water. You may have already noticed that many distilleries will market their vodka based on the amount of water they use and the type of water. One distiller says they use water from very deep wells and another may say they are using glacial waters. The general idea is that the water used in vodka has to be clean and pure and preferably from extremely cold environments.
The end result is pure liquor that many people believe to be flavorless, colorless and odorless.
Top 10 Best Vodka Brands – 2023
1. KU:L Vodka
If you are on a tight budget you may want to buy one of the less expensive brands. Some of these may be hotter than some of the more high-end brands and in the long run may not be worth the savings. However, there is a relatively new brand Polish Vodka called KU:L Vodka. An inexpensive drink with a smooth taste. Great in a Vodka Martini or another chilled cocktail. You can even drink this one straight if you want.
2. 1.0.1 Iced Vodka
If you can afford to spend a little more money you might want to try 1.0.1 Iced Vodka. This Vodka is distilled in California from grains that were used to make whiskey but has been enhanced. It has a smooth, clean and warm taste. This Vodka is in the middle of the road, neither too strong nor too light to the palate.
3. Jean-Marc XO
Since most Vodkas are made from the same grains as that used for whiskey it is not surprising that some Vodka can be derived from Cognac. Jean-Marc XO is made from four different kinds of wheat and goes through the entire distillation process for nine times. After all that it is filtered through charcoal. It is an excellent mixer but can also work if you want to do shots. It costs a bit more but for someone who really enjoys good Vodka in all its forms it works well.
4. Chopin Vodka
This Vodka was named after the famous composer who was also from Poland. Chopin Vodka is distilled from potatoes. The texture seems to be a little oily with just a touch of lemony flavor. A little sweet to the taste. The burn is slight but not too strong. A smooth Vodka that tastes great when it is chilled. Great in mixed drinks. Drop in a lemon twist or an olive to give it a little edge when you want a Vodka Martini.
5. Xellent Vodka
Xellent Vodka comes from the Swiss. The first Vodka ever made in that country is made from glacier water and rye. To make sure that the end result is pure it is distilled 3 separate times. A pungent Vodka with a strong lemony flavor. It is quite strong so drinking it straight may not be your first choice but serving it over ice or with mixed drinks it works quite nicely.
6. 42 Below
From the land Down Under you can find 42 Below. New Zealand produces this clean and smooth flavor by using spring water. This Vodka comes in a variety of flavors in addition to their clear. It is a wheat Vodka that is distilled up to 3 times after which it is put through at least 35 different filters. The end result is a smooth and clean taste.
7. Grey Goose Vodka
The French are usually known for their cuisine and fashion but now you can add to that their wheat Vodka. Grey Goose is made from spring water that is naturally filtered through limestone in the champagne region leaving it with an extremely smooth taste. It tends to be a little bitter so if you are one of those that prefer this quality in a Vodka it will work well for you. It also comes with a line of the newly popular flavored Vodkas are making it on many of the top favored lists of Vodkas.
8. Crystal Head Vodka
In a cool, skull shaped bottle you will find a smooth tasting Vodka with a little burn to follow in Crystal Head Vodka. This pure grain Vodka is filtered seven times. Three of those filterings is through crystals called Herkimer Diamonds giving it its unique name. It is made without any additives, oils or sugars leaving it with a clean and smooth taste.
Finally we get back to Vodka’s birthplace in Russia with the well known Stolichnaya. This Vodka is distilled three times before being put through the unique freeze filtration system. In this process it is chilled to the exact point of freezing. At that point it is much easier to detect and remove any impurities that may be lingering. The result is a clean taste with excellent body.
10. Kauffman Luxury Vintage Vodka
The last Vodka on our list and probably the most expensive is the Kauffman Luxury Vintage Vodka. This Vodka is produced from wheat only when that wheat crop is at its best. When the quality of the wheat is less than stellar there is no Kauffman produced that year. The result is a Vodka that is delicate in flavor with an incredibly smooth taste with a hint of mint.
Top 10 Russian Vodka Brands – 2023
Vodka in Russian actually means “water,” and it is commonly believed to have hailed from the region of Russia and Poland. Even though now it is made in many places around the world, we thought a look at the top 10 Vodkas from that region would be worth a look.
1. Stolichnaya Blue Label
The base ingredient of this vodka is a grain mash. It has been distilled at least 3 times and has an alcohol content of 50% which is the highest of all Vodka.
2. Russian Shot
A clear vodka made with a grain mash. After being distilled for 6 times has developed very smooth taste of anise, dried tropical fruit and a creamy aroma. The final alcohol content is 40%.
3. Imperia Vodka
Made from a wheat mash that has been distilled 8 different times for a taste that of old-fashioned egg cream sodas with a hint of vanilla extract. The final alcohol content is 40%.
4. Ruskova Vodka
Made from a grain mash that has been distilled up to 6 different times. This flavorful and smooth vodka tastes a bit like anise with a spicy peppery finish. The alcohol content is 40%.
5. Ivan the Terrible
A wheat grain vodka with flavors of anise and sweet cream. This smooth vodka has been distilled several times to get that polished taste. It has an alcohol content of 40%.
6. Cristall Signature Series
A grain vodka flavored with lemon that has been distilled several times to produce a rich and smooth taste. This flavored vodka has an alcohol content of 40%.
7. Stolichnaya Gold Label
A grain vodka that has been distilled twice. Its flavors are a mellow balance of anise and citrus. It has an alcohol content of 40%.
8. Stolichnaya Red Label
This grain based vodka has hints of sweetness in its charcoal background. It has an alcohol content of 40%.
9. Stolichnaya Elit
This vodka gets a 5 star rating for its mildly smoky flavor. It has a hint of spicy grain mingled with a charcoal finish. It has been distilled up to 4 times and has an alcohol content of 40%.
The top vodka on our list of Russian Vodkas is Zyr. This smooth tasting vodka was produced from a grain mash with an alcohol content of 40%. The flavor has a slight hint of litchi fruit with spices mingled in the grain.
Top 10 Premium Vodka Brands – 2023
1. Absolute Vodka
This vodka is a quality drink with a clean taste that comes in a variety of flavors.
2. Grey Goose Vodka
This smooth tasting vodka is great for mixing drinks. They come with a long line of flavored vodkas so pick your favorite flavor and you will find your favorite vodka.
3. Van Gogh Vodka
This is one of the best vodkas on the market today. Made by a Dutch distillery it has a clean, smooth taste that is quite refreshing. Try the Van Gogh Blue for an added treat. A triple wheat vodka that is extremely smooth and full of flavor.
4. Ketel One Vodka
A clean vodka taste from the Dutch. In addition to their regular line of vodkas they also have two flavored vodkas (Citroen and Oranje). Great with a Vodka Tonic or Martini.
5. Chopin Vodka
This is a Polish potato vodka that has gained a strong footing against the more popular grains. Unlike other vodka distilleries, Chopin is a lone star that has not branched off into the flavored vodkas. They are sticking with this masterpiece as a pure vodka brand.
6. Belvedere Vodka
A find Polish vodka is great for high-class cocktails. Made mostly from a rye mash is now branching out and making some nice flavored vodkas to add to its line. Try their Pink Grapefruit, Black Raspberry, Orange and Citrus flavors for an elegant and gentle taste.
7. Three Olives Vodka
Their creative and smooth flavors are ingenious. With a line of 16 different flavors you can’t go wrong. Their unique flavors include unusual finds like Triple Shot Espresso, Root Beer and Tomato.
This is the perfect vodka for cocktails and it now comes in a variety of flavors as well. You might get confused with their flavored names since they are all in Russian but maybe you can figure them out. Peachik, Strasberi, or Oranj for example.
9. Zyr Vodka
A wheat and rye vodka Russian vodka with a pure and clean taste. As of yet they have not introduced any flavored vodkas to add to their collection but this one is making a big name for itself all on its own.
10. Hangar One Vodka
This vodka comes from an unusually different grape mash. They make for an interesting base for distilling but it is definitely worth it. They also offer several new flavors you can try like Citron “Buddha’s Hand”, Kaffir Lime, and Mandarin Blossom.
Top 5 Cheapest Vodka Brands – 2023
All of these vodkas are priced under $10.00 so it should fit your budget nicely when you are tight on finances. You still get the flavor and the body but at a more favorable price.
1. Svedka Vodka
This is a Swedish Vodka made from a grain mash. The come in both the flavored and unflavored. It has a clean taste after going through distilling 5 times.
2. Smirnoff Vodka
This vodka is well-know the world over. It is often considered to be a premium vodka despite the fact that it is so inexpensive. Its flavored vodkas include green apple, watermelon, blueberry, cranberry, citrus and so on.
3. UV Vodka
This is a clear grained, flavored vodka that comes in a variety of colors. Great for shots and martinis.
4. Popov Vodka
A grain based vodka that has a pleasant taste. More popular in the USA where it is made.
5. Burnett’s Vodka
An American Vodka with a taste that is a little bitter. Great with mixed drinks but not recommended for those who prefer to drink their vodka straight or on ice.
Whatever choice you make, vodka has moved upstage. Now many distilleries are coming out with new flavored vodkas making the scene like never before. Today you can get a wide range of vodka flavors that can include tastes like mint, cherry and orange flavors. You can get these flavored tastes as “sneaker drinks,” which are small half-pint bottles meant to be served on the side or you can go full out.
If you are hosting a party and planning to serve vodka do not hide your creative side. Vodka is a one of those liquors that is not limited to a select line of cocktails. Because of its light flavor it mixes well with many different things. So, once you choose the perfect vodka for your tastes play around with it and you will find some incredible new tastes for you and your friends to enjoy.
Top Vodka Cocktails – 2023
Try making a Moscow Mule which is simply:
1 ½ oz. vodka
Iced ginger beer
If you are looking for a more traditional mixed drink think about a nice Nectarine Cooler. This one is a little more complicated but it is certainly worth it:
2 oz. vodka
3 oz. iced orange juice
¼ cup cold sliced nectarines
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup crushed ice
Iced club soda
1 slice fresh nectarine
1 slice lemon
Put vodka, orange juice, nectarine, sugar, and crushed ice into blender. Blend at low speed 15-20 seconds. Pour into tall 14 oz. glass. Add a splash of soda and enough ice to fill the glass. Stir. Garnish with nectarine and lemon slices.
Great drink for those hot summer days. And as the Russians say when they party….Skoal!!!