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Your favorite vodka - black, red, gold ... soy... Mexican (with worm) ... what?

Recently I asked about why no one mentioned a vodka bar in San Francisco that serves over 100 different vodkas.

It got dismissed by a poster who said something like vodka doesn’t have any flavor ... that particular reply was deleted so I don’t have the exact wording ... but the tone was there is no ‘there there’ in vodka.

Fast forward ... a question on the Spirits board about Polish or Russian vodka and I stumble across this list of world-wide vodkas.


I start following the links and some of this is fascinating ... there’s even a Mexican vodka with an with an Agave worm in the bottle ... which I think I’ll pass on since Mexico is not known for potatoes or vodka ... gotta feel sorry for the worm ... all the other worms are happily dispatched in agave.

They mention Ireland's Boru Vodka. The Irish like potatoes almost as much as the Polish. You would think they'd produce lots of vodka too.

Anyway, enough of silliness, some of the vodkas sound really interesting and ... flavorful ... and since I have a vodka bar nearish and I'm of Polish ancestry, it seems to call for some education.

I’m not sure what the vodka bar has though. These are a few from that list that sounded like they might be worth trying, if available. Has anyone tried any of these or have other reccomendations?

Here’s some of the vodkas from that wiki list that caught my attention:

3 Vodka (US) - soy vodka that is supposedly carbohydrate, sugar, and gluten-free ... I know that’s what I look for in vodka.

42 BELOW (New Zealand) - made from GE-free wheat and stronger than most vodkas. It has unique flavors like Feijoa and Manuka Honey

Belvedere (Poland) – made from rye using a 600 year-old practice which is supposed to make it smoother. The fruit-flavored vodkas use real fruit and not flavoring

Blavod (UK) - Black vodka colored from a Burmese herb named Black Catechu.

Chopin (Poland) - each bottle uses seven pounds of ORGANIC Polish potatoes ... who knew ... organic Polish potatoes. Made in small batches “The manufacturer claims that if a taste sampling shows even a small hint of imbalance, the whole batch is destroyed.” I wonder how they do that ... the staff drinks it?

Cîroc (France) - made with "snap frost" grapes and distilled five times.

Cracovia Very Old (Poland) - dry mixed vodka aged in oak barrels

Danziger Goldwasser (Poland) - root and herbal liqueur that has been produced since 1598. The translation is gold water and small flakes of 22 karat gold are suspended in it ... cool.

Horilka (Ukrainian) - it means "to burn". Some bottles have fruit, honey, mint, or milk.

Isensua Opium (UK) - Hemp flavoured vodka ... the alcohol isn’t enough?

Krupnik (Poland) - a sweet vodka, similar to a liqueur, based on grain, honey and up to 50 different herbs. Very interesting history

Pyatizvyozdnaya (Russia)- means "with five stars", the highest grade given in Russian schools. It has honey in it.

Rodnik (Russia) - 15th century formula that is handcrafted using Russian wheat, water, and birchwood filtration. Would the birchwood give it a different taste?

Siwucha (Poland) – translates as moonshine, rotgut, poor quality ... BUT ... it says it is “a mixture of two rectified grain spirits ... seasoned in oak barrels and a scent of forest fruit flavour is added” ... forest fruit flavor ... that sounds pleasant ... what IS forest fruit?

Tito's Handmade Vodka (Austin, Texas) – Inexpensive and supposedly very smooth with no burning.

Ursus Roter (Iceland ) - red vodka which comes from sloe berries.

Xellent Swiss Vodka (Switzerland) - a super premium vodka made with bread qualityr rye and Titlis Glacier Water. The write-up seems impressive:

Żubrówka (Poland) – from Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge, "it smells of freshly mown hay and spring flowers, of thyme and lavender, and it's soft on the palate and so comfortable, it's like listening to music by moonlight." ... Well, alrighty ... Wikipedia says it has “vanilla, coconut and almond like qualities.” Mixed with a tincture bison grass. Each bottle has a blade of bison grass.

Oh, BTW, not in the list is Blue Ice vodka made from Idaho Russet potatoes ... well, there you go ... like the Irish, the Idahodians should be into vodka, eh?

The Blue Ice site says ...

“Contrary to popular belief, less than 3% of all vodka produced worldwide is made from potatoes. This is because a greater investment in premium ingredients, skill and effort is required to produce vodka from potatoes than from grain. It takes 9 1/2 pounds of potatoes to craft each bottle of Blue Ice Vodka.

“Grains, including wheat, corn, rye, barley and oats, produce vodka with a recognizable harsh bite and coarse finish. According to the Master Distiller, potatoes bring a subtle flavor and mellowness to vodka, which cannot be matched by those that are grain based.”


So anyone tried Blue Ice?

Any vodka reccomendations for my vodka crawl ... and if there was ever a correct use of the word ‘crawl’.

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  1. right in your backyard in alameda:


    1. Years ago, I did a blind tasting of several differnt vodkas. Anyone that says vodka has no taste has never done this! I was amazed at the range of subtle flavors.

      My favorites:

      Absolut for clean and refreshing vodka cocktails.
      Belvedere for very smooth (it has a slick texture) vodka rocks.
      Chopin (orgainic?!) for vodka martinis that have a bite.
      Hangar One Kaffir Lime for best flavored vodka.

      Good luck getting back to us on this one!

      1. I agree with the Hangar One recommendation. And, they have a tasting bar in Alameda, California--on the old navy base in, where else, the first hangar. For ten dollars you get a mind blowing sampling of vodkas, aqua vitae, whiskeys and liquors. The vodka flavors you get to taste are sublime: the kaffir mentioned above, buddhas hand, mandarin, raspberry if they have it, smoked tea, and wasabi. The list changes as the owners create new flavors. www.hangarone.com

        Highly recommended and afterwards head over to East Ocean for sum dim sum to soak up the alcohol. (1713 Webster Street, Alameda, CA



        2 Replies
        1. re: Cecelia

          I haven't gone to Hangar One, which is on my to do list. I have tried many of their vodkas though ... K & L sells the smaller 1/2 bottles.

          I guess my perception was the same as the poster I mentioned, that all vodka was flavorless. So I'm interested in some of the vodkas like Żubrówka (especially Żubrówka) that have a distinct flavor.

          I'm also interested in doing a parallel tasting of some of the top vodkas that are unflavored just to see the difference and learn why one would be better than another.

          1. re: Cecelia

            Hangar One raspberry is one of the best vodkas I've had. And the colour! It's just gorgeous.

            The tasting is fun - a friend and I stumbled upon it last year. I think we were headed to Rosenblum (?) for their wine tasting when I saw the Hangar One sign, and we quickly changed plans. It was definitely worth it, although my hatred of grappa still stands. Picked up a bottle of their framboise liqueur which was also very good.

          2. i love zubrowka. it has a slightly spicy taste and, as mentioned, a really lovely aroma. it's absolutely lush served with lots of ice and fresh-pressed apple juice.

            1. My pick for an excellent Russian vodka is Youri Dolgoruki. Problem is, it can be pretty hard to find. For anyone living in the greater Los Angeles area, you can usually pick it up at any Jon's Marketplace location for around 21 bucks a bottle - a terrific value. Jon's has a great vodka selection.

              Tito's is pretty darn good. You can find it at most Trader Joe's locations for around 17 bucks a bottle.

              1. At Voda in SF (which is the bar I assume the OP was at), you can get Jewel of Russia. Great for a dry martini. It's available in some liquor stores, but Voda has it for sure and it has an incredibly clean taste.

                I disagree with the poster who says Absolut has a clean taste. To my taste, Absolut is more flavor-filled and "murky" or thick than I prefer, and a bit fruity.

                My favorite easy to find vodka is Chopin, and I've noticed in general that I prefer the taste of potato vodka to grain vodka. Happy hunting!

                1. My favourite "easy to find vodka," like Pei, was also Chopin.

                  Years ago, my drink of choice were vodkas chilled neat (occasionally with a twist). And after trying all the "top shelf" vodkas (Belvedere, Ketel One, Absolut, Grey Goose, Stoli, Skyy, etc), I would always return to Chopin which I found to be the smoothest & cleanest.

                  Blavod, at the time, just came out on market and was a novelty for its colour...but I found it too harsh for my taste to drink.

                  Everyone has different tastes & perceptions...but I would recommend starting off w/Chopin.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: OCAnn

                    This thought also occured to me: there are Chopin lovers, and then there are Grey Goose lovers. I don't think there are many vodka lovers who love both. Please do correct me if I'm wrong; I'm just judging off my friends and a few bar servers.

                    PS to rworange: finally tried the Piper-Heidsieck brut with the red label and loved it! Thanks for the rec. Did notice that Trader Joe's and a few other places also had a P-H extra dry brut in almost the exact same label. Hope I got the right one (non extra).

                    1. re: Pei

                      Interesting...my friends @ the time were not vodka enthusiasts and wouldn't be able to tell the difference btwn Smirnoff & Grey Goose/Chopin/Belvedere.

                  2. There's a fairly young Vodka called Heavy Water that has a very smooth clean taste. Apperently it's been doing well in "competitions". But different vodkas definitely have different tastes.

                    On a side note you can always buy the cheap stuff and make your own smooth product.

                    1. I'm a big fan of Charbay vodkas. Charbay is a micro-distillery in California's wine country.

                      They make fruit vodkas that use real fruit, and they taste amazing. The best I've had were the Ruby Red Grapefruit, Key Lime, and Meyer Lemon - though their plain vodka has a really nice, subtle fruitiness in the finish, almost like a smooth version of grappa.

                      They make some other spirits that I'd love to try but have never seen for sale, including a California whiskey made with hops.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Josh

                        i've tried the hopped whiskey and it's great, but the price ($300) is simply too high for what you get. think of all the bourbon, scotch, and brandy you could buy with that kind of money.

                        their black walnut liqueur is also excellent, it's expensive (about $70) but worth the splurge in my opinion.

                      2. Okay, I have to giggle at the "GE-Free wheat" 42-Below brand you mentioned. GE-free generally refers to an agricultural product (like wheat) that is not genetically modified/engineered. GE wheat is not released for use by the general population at this time. It's only in trials, and many, many agricultural and consumer groups are fighting against having it released ever. The release date has been pushed back two times now, and for the near future, there is no date set to release GE wheat for general farming/production. So, when a vodka distiller is touting "GE-Free" wheat, well, they've found and effective way to make an extra buck from the consumer without doing anything special.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: OrganicGal

                          Yeah, I thought it was funny too ... which is why I left it in the description I found. You were the first to pick up on it.

                        2. My new favorite vodka that's on your list is 42-Below. Had the best Martini in my life with that stuff at Barney's Beanery in LA. At the time were only two places in the valley that carried the vodka, now in wider distribution. I bought six bottles and love it. Got to cut it with ice and then it's as smooth as can be. Just amazing.

                          1. I have Tito's in my freezer right now. I wouldn't drink it alone. I like it with lime, or tonic and lime, or just about anything sour. It's also very good in a Bloody Mary. I wouldn't necessarily say it was smooth but it is good and inexpensive.

                            I like the taste of vodka so I like to taste it in my drink. Some vodka's to me are so smooth that when you mix them with anything you only taste the mixer. If I want straight up vodka I like Grey Goose or Belvedere. But I haven't really tried many.

                            1. Here is a curiosity for you, "Shakers", a premium vodka from Minnesota. Who would of thought that the land of Paul Bunyun could produce a premium vodka? I love the stuff. Well worth a try.