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Best Vodka

Love Hangar One but here in Oregon with state-controlled liquor stores, it's, as the locals say, "spendy." What's your favorite vodka for making martinis or sipping?

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  1. for sipping I prefer Ciroc
    for Martini's I prefer Belvidere or Ketel One

    1. Vodka is largely colorless and flavorless. Heck Smirnoff gets universally good reviews and is rather reasonable. Spend any more then that on vodka and you are paying for the bottle and the marketing campaign.

      2 Replies
        1. re: diablo

          Also agreed. The top experts tend to choose Smirnoff in blind taste tests. The dirty little secret is most vodkas sold in America are made in America by mixing 100% pure ethanol from an agricultural conglomerate like ADM with purified water and secret flavorings (like oak, in the case of Absolut.) Artisanal vodkas just don't taste "right" for mixing, though the novelty is nice for sipping.

      1. I was impressed with the Russian Standard I was sent as a sample. It compares well to Ketel One (both grain vodkas) at a lower price.

        I said a few words about it in this post:

        If I were to buy another vodka, I would look at Karlsson's which is a potato vodka that is a single distillation. Has more flavor than a traditional vodka, so perhaps calling this a potato eau de vie instead of a vodka would be proper.

        1. Right now, I am using Sobieski. Its Polish, and made from rye.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jerryc123

            I actually agree with Sobieski. It's really well priced and tastes GREAT. For hi end vodka, I really like Belvedere.

            1. re: sockster

              Oh yes, Sobieski. Much cheaper than Stolichnaya, but compares very favorably.

          2. Gin? I kid, I kid.

            I find that I don't drink much vodka anymore simply because it doesn't call to me as much as other spirits these days.

            Strangely, the best vodkas do end up with some flavor despite the fact that vodka is supposedly tasteless. Ideally, there is a *trace* amount of flavor from whatever mash was used and the quality of the water can make a difference. I'd be curious to know when the over-distilled, over-filtered vodka became the fad.

            That said, if you're looking for a very clean, near flavorless vodka then Tito's is a fine brand. It's under $20 a bottle.

            14 Replies
            1. re: cacio e pepe

              Everyone knows good vodka only comes in tall etched bottles with 8 color silkscreened artwork ;)

              Tito's is 20 bucks cause it's what's IN the bottle that counts!

              1. re: freq

                Riiiight, 10% corn vodka made at the distillery, with 90% neutral corn spirits bought from a rectifier. If there is as much as 10%.

                1. re: JMF

                  Where did you get this information? The only mention of it i could find was also from you in another Chowhound topic. Not calling you out as dishonest, just that I haven't heard anything about this elsewhere and you wrote a favorable review of Tito's on your website. I'm just curious about this kind of thing.

                  1. re: cacio e pepe

                    I'm the administrator for the artisanal distillers online discussion forum. I was told this by a former employee, and by several others who have worked or consulted there.

                      1. re: JMF

                        I found that Robert Hess thinks the same. Here is a quote from his blog back in 2007 that I found. http://thespiritworld.net/2007/01/29/...

                        " I’ve heard from a couple of sources that Tito’s vodka is not totally pot-distilled, but instead he starts out with puchased neutral spirit, and then runs that through his pot still. I’ve been trying to find some actual evidence of this, but haven’t been able to yet, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

                        To make a clean tasting vodka, from a pot still takes a LOT of work, as well as a very well made still. Tito does admit that he built his still himself, without any diagrams, just looking at pictures of bootlegger stills, and without any previous training in distillation. So based on that I would tend to believe that he would have to be taking some shortcuts, and not starting from a fermented mash."

                        An important piece of information I learned as a distiller is that it is almost impossible to make a vodka that fits the legal definition of vodka in a pot still. You have to have a modern still with a certain amount of plates in it to rectify the spirit enough to meet the legal definition. I have a pot still, besides modern ones, and would never use the pot still to make a vodka.

                        I did some more research and finally called my friend Bill Owens of the American Distilling Institute, which I am a consultant too. It is basically the trade organization for artisanal distillers. I hate to not be positive I am right when I make a comment. He referred me to one of his old newsletters. http://www.distilling.com/newsletters...

                        To quote from the newsletter, "Beveridge (Tito's real name is Bert Butler Beveridge II) still makes his own stills and condensers. Like the other two Texas vodka makers, he starts out with a corn-based, neutral spirit purchased from an outside source."

                        1. re: JMF

                          In many ways that is even WORSE then the Grey Goose crap.

                          Hi, I'm Tito I pretend to make an artisanal product and be a cool guy, but really I am just rebottling industrial hooch from ConAgra or ADM. Probably doesn't even run the pot still. Just let's the industrial ethanol sit in their for 5 minutes and calls it a day.

                          But hey, it's vodka people. Colorless flavorless liquid. Go get a nice glass of Barrilito 3 star rum and enjoy some real booze.

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            Now that you mention it StriperGuy, I find this whole thread somewhat amusing, as, like you said, at the end of the day we're discussing Vodka - the H2O of spirits.

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              Right! I was trying to think of the last time I had vodka in a drink, and with the exception of a recent Vesper made with Cocchi Americano substituted for the Lillet and some intermittent tastings, I think it's measured in years.

                              But I have found that vodka gets people's hackles up more than other spirits. To twist a quote all out of whack:

                              Vodka politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small

                    1. re: JMF

                      Yeah, cause honestly, even Tito's has the certain, indescribably MARKETING vibe.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        It's still good and it's still cheap, but this info does take the shine off of what I thought was a perfectly reasonable vodka.

                        1. re: cacio e pepe

                          98% of vodka is made from watered down neutral spirits. When this is done the label says "bottled at" or "produced and bottled at' and the name of the distillery.

                          And 50% of "artisanal" vodka is made from watered down neutral spirit that is then thrown back into the still and redistilled. When this is done it is legal to say "distilled and bottled at" name of distillery.

                          1. re: JMF

                            Fascinating! Thanks for the detailed follow up. Good stuff.

                    2. re: freq

                      I'll give a vote to Tito's as well

                  2. I found Svedka to have the best bang for buck ratio.

                    1. I really like Tito's. It's $20 for 750 ml, but they have it here in the state store (PA) for just $30 for the 1.75L bottle. It's American made too which is a nice bonus. I've read plenty of post on here pretty much claiming all vodka is vodka especially if you're mixing. We've tried four or five brands and for us, Grey Goose is the smoothest, Tito's is almost as smooth and a way better value.

                      22 Replies
                      1. re: Rick

                        Was your taste test blind? We tried a Grey Goose vs. Stoli vs. Ketel One taste test one and GG was on the bottom of everyone's rankings.

                        1. re: joonjoon

                          No, I don't sit down and do blind taste tests of my vodka . . .

                          1. re: Rick

                            I believe that Joonjoon's point is you should. Bottling, preconceptions, marketing all effect how your perceive something which is generally pretty similar like vodka. Might be very eye opening to taste your fav 5 blind and see if you can even tell them apart.

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              Amen. Taste tests should always be done blind for this reason, especially with spirits like Vodka.

                              1. re: joonjoon

                                Maybe I should re phrase to say I don't care enough to sit down and do blind taste tests of my vodka.

                                1. re: Rick

                                  Your loss then. I have done multiple blind test tests with friends. Not because I am a vodka geek or super anal but it's fun. Grey Goose never won. Or even came close. It consistenly scored poor on numerous occasions with different people. It really isn't very good.

                                  1. re: ac106

                                    Yup, it's a fun exercise, and it's really amusing when people find out that some fancy vodka they thought was awesome turns out to be...well not so good. And always a pleasant surprise when you have a cheap vodka that tastes as good as the premium ones. I was personally shocked at how terrible GG was in comparison to Stoli and Ketel One.

                                    1. re: joonjoon

                                      I agree GG is horrible. I disagree that a blind taste test is needed. It's actually that bad.

                                          1. re: joonjoon

                                            I think you missed the joke re: Grey Goose. ;)

                                            I'm not against blind taste tests. At a minimum they are fun and I've done a number of them. However, they are pretty complicated and done wrong they dumb down the context to the point of severely limiting the conclusions that can be drawn. Eg: tasting a few sips of several vodkas straight as opposed to drinking a full serving of a couple of vodkas in a specific drink. One of those tests is useful, the other a pointless exercise.

                                            That's actually why I don't do them as often. A lot of work to draw a very narrow band of conclusions.

                                            And the fact that if looking at a pretty label helps me enjoy my drink even a little more, then fantastic. I no longer want to deprive myself of that trick of my subconscious!

                                              1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                Sorry for the misunderstanding cacio - I didn't mean that reply to be directed specifically to you. I actually found your GG comment really funny. :)

                                      1. re: Rick

                                        Yes, because you are media driven and don't really care what you drink. tito's is... not what they say they are. GG is a mediocre product with amazing marketing. i am a distiller. i know how these products are made, and the marketing.

                                        1. re: JMF

                                          Can you explain the Tito's statement. I'm interested.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            I like Tito's and GG so therefore I'm media driven? If someone likes a Rolex watch, BMW, Coach purse etc, they too are just buying media driven crap? I don't recall ever seeing Tito's in the media either, at least not here in PA.

                                            1. re: Rick

                                              "I like Tito's and GG so therefore I'm media driven? If someone likes a Rolex watch, BMW, Coach purse etc, they too are just buying media driven crap?"

                                              To a large extent, yes, and yes. Particularly the Grey Goose as it is essentially crap.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                Again, I've never seen Tito's marketed here in PA, yet I'm still media driven by it? Interesting.

                                                1. re: Rick

                                                  No one is referring to TIto's Rick. They mean Grey Goose. GG is not a quality product, it is 100% marketing. Just read this please;


                                                  1. re: ac106

                                                    Rick's obviously made up his mind on the GG thing...not much more you can say to someone who isn't willing to subject himself to a true taste test.

                                                    1. re: joonjoon

                                                      Yep, I like the GG. Very smooth in my opinion. Tito's is what I drink though.

                              2. JMXO is a excellent vodka, and I hate Vodka. $ types of wheat used. Then well distilled, just a hint of flavor.

                                2 Replies
                                1. Belvedere is my favorite

                                  1. I've done the blind tests, a single sip with consideration, then pallet cleansing with water, and have also found some of the higher priced vodkas were not as good as their reputations.

                                    A friend who generally has good taste in liquor (we both like many of the same products) thinks Stoli Elit is the living end. I think it's very good, but can't swallow the price, pun intended.

                                    I used to keep Absolut in the cabinet as the house vodka, but as of late Sobieski is my vodka of choice; it's a great vodka and a great value.

                                    There used to be a place in Ann Arbor called Leopold Brothers, on Main between downtown and the Big House. They found some kind of loophole in the state law that allowed them to distill their own liquor and sell it for consumption on site and also packaged for take out. They had some of the best vodka I've ever had, Silver Tree. A few years ago, they had a disagreement with their landlord, and rather than relocate in Michigan, they packed up lock, stock, and barrel, and relocated to Denver. Here is their web site: http://www.leopoldbros.com/Welcome.html

                                    1. i like flavored vodka -

                                      vodka flavored with juniper, cucumber, and botanicals
                                      called hendrick's gin

                                      3 Replies
                                          1. re: thew

                                            I gotta try me some Hendrick's... cucumber sounds very nice with juniper

                                      1. I want to try Hangar vodka but so far I'm sticking with Luksusowa because it's smootha nd cheap.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: YAYME

                                          +1 on Luksusowa.

                                          My favorite, although it's getting harder to find is Youri Dolgoruki. Beats the hell out of any of the so called "premium" (and overpriced) vodkas on the market.

                                          1. I like Burnett's for mixing. And it's dirt cheap.

                                            1. Who even drinks vodka nowadays, other than in a Caucasian every now and again?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                And for when you're out of dark rum and must forego a dark n' stormy in favor of Moscow Mules. I suppose you could add some molasses in for a quasi-dark n'stormy.

                                              2. Stoli Elite is the most incredible vodka I have ever tasted BUT it would be a sin (a very costly one) to ever mix it so highly recommend for the sipping portion of your question.

                                                1. My favorite vodka is Ketel One. I drink this one almost all the time in martinis. I find Grey Goose, Belvedere and Chopin too smooth. They are so smooth that they are nearly flavorless. Chopin is a potato vodka and has a very strange taste. Ketel is smooth, hand distilled a few times and still lets you know that you are drinking vodka, an excellent one.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: sekelmaan

                                                    I think you're mistaken ... none of those are brands of gin used in a martini! LOL

                                                  2. If you can't taste the difference in vodkas, you shouldn't pay a lot for them.

                                                    Foreign vodkas are not bound by US regs to taste like diluted lab ethanol.

                                                    Unflavored vodka can have wonderful flavor. Ketel One and Sobieski are wheat and rye gems. Sobieski is mispriced at $10; it should be $30. Jewel of Russia has a buttery mouthfeel.

                                                    At the top of the vodka heap are Jean Marc XO -- like liquid pastry -- and Stoli Elit. Close behind in flavor but way cheaper is Vox. Somehow, the Dutch are on to something in vodka craftsmanship.

                                                    None of these vodkas would be mistaken for Smirnoff, except possibly at dawn after an all-night vodka marathon.

                                                      1. Interesting thread. I have no interest in vodka whatsoever, however working in the restaurant trade it is evident that people have "their" brands. It's all marketing over substance and, at the end of the day, who actually tries them blind? People will drink what they are used to, or what they have been influenced toward by marketing.
                                                        I stock Stoli, Ketel One and Grey Goose (not because I want to, but for demand; this stuff is awful for the price. Kind of like the Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc of the vodka world)

                                                        The only vodka I would ever buy for myself is Idol, and then only in single 50ml bottles. Never used in a mixed drink, only neat like a brandy. At the end of the day, vodka based cocktails are really just for people who don't like the taste of alcohol but still want to feel the effect.

                                                        1. For martinis and rocks: Tito's, Cold River, and/or Chopin.
                                                          For mixing w/tonic, Gimlets, Bloodies, etc: Svedka and/or Veil.

                                                          1. Sobieski Vodka,
                                                            A vodka that has won countless blind taste tests when paired off against vodka 3 times the price.
                                                            #1 selling premium polish vodka. A company Bruce Willis believed in so much, he bought 3% of the company. The best vodka for the world


                                                            www.ginreviews.com | Gin reviews Gin Ratings Gin Facts

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: ginreviews

                                                              It's tough to talk vodka when it tastes like hospital :)

                                                              1. re: ginreviews

                                                                I have to agree, Sobieski is very, very good. Especially for the price. What you are basically looking for is something that tastes like nothing. Unfortunately, human palates don't perceive 100% pure ethanol mixed with 100% pure distilled water as neutrally flavored. It tastes "stale" or "medicinal."

                                                                It's a very similar discussion to water. People spend tons of money on Fiji water and other fancy brands, but in blind taste tests, New York City TAP WATER nearly always wins!

                                                                Basically what I'm saying is, vodka is a VERY mildly flavored gin, just as gin is a more heavily flavored vodka.