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Aug 12, 2010 11:19 AM

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.

                        " 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.

                        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