Ranking The Big Vodka Brands, From Worst To Best
We’ve all been cooped up inside forever, but as coronavirus restrictions ease, the idea of getting together with friends for a night of cocktails and conversation is finally feasible. A lot of us spent our days in quarantine just eyeing the clock for 5 p.m. when we could make a margarita or have a glass of wine after a long day of sitting on the couch, working, or just watching everything on Netflix. Now that the possibility of actually getting together with (gasp!) other people is turning into a reality, don’t you want to impress your friends with your innate knowledge of good versus bad alcohol?
When it comes to spirits, there are so many options that it can be difficult to even know where to start. A lot of people may go for the visual method — whatever bottle has the coolest label gets chosen — but is that really the best way to find the good liquor? After all, some of the best brands when it comes to quality may not have the best marketing. Maybe the bottle that is at your eye level in the liquor store is distracting you from a really good find.
When it comes to vodka, the possibilities are endless, so we’ve put together a list ranking the best and worst big vodka brands. You’re welcome.
14. This vodka from Cupcake is absolutely a no-go
While we love the idea of combining dessert with drinks (just think of how well red wine pairs with chocolate), trying to achieve dessert bliss in vodka form is just going to work. With that being said, you should probably just avoid Cupcake vodka. As noted by Time, the vodka in question is a “six-times distilled alcoholic treat created by vino specialists Cupcake Vineyards” and boasts a variety of flavors — “Frosting,” “Chiffon,” “Devil’s Food,” and “Original” (the last of which reportedly tastes like vanilla).
The tagline of the vodka is “Live Deliciously,” but we can’t help but feel that this vodka sounds like the worst quality of cotton candy shoved into a vodka bottle. Or does it have a taste at all? According to one reviewer on Vodka Buzz, the spirit in question “tastes like water,” which doesn’t sound particularly pleasing, either. So as much as we all love the Cupcake brand labels and think that the idea of a cupcake-flavored drink is appealing, we’re going to recommend that you skip this one. Go buy yourself actual dessert instead; you’ll be better off for it.
13. This vodka from Bakon is going to be a hard pass
Now for all you Bloody Mary fans out there, this might not sound too terrible, but the second-worst vodka on our list that you should probably avoid at all costs is the bacon-flavored spirit from Bakon Vodka. Yes, bacon-flavored vodka. We love a good piece of bacon, don’t get us wrong, but in vodka form? Absolutely not.
As noted by the Bakon Vodka website, the spirit is ideally used in drinks like a Bloody Mary or a Caesar — but if you can just use your classic vodka for those specific drinks, why get a special flavored vodka that you can’t use for all your cocktails? It’s not like you’re going to want to sip on bacon-flavored vodka, let alone use it in a classic mixed drink like a Cosmopolitan (the thought makes us feel kind of nauseous, to be honest).
If you think that we’re being dramatic, we can guarantee you that we aren’t. LA Weekly put Bakon Vodka on their list of the five worst vodkas out there, so we’re pretty confident that you should save your money and skip out on this bottle.
12. This vodka from Seagram's should be avoided
There’s nothing that screams summer more than sweet tea. Just think about the hot summer nights spent outside with a chilled glass of tea in your hand — there’s nothing that sounds much better than that! So the idea of a sweet peach tea vodka doesn’t sound bad, right? Wrong. The Seagram’s Sweet Tea Vodka is an absolute no, unless you like flashbacks to college parties where you drank the most disgusting concoctions just out of pure boredom and desperation. Yeah, we’re pretty sure that we’ve hit the nail on the head with this ranking.
LA Weekly listed Seagram’s peach tea-flavored vodka as one of the top five worst vodkas on the market, and the reviews aren’t that great either. “I am a huge sweet tea fan and was so excited to try out Seagram’s Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka. I figure I could add it to my ice tea for a grown up twist!” a reviewer wrote on Influenster. “I was [disappointed] at the odd flavor. I would not repurchase it.” Another reviewer kept it short and sweet: “This is disgusting. This is bitter and tastes artificial.” Need we say more?
11. If you're going for cheap, New Amsterdam vodka will serve you well
There are some people out there who drink because they enjoy the flavor, while others are just looking for a good time. If you’re someone who wants to get a bit of a buzz without spending a ton of money (and finding the very best quality isn’t your objective), then New Amsterdam vodka might be a good choice for you. At just $11.99 for a 750ml bottle, the price does a lot of the talking about the smoothness of this spirit. New Amsterdam has also gotten a variety of colorful reviews, so let’s take a look at some of them, courtesy of Total Wine.
One reviewer cut right to it, saying, “Nail polish remover probably tastes better.” Six simple words that give so much sensory detail. The review continued, “When I first opened [the] bottle I almost dropped it because it smelled that bad. I thought it would be decent vodka at budget price. I guess you get what you pay for!!” Another wrote, “Not the best in my opinion. But anything will work for mixed drinks if they are made right.” So if $11.99 sounds good to you, just proceed with caution.
10. If quality isn't exactly what you're going for, Skyy Vodka will do
We’re slowly starting to inch our way to the best vodka brands on our list. If you’re looking for a vodka that’s pretty decent for mixing, then Skyy Vodka could be the bottle you’re looking for. As noted by Drizly, Skyy Vodka starts at $19.89 for a 1L bottle, so it’s still very much on the affordable side. It has underlying flavors of anise, coriander, and pepper and is a triple-filtered spirit.
This all sounds pretty good, right? Well, some users who took to the reviews on Drizly had less-than-nice things to say. First and foremost, one reviewer explained that they left the vodka in the freezer and it completely froze solid (most liquors aren’t supposed to freeze, though you shouldn’t be putting your vodka in the freezer anyway), so that seems a bit questionable if you ask us. Another reviewer put it pretty well when they said, “Skyy is pretty middle of the road. Its selling point is its cheapness.” So is it the worst? No. Is it the best? Not at all. Do with this information what you will.
9. Pau Maui Vodka isn't for everyone
Pineapple is a controversial fruit. Some people love a piña colada more than life itself. Others can’t stand pineapple on top of pizza, and some find even the scent of the tropical fruit off-putting altogether. So this next vodka might be a winner for some and an absolute loser for others. The Pau Maui Vodka, intermixed with the flavor of pineapple, goes for $19.98 a bottle and is the creation of Mark Nigbur. According to Flaviar, Nigbur and the LeVecke family created a micro-distillery in Maui and went to town, creating the Hali’imale Distilling Company and the Pau Maui spirit in the process.
So how do the reviews for this particular vodka run? A lot of them go in completely different directions, with some being harsher than others. For instance, one customer said that the vodka had a “pretty harsh flavor” and that they preferred using it as a mixing spirit rather than something to drink straight. Another reviewer said that the vodka was “on the low end of average,” and yet another said that it had a “very strong nose curling aftertaste.” So we’ll leave the decision to try this one up to you.
8. Chopin Potato Vodka isn't as bad as it sounds
It’s safe to say that the potato is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. From French fries to vodka, the simple potato has proved itself time and time again. But still, it does sound a little weird to have the label “potato vodka” on your spirit of choice, but that’s how the Chopin Potato Vodka is marketed. Named after the famous composer, the Chopin Potato Vodka is hitting just below the middle of the pack, and it’s a fairly decent option.
According to GearMoose, Chopin Potato Vodka is one of the better “under $30” vodkas out there, as it is four times distilled and “has a creamy finish,” and it’s great when making a dirty martini (by the way, here’s how the dirty martini got its name). So what do the reviews say for the brand? “Smells like vodka, tastes like vodka. Very neutral,” a reviewer wrote on Flaviar. “A little [bit] of lemon and pepper with an oily texture. Overall, not bad. Different. Creamier than what I’m used to. Give it a try.” Another echoed that sentiment, saying that it was “surprisingly inoffensive for vodka.” So maybe give it a whirl — you might like it.
7. Middle of the pack is Smirnoff
When you think of big brand vodkas, chances are you think of Smirnoff. It’s been handed to people at parties and gatherings more times than anyone can count, as it’s pretty affordable. As noted by Drizly, Smirnoff is an 80-proof vodka that is filtered ten times, so it’s pretty decent to have on its own or to use in a mix. Smirnoff markets itself as the vodka for “connoisseurs and newcomers alike,” as it prides itself on consistency and on meeting expectations.
For a middle-of-the-road vodka, Smirnoff seems to check off most of the boxes, according to reviews. One reviewer on Drizly said it best when they wrote, “Does the job.” That review continued, “Nothing really that special. Will continue to buy as it’s fairly inexpensive and works. … Easily accessible, well-known and that’s another reason why I’ll continue to buy.” Another reviewer said that Smirnoff “causes a slight cringe” after shooting it down, but “it’s decent for a middle shelf vodka.” So if you’re down to get a bottle that’s not super cheap but isn’t going to wreck your bank account either, Smirnoff is a decent option that won’t let you down.
6. This Absolut bottle of vodka is actually better than you might think
We know what you’re thinking — Absolut Vodka is what you drink in college when you can get grapefruit, citron, or lime-flavored vodka that actually just tastes like a hangover. But we promise you that the Absolut Elyx is different. As noted by Reserve Bar, the Absolut Elyx Vodka is made from “single estate winter wheat” and “pure water,” which makes the drink really smooth. Absolut even coined the term “liquid silk” to describe the Elyx, so if we couldn’t have made it any clearer, this is not the vodka of your frat days.
But why just trust us when there are other people who can help convince you that Absolut Elyx is worth giving a try? Customers took to Influenster to share their thoughts on Elyx, with one saying that they found it affordable and was also “smooth and great for mixing drinks.” They wrote, “I am a first time buyer and would purchase again in the future.” Another customer noted that the Elyx vodka went “down very smooth without needing it mixed” and that they could see it “becoming popular.” So give it a try — it won’t disappoint.
5. Grey Goose comes in at No. 5 for good reason
You might be surprised to see Grey Goose in the No. 5 slot. Grey Goose has great vodka — there’s no doubt about it — and it’s made with “only the finest French ingredients,” as noted by Reserve Bar. Grey Goose is primarily made with a soft winter wheat and “pure spring water from Gensac in the Cognac region,” which just saying out loud sounds fancy. There’s a very specific process that Grey Goose vodka goes through in its “field-to-bottle” experience, and what you pick up in the grocery store is a gorgeous bottle with a spirit that is sure to be excellent.
Even the reviews on Influenster are on the positive side, with one customer writing that “you won’t be disappointed” if you pick up a bottle of Grey Goose. Another user wrote that it is one of the best vodkas on the market.
So, why isn’t it closer to the top spot on this list? It mostly has to do with price. For just 750ml of vodka (which is a little more than three measured cups of vodka), it’ll set you back $34. Not exactly the most economical choice, but you get what you pay for.
4. Tito's is a really solid option
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. If you want a crowd-pleasing vodka that is sure to be great for sipping, taking shots, enjoying Jell-O shots and mixes, you name it, Tito’s has your back. Tito’s Handmade Vodka, as described by Influenster, is “micro-distilled in an old-fashioned pot still, just like fine single malt scotches and high-end French cognacs.” Why does that matter? It makes its flavor so favorable that you’ll just want to keep drinking it (but make sure you’re drinking water, too).
Another great thing about Tito’s is the price. As noted by Drizly, you can get a 1L bottle of Tito’s for $27.99, or a 1.75L bottle for $35.19, so it’s a pretty good bang for your buck. Some happy customers on Influenster shared their thoughts on the beloved vodka brand, with one saying that Tito’s is their favorite vodka to drink. “I think it is really smooth. It’s also pretty affordable,” they wrote. “It mixes well with anything and is a cheaper alternative that meets the same standards.” So there you go — Tito’s will never do you wrong.
3. Belvedere is one of our top three picks
If you’re a “I’m going to buy this vodka because I like the label” kind of person, then we’ll be surprised if you’ve never picked up a bottle of Belvedere before. The name itself just sounds fancy, and, as noted by Drizly, the vodka itself is excellent. Belvedere markets itself as the “true expression of luxury vodka,” and is the result of a 600-year vodka-making tradition originally from Poland. It is made with Polish Dankowski Rye and is distilled four times in order to “create the perfect balance of character and purity.” It also doesn’t have any added glycerin, sugar, or additives, so you know you’re getting the good stuff.
Belvedere is a fantastic choice as well, because it is not only great for sipping, but it makes the perfect martini (and honestly, who doesn’t feel like the most glamorous person in the world while sipping on a martini?). The only slight downside to Belvedere, as you may have guessed, is the cost. For a 1L bottle, you’re looking at dropping about $40, which isn’t exactly the most budget-friendly idea. But if you have a bit to spare, Belvedere is absolutely the right choice.
2. Ketel One is top two material
You might not be surprised to see Ketel One among the very best vodkas. Ketel One Vodka is a classic big brand that does not disappoint. First and foremost, there’s a beautiful look to the bottle itself that just screams sophistication. Secondly, it has a wonderful flavor combination. As noted on the Ketel One website, the spirit itself has a “crisp, lively tingle” that sits in the mouth as it’s consumed. Ketel One is also described as having a “silky” texture that allows for easy consuming that’ll make you go back to the brand time and time again.
Ketel One is great for sipping, as well as mixing, in part due to its hints of honey and citrus. Nothing sounds better than a Ketel One vodka soda with a lime slice. And customers really are fans of the top vodka brand, too, so if you really want to get a vodka that’s going to deliver, this is the one. “The perfect vodka staple to have in your house. A very versatile alcohol which is also nice and smooth,” one reviewer on Influenster wrote.
At $35 for a 750ml, this vodka hits the sweet spot.
1. HH Bespoke Vodka takes first prize
We’ve saved the very best for last. If you’re looking for a vodka that has an amazing aesthetic, a gorgeous flavor, and a rich history, the HH Bespoke Vodka is for you. As noted by Reserve Bar, this particular vodka is the creation of Harlem Haberdashery’s HH Bespoke Spirits, a Black-owned and operated boutique distillery, and the company’s received some major recognition throughout its journey, from the likes of Delish, Forbes, The New York Times, Black Enterprise, and Thrillist.
As noted by Delish, the Bespoke Vodka found its inspiration from the “cultural history and iconic style of the Harlem Renaissance,” and leaves its consumers with its crisp flavor. At $58 a bottle, it is on the pricier side, but when you buy a bottle of this vodka, you’re supporting a family business with a rich and important heritage. One customer left a review on Distiller, saying that they loved the vodka both “neat and blended.” They enjoyed it so much that they bought the entire HH Bespoke Spirits collection. We wouldn’t be surprised if this vodka becomes your go-to choice.
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