When I think of “cheap vodka,” my mind immediately returns to the neighborhood liquor stores I frequented as a college student, where I’d regularly scan the bottom shelves and pick up the least expensive plastic handle of clear liquor I could find. Usually, my purchases tasted like turpentine and left me with excruciating hangovers … but as a 21-year-old looking to get tipsy on the cheap, I didn’t let small details like “quality” or the benefits of vodka stand in my way.
But these days, as an older and (slightly) wiser drinker, I find myself applying higher standards to the spirits on my shopping list. However, I still maintain my youthful fondness for a bargain-rate libation, which is why I enthusiastically recommend these eight vodkas, which deliver a clean, well-balanced drinking experience for under $20 a bottle. Though sometimes it still makes sense to drink top-shelf vodkas.
“Costco” and “prestige vodka” might not seem like related phrases, but fans of the Signature Vodka made by Costco’s house brand Kirkland will attest to the excellence of this spirit. Kirkland Signature Vodka actually pulls the water for its distillation from the same spring in Cognac, France that’s utilized by Grey Goose, and its distillery can be found less than 500 miles away from Grey Goose’s. So if you want a Grey Goose-quality vodka at a lower price, this bottle- which retails for approximately $15 for a 1.75 L bottle (Grey Goose goes for $30+ for a 750-mL bottle) is a solid bet.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka tends to be the clear spirit most closely associated with its hometown of Austin, Texas, but it’s not the only one on the ATX market … and it’s definitely not the best budget buy. For a craft vodka from the Lone Star Capital that’s typically a few bucks cheaper than Tito’s, look to Deep Eddy Vodka. Deep Eddy makes its vodka with 100% corn, and water sourced from local springs, and the company attributes its spirit’s smooth flavor to its fastidious 10-part distilling process. Deep Eddy Vodka also comes in a number of fruit flavors (like Lemon, Peach, and Ruby Red), and its retail price hovers at around $15 for a 750mL bottle.
Another corn-based vodka, Prairie Organic Vodka comes from a Minnesota organic farming co-op … and because Midwestern farmers tend to know a thing or two about corn, Prairie’s heritage clearly speaks to its overall quality. This small-batch liquor doesn’t rely on a set number of distillations to achieve its end goal; instead, Prairie distills “to taste,” evaluating the needs of each individual batch and proceeding accordingly. It’s a truly artisanal product that shows great respect for its ingredients, and a 750mL bottle can be purchased for under $20 in most markets.
Russia gets a lot of credit as the world’s primary vodka destination, but the nation of Poland also claims an impressive vodka-making tradition, and distilleries like WÓDKA, located near the historic Polish city of Kalisz, establish Poland as a vodka force to be reckoned with. WÓDKA produces rye vodka, characterized by a grain-forward flavor profile with a slight hint of minerality. It’s a spirit that’s as enjoyable to sip neat as it is to include in a cocktail, and with an average price of $12 for a 750mL bottle, WÓDKA is a dream come true for frugal vodka drinkers.
Luksusowa Vodka also hails from Poland, but it’s made from potatoes, which lend the spirit an earthy backbone and a delicate sweetness. Luksusowa’s inherent smoothness makes it a smart pick for cocktails, and its under-$15 price tag for a 750mL bottle is a deal that can’t be ignored.
An Austrian vodka distiller with origins in Poland, Monopolowa hews to traditional techniques, and its potato-based product regularly earns high marks in blind tastings. Fans of Polish-style vodkas compare Vodka Monopolowa favorably with pricier brands like Chopin, praising its well-rounded flavor and texture. A 750mL bottle of Vodka Monopolowa generally will range from $11-$20, depending on your market.
Scandinavian vodkas tend to fly a bit under the radar, but this Northern European region is home to several excellent distillers, including Finlandia Vodka, located in … you guessed it! … Finland. Finlandia’s distillation process involves locally grown barley and water from glacial springs, and its reputation for quality explains its consistent popularity since its introduction to the U.S. market in 1970. A 1L bottle of Finlandia costs about $20.
Like its Scandinavian neighbor, Denmark produces some noteworthy vodkas, such as the inexpensive cult favorite known as Denaka. This wheat spirit boasts a clean and crisp taste and a light texture that blends seamlessly into cocktails, and if you’re partial to flavored vodkas, then Denaka has you covered with options like Orange, Black Cherry, and Vanilla. With 1.5L bottles retailing for under $20 each, Denaka offers fantastic value for the price.
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