The Vodka Martini is a staple in the diet of many cosmopolitans — typically ordered dirty, with three olives (obviously). What’s not so obvious is the flavor and quality that premium vodkas can harness when crafted with precision and care. A spirit once referred to as flavorless has, as of a few months ago, has been given new life by The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), as they have removed mention of vodka being without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color as they felt it no longer met the expectations of consumers.
For most casual drinkers, though, teasing apart the nuances of one vodka versus another isn’t even in their realm of consciousness. “If it’s ‘Gluten-Free,’ it’s for me,” could be the motto of the average, basic vodka drinker, but it’s time that imbibers start paying attention to this neutral spirit which can undoubtedly express terroir. In a vodka Martini where vodka and a touch of vermouth are the key elements at play, you need something that tastes better than poorly distilled ethanol, proofed with subpar tap water. Upgrade your next martini with these exceptional vodkas, and don’t always listen to James Bond — try stirring your next Martini.
Belvedere Single Estate Unfiltered Rye Vodkas
There are two expressions in this series of phenomenal Polish rye vodkas, but they’re both equally as impressive so we felt the need to group them together. Both bottlings are made exclusively from Dankowskie Diamond Rye, with the only difference being where the rye is grown — an attempt at making the case for terroir in vodka (a successful attempt, might I add).
Each expression is named after the single estate from which the rye is cultivated, Lake Bartężek and Smogóry Forest respectively, they deliver on flavor and character like few other vodkas on the market. Both have a nice weight as they’re unfiltered; Lake Bartężek is creamy with hints of citrus peel, mint, and vanilla; while Smogóry Forest has a hint of vanilla with a snap of rye spice. If I’m going to be blunt, they’re two of the best vodkas I have personally tasted to date and were the bottles that really made me believe in the potential of vodka as a spirit with distinct character. The unfiltered nature may be off-putting to some, but there is undoubtedly flavor that you’ll want in your next vodka Martini.
Carbonadi Vodka is ultra-premium vodka that originates from a small, family-owned distillery in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Piedmont’s nutrient-rich soil, which is known for producing world renowned Barolo, also produces some of Italy’s highest quality organic wheat; when combined with the Alpine water source, this vodka is as clean as they come.
But it gets better. Carbonadi is distilled five times and passed through a rare filtration process that uses carbonados, also known as “Black Diamonds,” which are the toughest and rarest form of natural diamonds with super-absorbent properties. The porousness of carbonados means that more impurities are extracted than that of a conventional filter.
If you love a vodka Martini with a lemon twist, then Carbonadi is the best way to treat yourself. At an SRP of $69.99, it doesn’t come cheap, but it is both pure and flavorful. It has aromas of bay leaf, mint, and a hint of grain, and is a true gem of a bottling for any vodka enthusiast looking to upgrade their cocktails at home.
Nikka Coffey Vodka
Just to be clear, no, it’s not a coffee vodka. The vodka is distilled by Nikka’s coffey still (the first commercialized continuous still) which is the key to this vodka’s extremely smooth, rounded mouthfeel and delicate flavors.
This Japanese vodka is made from a blend of corn and barley. Both grains are separately fermented and distilled into various batches, which are then blended by experts and filtered with white birch charcoal. Notes of vanilla, citrus zest, and a silky mouthfeel make this vodka worthy of your next Martini.
Broken Shed Vodka
One of the best value vodkas on the market (SRP $24.99), Broken Shed is made from the fresh waters of the Northern and Southern islands of New Zealand along with natural whey protein. The additive-free vodka is distilled 3 times allowing the nuances from the quality ingredients to come through. It boasts notes of vanilla, butterscotch, with a slight minerality, making it the perfect vodka for cocktails; and you won’t feel as bad about enjoying a few Martinis because of how budget-friendly it is.
Made by the well-known Buffalo Trace Distillery in Louisville, KY, Wheatley is crafted in small batches using a one of a kind micro-still. The wheat-based vodka is distilled 10 times, triple filtered and bottled at 82 proof, making it pure, cocktail-friendly, and approachable for the everyday vodka drinker who wants something with just a bit more quality, but nothing that is going to break the bank. Proofed with Kentucky’s famous limestone water, it truly is easy sipping and makes for a clean, and smooth, vodka Martini.
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