Vodka is perhaps the most quintessential spirit. It is booze in one of its simplest forms. For many, the depth of vodka is unrealized and it’s viewed as a relatively flavorless spirit that alcoholically enhances a classic cocktail or a favorite mixer. Others cherish its smoothness and lightness compared to other spirits like whiskey and gin, to sip straight or on the rocks. Here are The Manual’s favorite vodkas.
There’s plenty out there about Russia and its love of vodka. Stolichnaya started in the early 1900s in Russia and despite its Soviet Union ties helped drive the rise of vodka in mid-century U.S. Some drinkers love the nostalgic idea of heritage and drinking from places historically known for their spirits, so if a Russian vodka is desired, this clean wheat and rye-derived vodka is a great option.
Established in 1879, the Swedish Absolut knows how to make a solid vodka after all these years. It is now one of most popular vodkas in the world for its clean smooth flavor that doesn’t impart too much on the palate in any way.
Born in the land of fire and ice, Reyka hails from Iceland. Not an expensive bottle by any means, Reyka keeps a nice variety of notes from its wheat and barley base, including some herbaceous and citrusy hints.
Ocean Organic Vodka
There is a light sweetness to Ocean, derived from the sugar cane it’s distilled with in Hawaii. That sugar cane also gives it a thicker finish than many vodkas, so it feels a little more hefty. That said, it’s not overly aggressive at any point, so perfect for a glass all its own.
Japan has quickly established itself as a hub for excellent spirits. The rise of Japanese whiskey is the highlight. But Haku — also known for its whiskey — makes an incredibly delightful vodka. The rice base leaves an interesting floralness and adds a soft, complex ricey finish.
Humboldt Organic Vodka
Soda is perfect to level out this gorgeously soft vodka from California. With a fair bit of vanilla, Humboldt vodka with soda is a delicious way to indulge on a warm, sunny day at the beach.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Tito’s has turned into one of the most recognizable vodka brands in the U.S. While its “handmade” claim can ruffle some feathers, Tito’s inoffensive profile goes perfectly well with soda water and lime. “Tito’s and soda” is a pretty familiar bar call, after all.
Named after the fugu fish that requires delicate dissection to eat, Cutwater says they approach the distillation of the vodka the same way. True or not, the vodka is smooth and plays well in a martini. Also in the portfolio, a spicy habanero and delightful hibiscus infusions.
Frankly Organic Vodka
With a subtle sweetness, Frankly can be used in martinis of all shapes and sizes. Whether going for sweet, dirty, or dry, Frankly will saddle up as a star not afraid to share the limelight. The organic spirit also comes in strawberry, grapefruit, apple, and pomegranate.
Another vodka that emerged from the frigid winters of Scandinavia, Finlandia keeps true to its glacial water promises, gives off nearly zero booze-y scent, and keeps the alcohol burn on the back end. That makes it a perfect play in a martini aiming for smooth sipping.
American Liquor Co.
Because of the subtleness of vodka, many vodka makers turn to marketing and packaging to sell their spirit. But the American Liquor Co. tells a great story. American Liquor Co. makes its vodka by blending together a mix:
- Wheat vodkas from Ohio’s Middle West Spirits and Illinois’ Stumpy Spirits
- Corn vodka from Wisconsin’s Yahara Bay
- Rye vodkas from Michigan’s Grand Traverse Distillery and Valentine Distilling
- Potato vodka from North Dakota’s Proof Artisan Distillers
Doing the blending is master blender Chris Montana, who is also the owner of Minneapolis’ Du Nord Craft Spirits, the first Black-owned craft distillery in the U.S.
Vodka is usually marketed as “clean.” Well, Air Co.’s vodka is made out of air, which seems pretty clean. The company uses CO2 in a process to create “impurity-free alcohols” for a variety of commercial uses. One of those uses: A vodka that helps create a more sustainable globe.
Crystal Head Vodka
For starters, the packaging will always catch an eye — it’s a skull designed by artist John Alexander, who founded the brand with actor Dan Aykroyd. Second, after its distillation process, the vodka is run through layers of diamonds. That’s rich. It comes in three styles, the corn-based Original, wheat-based Aurora and agave-based Onyx.
Hanson of Sonoma
Most vodka makers recognize the relative blandness of vodka and have expanded into a variety of flavored products — just look at Stoli and Absolut. That said, California’s Hanson of Sonoma takes a grade distilled spirit and turns it into a delightful mix: Original, Cucumber, Lemon, Mandarin, Habanero, Boysenberry, Ginger, and Espresso. Try the Habanero in a Bloody Mary.
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