The options are endless when you’ve got the best vodka on your bar cart.
On the market are plenty of expensive vodka brands, including French vodka, Polish vodka, Russian vodka and American vodka. As one of the world’s most versatile spirits, a good, cheap vodka is a staple bottle while a top shelf vodka can be the perfect addition to a dinner party.
While it might not be everyone’s first choice for a sipper, some of the best tasting vodkas on the market are designed to be enjoyed in a cold glass with nothing more than an ice cube to bring out the varied flavour profiles.
But if you enjoy the spirit more when mixed, a range of the best vodka-based drinks can be created with any brand on our list.
Looking for the best vodka for a Martini, or the best addition to a Bloody Mary? Simply grab the additional ingredients, hunt down the perfect glass and read on for the best vodka to pair it with.
No time to read through our entire list? We’ve chosen Absolut as the overall best vodka brand and Svedka as the best value vodka.
Or, if you’d rather read up on the spirit first, explore our buyers guide to drinking vodka including how it’s made and the different types available, our tips on how to drink vodka, and the terms to know when buying vodka.
The 11 best Vodka brands of 2020
|2||Grey Goose||Best top shelf|
|5||Hangar 1||Best tasting vodka|
|6||Ciroc||Best rated vodka|
|8||Pinnacle||Best vodka for Bloody Mary|
|9||Skyy||Best vodka for Martini|
|10||Crystal Head||Best vodka for Cosmopolitan|
|11||Spirytus Rektyfikowany||Strongest vodka|
Unlike many vodkas on the market, Absolut contains no added sugar. This, combined with its premium taste and determination to use only the highest quality ingredients, positions the brand as our best overall vodka for 2020.
While Absolut offers plenty of flavour variations, its original, unflavoured vodka should be a staple of any liquor cabinet. It’s one of the cleanest vodkas available, with a crisp, pure taste that’s somehow also full-bodied and complex.
It’s a popular vodka worldwide, known for its iconic apothecary bottle and gentle, wheat aroma. Produced with locally-grown wheat in the town of Åhus in Sweden, it’s smooth enough to drink neat or can be used in cocktails to bring out the sweeter notes.
Its low price point combined with ever-so-slight herbal notes makes it an excellent all-rounder no matter the occasion.
Sip it chilled, top it up with soda or mix it into a cocktail; it’s impossible to go wrong with Absolut vodka.
Best overall vodka: Absolut Original
Best served neat, Grey Goose is one of the original ultra-premium vodkas on the market and offers a delightfully crisp taste with a smooth finish. This smoothness can be attributed to the fact that Grey Goose is distilled five times. It’s one of the creamiest vodkas available, with a clear, grainy nose and a peppery palate with a hint of star anise.
Its expertise comes with thanks to its master distiller, who combines alpine spring water with French winter wheat. The result is a hint of burnt charcoal mixed with a dash of sweetness and a touch of spice.
Grey Goose is produced entirely in France, from the high quality wheat used in the initial production to the glass and packaging used to bottle the vodka.
It’s a vodka that combines superior ingredients and expertise to create a deliciously smooth spirit that’s endlessly enjoyable to drink.
Best premium vodka: Grey Goose
Svedka’s accessible price makes it an excellent brand of vodka to keep in the liquor cabinet at all times. Produced from Swedish winter wheat and distilled five times, it’s a column-distilled vodka with a peppery bite after an initial sweet note.
It’s another easy-to-drink vodka that mixes perfectly into a wide range of cocktails, thanks to its fairly neutral taste. The best way to bring out the flavours of this vodka is to enjoy it with a mildly-strong mixer. Then, enjoy the hints of vanilla and mint before its bitter citrus ending.
Svedka, whose name is a combination of “Swedish” and “vodka”, is definitely a crowd-pleaser, with a bottle that’s inexpensive but promises to mix well. For best results, chill this vodka for a few hours before stirring or shaking into your favourite cocktail.
For its price, Svedka is one of the best vodkas available.
Best value vodka: Svedka
Named after the most expensive caviar in the world, it makes sense that Beluga offers top quality vodka, too. The brand produces its vodka in western Siberia, Russia, using artesian water for the ultimate authentic taste.
Once distilled, Beluga adds honey, milk thistle and oat to give flavouring before bottling its famous spirit. This super-premium vodka is impressively pure and smooth, with notes of vanilla, sage, white pepper and cream.
It’s filtered twice through quartz sand and a silver filter with a long and crisp, vanilla-tinted finish. With its great taste and premium packaging, Beluga promises a great vodka for sipping on an evening or giving as a present.
A head and shoulders above most other vodkas on the market, Beluga stands tall as one of the most premium vodkas available.
Best high-end vodka: Beluga Gold Line
5. Hangar 1
As a brand, Hangar 1 likes to focus on attention to detail during every part of its distillation process. This small-batch vodka is produced in an old aircraft hanger near San Francisco in small Holstein Pot Stills and is a must-try for any vodka lover.
This attention to detail comes out in full force when it comes to Hangar 1’s Fog Point vodka. Created by the brand’s Head Distiller, it’s a vodka produced using fog catchers around the San Francisco Bay Area that turn the fog into fresh water, before blending with vodka distilled from Napa’s Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier wine.
The result is an impossibly smooth spirit with hints of pear, citrus and honeysuckle. It’s crystal clear with a slightly sweet smell to it and a plump, round taste. This is a vodka known for its many tasting notes, making it ideal for drinking neat.
It’s a superior vodka that’s excellent value for money and is a true delight to drink.
Best tasting vodka: Hangar 1 Fog Point
Ciroc vodka differs from many popular choices on the market due to the fact that it’s made from grapes, rather than grains or potatoes. Filtered with charcoal, it’s a high quality vodka with an interesting character. The original, unflavoured bottle is a popular choice around the world and one that works well as a standalone sipping vodka or mixed into cocktails.
Ciroc uses grapes grown high in the Gaillac region of France and distils its vodka five times before bottling. It uses a cold fermentation process to ensure the best flavours and offers a refreshingly different and excellently crisp taste.
This ultra-premium vodka is just as smooth as expected, promising a drink that’s interesting to enjoy no matter what it’s mixed with. Cocktail lovers can also make use of Ciroc’s wide range of infused and flavoured vodkas, with the white grape and peach variations proving popular choices.
Ciroc is undoubtedly one of the most distinct vodkas on the market, thanks to its distillation process and attention to detail.
Best rated vodka: Ciroc
This top-shelf vodka is renowned for being one of the smoothest on the market, and it’s a joy to sip it neat. Belvedere, originating from Poland, is produced at the Polmos Zyrardow distillery (known as the birthplace of all vodka) using Dankowskie Gold Rye. The high starch content of this rye yields a velvety soft level to the vodka, confirming its spot at the top.
It’s distilled using a four-column still process and local, Polish water before being charcoal filtered and bottled. Everything from the delicious spirit inside to the classy, translucent bottle makes Belvedere live up to its name, which translates as “beautiful to see”.
Belvedere is an aromatic vodka with a hint of lemon zest and a cool, lingering finish. It’s very easy to drink, with a clean entry and a neutral, fresh mountain air nose. It has a citrus and black pepper palate and should be sipped over ice or enjoyed in an ice cold shot glass.
With its beautiful packaging and incredibly smooth content, Belvedere vodka is a top-shelf brand that should be enjoyed sparingly.
Smoothest vodka: Belvedere
Pinnacle vodka is produced using French grain and water from the same region as Grey Goose. A crisp vodka, it has a fresh nose and is flavoured with hints of citrus, vanilla and wheat. It’s a solid vodka that, while best served chilled, is also enjoyable when mixed at room temperature.
Pinnacle vodka offers a range of light tasting notes that make it the perfect vodka base for a number of cocktails. Distilled five times for ultimate smoothness, it’s a little peppery and has a neutral aftertaste. It’s brilliantly clear with clean aromas of honeydew rind and ripe tomato. This hint of tomato makes it the perfect choice for a Bloody Mary.
Mix it into a highball glass with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, ice and any other spices and flavourings to complement the flavours before stirring and garnishing with a celery stalk.
For its low price, Pinnacle offers an accessible vodka with an excellent taste that’s versatile enough to be enjoyed in a number of ways.
Best vodka for a Bloody Mary: Pinnacle
Skyy vodka is one of the first vodkas made entirely with U.S-sourced grains and water. It’s a neutral-tasting bottle produced via four-column distillation with hints of flavour and little to no bitterness.
This filtration process results in a smooth vodka with a great combination of flavours and aromas.
It’s one of the best-known vodkas in the world, thanks to its accessible price and widespread availability. Its light flavour means this is a vodka designed to be mixed into cocktails to draw out the complementary flavours from the other ingredients. For its price, this vodka is smooth and enjoyable, with its stylish bottle and classic aroma.
The flavour profile of Skyy vodka makes it a great base for a Martini, too. Try it with vermouth and a twist of lemon for the perfect afternoon sipping cocktail.
Best vodka for a Martini: Skyy
10. Crystal Head
Its one of a kind bottle shape makes Crystal Head a talking point no matter whether you’re enjoying it at the bar or mixed it into a cocktail at home. Although technically an unflavoured vodka, Crystal Head is known for its slight sweetness. This vodka comes from California and is distilled from a variety of corn called “peaches and cream” before being filtered through layers of quartz crystals known as Herkimer diamonds.
It uses glacial water from Newfoundland to produce a deliciously flavourful vodka with notes of cake frosting and toasted corn. Other notes include peach, black pepper, lemon and other fruits. It’s so smooth that it’s almost creamy, with hints of vanilla throughout and a unique bottle to display it in. Crystal Head is an award-winning brand and it’s easy to see why.
Make the most of this subtle sweetness by using Crystal Head for the perfect Cosmopolitan. Mix it with triple sec, cranberry juice and freshly squeezed or sweetened lime juice before shaking with ice into a cocktail glass and serving with a lime wedge.
Filtered seven times and bottled without any additives, Crystal Head deserves its position as an eye-catching vodka on the top shelf.
Best vodka for a Cosmopolitan: Crystal Head
11. Spirytus Rektyfikowany
The strongest vodka in the world, and also the strongest commercially-available alcohol in the world, comes from Polish Distillery Spirytus. This vodka has a huge 192 Proof or 96% ABV and is made up of premium ethyl alcohol with an agricultural cereal origin. While its ridiculously high alcohol percentage means Spirytus can’t be drunk neat, it can work as a good base for cocktails when used minimally.
Spirytus is often used to add to home-made fruit and herbal liqueurs or vodkas and to desserts. Its high alcohol base means that Spirytus certainly comes with a bite and should not be drunk without being heavily diluted first.
Its name translates literally to “alcohol” in Polish and, in its home country, is usually used for infusing Polish medicinal tinctures called Nalewka.
Strongest vodka: Spirytus
Buyers guide to vodka
How is vodka made?
As a relatively straightforward spirit, vodka can be distilled from virtually anything. It’s mostly produced by fermenting potatoes or cereal grains like wheat or rye. The majority of plain vodkas – and almost all Russian vodkas – are created with wheat, while Polish vodka favours rye and Finnish vodka goes for barley. When vodka is produced using something other than potato or cereal grain, like Ciroc, which is made using grapes, it must legally be declared on the bottle.
To make vodka, the potato or grain is heated to form a mash before being mixed with yeast to produce ethanol. This fermentation process can take anything from one day to two weeks before the liquid is purified to remove any odours or off notes. Then, it’s distilled in column stills or pot stills to reach its desired purity.
The vodka, at 95.6 percent, is then diluted to around 50% with purified or spring water before being distilled again, at which point infusions can be added. The spirit is finished in the pot before common additives like honey or sugar are added. Before the final step, every bottle of vodka goes through a particle filter before it’s chilled and sold.
What are the different types of vodka?
There are three types of vodka on the market, and the main difference between the three simply boils down to what’s been included during the infusion process or what’s been added after the distillation process.
High-quality vodkas are 96.5 percent alcohol, while lower quality bottles are 95 percent. A bottle of plain vodka involves only two ingredients – ethanol and water, at 60 percent and 40 percent respectively. Plain vodka is the most popular cocktail spirit in the world due to its lack of flavour and any strong aromas or tastes come from the distilling process rather than the spirit itself.
Infusing vodka with fruits or herbs lengthens the creation process by around three weeks. These vodkas have much stronger flavour profiles than plain vodka and can be found on the market in different colours with varying aromas. It’s a similar process to what’s done when producing gin (as vodka and gin production start off the same way) and results in any number of different varieties.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to flavoured vodka; a spirit that’s ever-growing in popularity as brands and distilleries discover new combinations and exciting flavour profiles. It’s possible to flavour vodka with almost anything, ranging from more traditional (artificial) fruits to unique and creative offerings like salted caramel, bacon or chocolate.
How to drink vodka
There are many ways to enjoy vodka but the main thing to ensure is that it’s enjoyed ice cold. Before drinking vodka or preparing any vodka-based cocktails, store the bottle in the freezer for a few hours.
As alcohol has a much lower freezing point than vodka, there’s no need to worry about it getting too cold. Freezing the vodka will remove any harsh flavours and softens the aroma and taste.
If sipping vodka, pour it into a small tumbler for optimum flavour. Swirl it in the glass and take a small sip as the flavours rest on your palate.
There are plenty of popular vodka-based cocktails to enjoy. Some common favourites are the Cosmopolitan, Martini, Bloody Mary, Gimlet and White Russian. Or, keep it simple in a highball glass with a vodka soda or vodka tonic.
The top five best brands of vodka
Belvedere is the result of 600 years of Polish vodka-making tradition. The brand, owned by LVMH, is named after Belweder, the Polish presidential palace in Warsaw and is produced in one of the world’s longest continuously operating Polish distilleries. The brand maintains strict production guidelines to keep its consistently premium taste, ensuring that each step of the process occurs on Polish soil, using locally-sourced raw ingredients. It’s also the only vodka brand to be awarded the Positive Luxury Butterfly Mark, which recognises its commitment to quality craftsmanship and environmental responsibility.
The second most popular vodka in the world, Absolut is sold in 126 countries and has made a name for itself as a premium vodka without a premium price tag. Absolut is produced using only natural ingredients and is made from 100 percent Swedish wheat. The brand is known for its boldness and creativity, from its unusual-shaped bottle to its out-there marketing campaigns and variety of flavoured bottles. It launched in New York in 1979 and has stuck to the same recipe throughout its entire production period. Absolut maintains its status as a unique vodka with cool and calm Scandinavian roots.
Grey Goose uses single origin Picardie wheat and water from its natural limestone well in Gensac-La-Pallue to produce a smooth vodka with a classic taste. Its expertise comes from years of experience: the Maître de Chais for the brand is François Thibault, who developed the original recipe for the vodka in Cognac, France. It’s a popular choice behind the bar and its high quality makes it an excellent vodka for sipping neat or mixing into a cocktail. Its ingredients can be traced back for at least 11 generations and the brand prides itself on ensuring that the only liquid to touch the inside of a Grey Goose bottle is the vodka itself.
Crystal Head vodka was founded by actor Dan Aykroyd and artist John Alexander in 2007 and is produced using Rochester sour patch corn. It is filtered seven times, using layers of layers of semi-precious crystals known as Herkimer diamonds for three of those times. Crystal Head contains no additives, glycerol, citrus oils or sugars, meaning that the taste of the vodka is entirely pure and authentic. However, the corn used in its production process lends a sweetness to the vodka that’s not found in other brands. It’s a premium spirit recognised for its unique bottle and versatility in cocktails.
Beluga is known for being a super-premium vodka that’s produced from 100% wheat grain. It’s a stylish brand that uses quartz sand filtration and a 30-day resting period in its production process, ensuring top quality vodka. Worthy of its high price point, it’s a delicious and exclusive vodka that, when found, should only really be enjoyed neat. Beluga is created at the Mariinsk Distillery, in the heart of Siberia; one of the most environmentally clean and tranquil areas of Russia. This distillery uses cutting-edge equipment and advanced quality control systems at every stage of production to keep the Beluga brand at the forefront of the ultra-premium vodka category.
The most expensive vodka brands in the world
Billionaire Vodka – $7.25 million
Owned by renowned designer Leon Verres, Billionaire Vodka is the most expensive vodka brand in the world. As well as being produced with an original Russian recipe, the spirit is filtered with diamonds. It comes decorated with almost two thousand diamonds set in gold and, despite the price tag, is sold out worldwide.
The Eye of the Dragon – $5.5 million
Hong Kong-based Dutch company Royal Dragon released The Eye of the Dragon with a determination to make it spectacular inside and out. This vodka is one of the smoothest on the market, thanks to its distillation process, and uses charcoal to distil the spirit five times. Outside, the bottle is covered with 50-carat intense yellow jewels with around 15,000 diamonds weighing 2 kilogrammes (4.5 pounds) of solid 18-karat gold. The dragon on top of the bottle is also studded with millions-worth of diamonds.
Russo-Baltique Vodka – $1.3 million
Russo-Baltique’s vodka comes with a hectic past: one bottle was stolen from Copenhagen’s vodka museum, Cafe 33, while another was debuted in Netflix series House of Cards. The brand released the vodka to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary and it comes in a bulletproof bottle with a flask made out of the radiator guards from vintage Russo-Baltique automobiles.
DIVA Premium Vodka – $1 million
DIVA doesn’t use gold in its vodka production, but it does involve precious stones for a truly luxurious taste. This brand, a favourite amongst celebrities, is distilled multiple times to ensure a smooth flavour profile and comes with more precious stones stored inside the bottle. Once empty, the stones can be kept as a keepsake.
Kors Vodka 24k, George V Limited Edition – $24,500
Kors combines delicious vodka and history in its bottles. Each bottle is handmade out of crystal and its recipe is an ancient one ordered by Russia’s Czar Nicholas II. It’s thought that the Czar created it as the perfect-tasting vodka using a complex method involving solid gold pipes and infusing it with diamonds. Its limited edition label comes from the fact that only 250 bottles of this vodka were ever released.
Terminology: the key terms to know when buying vodka
ABV: Alcohol By Volume — the percentage of ethanol in a beverage.
Charcoal Filtered: Filtering with charcoal is thought to remove off-flavours in vodka after the distilling process before the spirit is bottled and sold. This helps to produce a more premium flavour with smoother notes.
Distillation: A process where liquid is heated and cooled for purity.
Neutral spirit: A term for a spirit that’s without distinctive character, aroma, taste or colour. While most vodkas might be regarded as neutral, they still aren’t technically neutral spirits.
Proof: Another term for measuring the alcoholic content of a beverage. The proof is double the alcohol by volume (ABV) measurement.
Vodka belt: The Vodka Belt is the part of Europe where around 70 percent of the world’s vodka is produced. It includes the Nordic states (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland), Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania) as well as Russia, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine.
Methodology: How we select, test, and rank the best vodkas
Vodka has kept its title as one of the most popular spirits in the world for many years, which means there are hundreds of different brands to choose from. However, while there are more brands to sample than we could ever reasonably sip, there are a handful that are known for being consistently excellent.
When we put together the 2020 guide of the best vodka brands, we looked at all of the new vodka brands that have joined the market in recent years as well as those that have kept their title of success for a longer period of time. We looked at the process used for distilling the spirit, the number of times each bottle was distilled as well as any unique factors included during this process.
We took into account the quality of the grain, potato or other base product used by each brand as well as its sustainability and whether or not the alcohol was produced locally. Then, we factored in the price of each bottle, its purpose and versatility, and its range of flavours and aromas.
Frequently Asked Questions about vodkas
The top 10 vodkas, renowned for their flavour profiles, smoothness and use of high-quality distillation methods, are: Belvedere, Beluga, Grey Goose, Crystal Head, Hangar 1, Ciroc, Absolut, Ketel One, Pinnacle,
The smoothest vodka is Belvedere vodka, which is almost velvety on the tongue and has a premium flavour to match.
Tito’s is a multi-billion-dollar “small batch” brand and is a bestselling vodka in the United States. It’s a smooth vodka filled with character that comes at a good price. It’s known for its sweet, black pepper and corn notes and is a popular choice across the world.
As a spirit famed for its lack of strong flavours, vodka’s versatility means it goes well with most mixers. To bring out the notes of the spirit, go for soda and a squeeze of lime or pair it with tonic water. For a more flavourful drink, orange juice or grapefruit juice both mix well with vodka.
The best tasting vodka is Hangar 1 Fog Point, a small-batch vodka with notes of pear, citrus and honeysuckle. Drink it neat for best results.