Vodka is a paradoxical spirit. It leads spirit sales in America in terms of volume, and has done so for the last 40 years. Yet it holds none of the cultural cachet of whiskey or tequila. Browse liquor store shelves and you’ll discover more flavored iterations than all other spirits categories combined. But when it comes to judging quality, we instead base our opinions of a bottle on its lack of flavor.
In recent years, that last factor has changed. Fueled by craft producers turning to new base ingredients, and global brands attempting to showcase terroir in their distillates, flavor and flavored now hold two very different definitions in vodka. Even the TTB now recognizes that vodka can exhibit distinct character.
Not all brands are going down this route, it should be noted. The best bottles currently available typically fall into two camps: vodkas that subtly highlight the profile of their base ingredients and vodkas that leave almost no trace on the palate, especially in terms of alcoholic burn.
No matter the camp you prefer, the category has come a long way from the lack of flavor, aroma, and taste that it was once known for. Here are the 20 best vodkas to drink right now.
Broken Shed New Zealand Vodka
Distilled from whey protein, this vodka is neutral and well balanced, with a clean, minerally finish. With barely any noticeable flavors or aromas, the complete lack of scent and taste of alcohol feels all the more remarkable. Average price: $24.
Chopin Potato Vodka
This Polish potato vodka is a standout in the clean and neutral camp, and most notable is its bold, full-bodied texture. Each sip is almost creamy, bringing an extra dimension for cocktail creation. Average price: $24.
Cutwater ‘Fugu’ Vodka
While Tito’s propelled corn-based vodka into the mainstream, this option from California’s Cutwater Spirits offers a more refined alternative. A citrus zing on the finish points to highballs and Martinis with a twist. This vodka also provides the base spirit for one of our favorite canned cocktails. Average price: $21.
At a little over $10 per bottle, this is the vodka to turn to when looking to get the most bang for buck. A subtle sweetness punctuates its overwhelming neutral profile, while a sprinkling of black pepper brings spice to the finish. Average price: $13.
Prairie Organic Vodka
“Farm-crafted” and “organic” are relatively new terms in the vodka world, and almost nonexistent at the below-$20 price point. The quality of this rich, flavorsome spirit quells any fears they’re used simply for marketing purposes. This vodka punches well above its weight. Average price: $17.
Taking full advantage of Iceland’s glacial spring water and volcanic rocks (for filtration), this vodka arrives impeccably clean on the palate. While neutral in character, its quality still shines in an inextricable though enjoyable manner. Average price: $18.
Ketel One Vodka
Distilled from wheat in column and pot stills, this approachable vodka charms with a rounded, balanced profile. Each sip coats the palate with soft, silky texture. A gently sweet finish rounds things off with a smile. Average price: $23.
There’s a surprising richness to the aromas of this soft winter wheat–based spirit. It’s a great preview of what’s in store on the palate: enjoyable grain flavors and bold texture. The higher-than-average ABV (42.3 percent) and characterful nature of this vodka make it a no-brainer for Martinis. Average price: $35.
Belvedere Heritage 176
Though not technically classed as one (it’s a malted rye spirit), for all intents and purposes this is a vodka — and it’s up there with the absolute best. (Learn more about its production and classification in a standalone review.) Faint aromas of malted rye will be familiar to whiskey drinkers, while gentle fruity tones developed during fermentation have been maintained through careful distillation. The palate delivers complex and evolving malt flavors, and more intrigue than you’ve probably ever experienced while drinking vodka. Average price: $35.
Chase Original Potato Vodka
Another great option for Martinis, this vodka has a robust, clean profile, with zesty citrus notes and a subtle saline streak. It begs the question: Why choose between a twist and olive garnish when you can have both? Average price: $37.
Cîroc Snap Frost Vodka
This iconic grape-based French vodka serves more fruitiness on the nose than any other bottle. Clean and pure wafts of grape distillate emanate from the glass. The palate lands with weight, and once again more pronounced fruitiness than all the alternatives, with an incredible burst of citrus on the finish. Average price: $31.
Crystal Head Vodka
Hearing Crystal Head’s eccentric founder Dan Aykroyd speak of the precious stones used to filter this corn-based vodka could draw skepticism. But whether that, the quadruple distillation, or the Newfoundland water used for proofing, the glacial-like quality of this vodka gleams like a diamond. Average price: $47.
A spray of citrus oil precedes the exceptionally fresh palate of this smooth-sipping, wheat-based vodka. Neutral and versatile, this bottle will blend in nicely to any cocktail ranging from the simple vodka soda to shaken Vespers. Average price: $29.
Distilled from rice, the grain’s distinctive character immediately stands out here, before delicate floral flavors ignite the taste buds. Enjoy mixed with sake in a dry Martini. Average price: $28.
Hanson of Sonoma Organic Vodka
This grape-based vodka goes through seven runs in the still and sees five filtrations before bottling. Despite this, much of the character of grapes is maintained. It kicks off with strong floral and candy aromas, before a sweet finish rounds out the silky palate. Average price: $27.
Neft Black Barrel Vodka
Distilled from rye, this Austrian vodka offers another shining example of the clear-cut character the category can deliver. Toasted sourdough aromas define the nose, before an approachable palate that finishes with a prickle rye spice. Average price: $29.
St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka
Bartlett pears provide the base for this luxurious sipping vodka. While a subtle floral note emerges on the palate, it is the spirit’s velvet texture that really stands out. This is an affordable upgrade on almost all other bottles on the market. Average price: $27.
Vibrant grain notes leap from the glass, before a palate that is mellow and well rounded with an unexpected spiced finish. The noticeable character ensures this bottle will add more than booze to cocktails. Average price: $27.
Tommyrotter Small Batch Vodka
Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion lent by this bottle’s vibrant yellow label, but pour a few ounces and the mind is instantly swept to lemon groves. The citrus zing continues on the palate, confirming its suitability for dry Martinis with a twist. Average price: $30.
Barr Hill Vodka
Distilled from Vermont honey, this vodka is admittedly pricey but packs a punch on the flavor front. Its aromas recall fresh flowers and a spray of ocean water. Each sip lands on the palate with luxurious weight, and both the texture and flavor feel like a dollop of honey has been mixed into the bottle (it hasn’t). This one’s a sipper. Average price: $57.