Shaken or stirred? Olive or twist? Few cocktail conversations feel as tired as those concerning how you “should” enjoy a Martini. (Make and drink it however you damn please!) Yet one area remains where the record should be set straight: gin versus vodka.
While purists will forever side with juniper-laced gin, no longer is this a question of clear-cut quality. Liquor stores stock dozens of impressive vodka brands, and the category brims with options that deliver distinct — if subtle — character. Things haven’t always been this way but the vodka Martini can now be so much more than a flavorless alcohol delivery vehicle.
From rice- and rye-based bottles to brands pushing to highlight terroir, here are the seven best vodkas for Martinis.
Distilled from rice and filtered through bamboo charcoal, this Japanese vodka has an attractive floral character and a pleasantly sweet finish. While it dazzles when paired with dry vermouth, mixing with sake only enhances the distinctive character of rice. Average price: $28.
This winter-wheat-based vodka arrives at a precise 42.3 percent ABV, which proves to be the perfect pitch for both its grain flavors and bold texture to shine. The higher-than-average ABV also allows this vodka to hold its own when mixed with a heavier glug of vermouth. Average price: $35.
Belvedere Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest
Belvedere’s Single Estate rye bottlings advance the conversation of vodka displaying character to whether or not that character can be representative of a place. While tasting neat reveals the acute differences between its Lake and Forest expressions, that shouldn’t detract from the exceptional Martini these vodkas yield. Our preference lies with the Forest for its relatively bolder profile and botanical-like finish. Average price: $35.
Citrus notes dance around the edge of the palate while a solid briny core holds everything together. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s hard to recall any other vodka that so perfectly offers the chance to enjoy a Martini with both an olive and twist garnish. Average price: $37.
An enjoyable bite of rye grips the finish of this Polish vodka, while notes of black pepper and brown bread define the palate. The mix of savory and spice demands a juicy Castelvetrano olive garnish. Average price: $ 27.
Lithe and clean on the palate, this wheat-based vodka carries a zesty citrus note from start to finish. If your preferred serve is exceedingly dry and garnished with a twist, look no further. Average price: $30.
Humboldt Distillery Organic Vodka
This sugar cane-based California vodka is made with 100 percent certified organic ingredients. The unusual choice of base distillate lends a sweet, fruity profile, which pairs particularly well with expressive craft vermouths. Average price: $20.