Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vodka Review: The Good, the Bad and the Overrated

In my last post, I talked about vodka in general. Here, we’re going to talk about some different brands and I’m going to discuss their quality. Again, a lot of this is my opinion, however a well informed one, and not the absolute truth.

The point of this article is to point people in a direction and provide them a foundation to form their own opinions by giving my interpretation and a bunch of facts, which has been informed by lots of different sources and research, instead of just marketing, guessing or just not knowing, which is the norm.

There are loads of different choices for vodka out there- it's the most heavily consumed liquor in the US. So how do you choose which to order? Hopefully by now, you have given up the rail brands and this question has come into your mind once or twice.

A quick preface and overall principle for us to keep in mind: a vodka's quality is determined by 2 main factors:
1) How well it is distilled (more on that in the reviews)
2) The quality and purity of water used (I don't mention this one much because, yeah, duh, don't use pond water)

So lets get into it!

The Best Deal
When I first wrote this post in 2010, Tito's was hard to find. Now it's everywhere and people actually order it by name. The vodka gods are good...

I love a good deal, so it’s no surprise that I would pick to write about the vodka that fits into this category first.

Tito's Handmade wins lots of big taste test competitions and receives super high ratings from all these prestigious vodka test bureaus. It is not only delicious, but inexpensive and is the one that I recommend for all of my private event hosts.

Tito's is an American vodka from Austin, TX called. It's distilled a whopping 6 times (twice as many times as Grey Goose) and crushes most of the other vodkas you hear people asking for at the bat. It also uses a different and more effective distillation process than common mass produced vodkas, making each distillation that much more effective. It's affordable too- a little over $30 for 1.75L. Yee-haa!

Runner Up for Best Deal
Stolichnaya! Huh? It’s Stoli for short- I had no idea what Stolichnaya was the first time I heard it until someone told me that it’s the same thing as Stoli. This is very high quality vodka that is great for mixed drinks and good enough to drink on the rocks.

Stoli also has a bunch of flavored vodkas. Stoli O and Blueberry are great, but I personally think the others are gross. Especially the apple one. See a little below for my favorite flavored vodka. Yum.

The Best Tasting
Let me preface here. Vodka isn't actually supposed to have a taste (if it's good). But I think that's totally stupid and haven't ever had a vodka with NO taste at all. So lets get real and talk about the best tasting.

Have you ever tried Chopin vodka? It's amazing. I won’t say that it’s the best ever because I haven’t tried every vodka in the world, but I’d say that it’s the best tasting.

It’s smooth and barely burns. Chopin is Polish and one of the few vodkas actually still made from potatoes- in fact 7 potatoes are used for each bottle. I know, I know, we’re chugging this stuff, getting wasted and then throwing it up later while kids are starving in Africa.

SO, if you like to drink a vodka martini or vodka on the rocks, I’d highly recommend trying Chopin at least once. But don't mix it with other flavors (like juice) because it’s pretty much a waste of money, good vodka and potatoes. Think of it this way- every time you mix Chopin with something other than a little water, a starving child in the former Soviet Union cries.

[NEW CATEGORY for 2018] The Best Flavored Vodka
Flavored vodka was NOT a thing when I first wrote this article in 2010. But now it is and I'm stoked. And before I say the winner, let me just profess my love for this flavored vodka thing. It makes the possibilities for crazy ass drinks endless.

OK, here's the winner: Pinnacle. Do they have really high quality vodka? Not really. Do they distill the alcohol a whole bunch of times? Who cares. Do they have en epic selection of flavors? HELL YEAH!

Here are some of my favorite flavors:
-Salted Caramel
-Pumpkin Pie (my #1 favorite and one that I've used to come up with a bunch of basic ass fall cocktails. E.g. Pumpkin Martini, Pumpkin Latte Martini and A Seasonal Kick in the A$$).
-Double Espresso

To the right's a picture I took of a lot more flavors in a mega-liquor store in Delaware:

The only other flavored vodka that comes close is Three Olives. Only because they have a Fruit Loop flavor. OK, that's enough on this one.

The Fanciest That's Easy to Fined
Chopin is the best tasting, but hard to find in a lot of bars and a shade more expensive than a lot of other really good vodkas. So what is the best if you either can’t find Chopin or feel like saving $1.75 per drink?

Belvedere. Belvy is a great vodka that does awesome in lots of vodka contests. It’s from Poland and distilled 4 times in an especially slow distillation process. Additionally, the water added to the vodka goes through an 11 step water purification process. In other words, it’s delish- try it out sometime.

Side Note: We used to go to a club that had free Belvedere from 9pm-10pm Friday night (and no cover charge). Needless to say, Friday's got pretty messy. My liver thanks them for stopping that promotion.

Want to buy some great vodka and get it delivered to your door? In an hour? And get $5 off? Check out Drizly. It's the only way I buy alcohol anymore.

The Overrated
There are actually 2 vodkas out there that are HIGHLY overrated and that you may likely order.

In fact, as you were reading through the couple of best vodkas above, you may have been thinking, “what about ____?” That’s probably because ____ is one of the overrated vodkas out there. So what are they already? The number one overrated vodkas is… DRUMROLL!!!

Grey Goose. Right now you may be thinking something along the lines of, “what, no, I love Goose, it’s such a good vodka!” or “it has to be good, it’s expensive and I’ve paid a lot for it!” or “everyone else thinks it’s good, you’re wrong David!” These are normal things to think after finding out that you have been deceived into thinking a mediocre vodka is very good and you have been grossly overpaying for it all this time.

Grey Goose is distilled only 3 times (like many so-so quality vodkas) and does poorly in most vodka competitions. It is an overall mediocre product. BUT, they are excellent marketers, put it in a pretty bottle and managed to fool lots of people that their vodka is the Shizzle. Sorry folks, it’s not. It's more like shizzle, not THE shizzle. If you are still pissed or don’t believe me, I’m not alone- read this forum.

There are 2 overrated vodkas- the second is Absolut. In most people’s minds, Absolut is a pretty good vodka. However, the actual quality of the product is very poor- about a half shade better than the rail crap.

I know, it’s got a pretty bottle, it’s well known, has lots of flavors and all of those sweet ads in magazines and on bus stops: “Absolut [insert artsy word with clever matching picture here].” You’ve again been victimized by awesome marketing. Sorry. Next time you see one of those ads, think, “Absolut Rail” with a picture of dirt, sand and fingernails floating around in the bottle instead.

Now you may be wondering amongst your shock and disgust, “what do I drink instead of Absolut?” Anything, bro. Just about anything.

The Worst
So there are a couple of bottom of the barrel vodkas too. One, as I already mentioned is Absolut. Sorry to all of you Absolut fans out there, but at least it’s the best of the crappy vodkas. Also, there are the no-name rail brands. I already talked about why to avoid them here.
Some rail brands include Vladimir and Aristocrat. Also, stay away from the other “house” brands or ones in plastic bottles. And the CVS brand vodka too. OK, that’s enough about the worst vodkas… gross.

The Mediocre
These are the medium grade vodkas, where the product and price are the middle of the road. The best example I can think of, and you may not agree, is Smirnoff vodka- the product is so-so and the price is moderate. As I talked about earlier, Grey Goose is another medium quality vodka that is priced and marketed as premium quality. Sorry Goose fans, but hey, at least it’s got the prettiest bottle out of the so-so brands. Anyway, I have a hard time getting excited and writing a lot about mediocrity. In closing, please order or buy these if you are feeling cheap (like I often do) instead of the rail brands.

Hip-Hop’s Favorite Vodkas
There are two vodkas that seem to be the preference of rappers, which in turn, seem to have made these vodkas popular among those who seek to emulate the hip-hop personae or are particularly immersed in hip-hop culture. Said differently, these are popular vodkas for getting your “thug life on.”

One rapper preferred vodka is Ciroc- a French vodka made from grapes (not a lot of vodkas are) that is distilled 5 times. It’s officially endorsed by Sean “Puffy” Combs, AKA P. Diddy- a famous rapper and hip-hop tycoon. Promo pictures of Puffy and Ciroc like the one here are everywhere. He even gets paid thousands of dollars to go to big clubs, take pictures with bottles of Ciroc and drink it for a few hours that night. This is also why people mean Ciroc when they order a “P. Diddy and cranberry.” There are a million adjectives flying through my head right now to describe ordering the drink this way- please pick your own.

The other most rapper preferred vodka is Grey Goose. If I hear one more rapper rhyme “Goose” with “loose,” I’m going to deduce that it’s time to kick their caboose until they vamoose without an excuse- fo realz. I love rap music and hear these words rhymed together way too often. So, if you are looking to maintain your hip-hop personae, take it to the next level or fit in with rappers, make sure that you drink these vodkas- just don't lose your chain or dew rag if you get too crunk.

In Closing
This has been my most opinion-based blog posting yet. When people read opinions that do not match their own, they get pissed off or annoyed. I’m sure there are angry folk now with differing opinions about vodka and you think your opinion is the right one. That’s fine and if yours is different- cool, lets go drinking and we can share some knowledge!


P.S. Here are more Absolut ads that I thought were cool. You can look at a bunch more here.


  1. Jason- Sorry, I accidentally deleted your comment.

    I don't know VOX very well. Lets drink it sometime and learn!
    I looked into it- it's distilled 5 times. Very nice.

    1. hi so what's your rating on ciroc or effen

  2. What vodka would you recommend for a clan rally?

  3. and you aren't going to mention Kettle One? A to the Mazing

  4. Hey, I just got some tito's at the liquor store on Connecticut and (I think) P, thanks to your advice. I hope it's good.

  5. What about Russian Standard Original? I like it and it costs the same as Stoli.

  6. Hey, I stumbled upon this blog by...well wasn't really chance, since I was looking for any writings regarding "poor"/"quality" vodkas.

    A few points. The font color does NOT work with the grey background, I can hardly see anything :D

    Secondly, I just did a vodka BLIND TASTE regarding different styles of vodkas. Fair enough, there weren't any super-premium "branded" vodkas there, but hell, do take a look from my blog.



  7. I rock Titos at home. Its the best vodka I have ever had and recommend it to all of my bar regulars.

  8. If you are wondering good and popular brands of vodka, then check this list at I think the guy who created this list has done a great job and has listed every single brand of Vodka one can think off.

  9. Thanks for sharing this great post. I really enjoyed while reading.

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  10. I disagree with most of what's written here. More distilling does NOT make a better vodka! "We hear this (more distilling is better) from a lot of both brands and consumers. But according to Abou-Ganim, this isn’t true. For one, each company defines exactly what constitutes a single distillation, and every distillery is set up differently. And if a vodka is over-distilled, there’s a risk of stripping out all the “flavor, aroma and character of the base ingredients,” he says. What you’re left with is essentially pure alcohol."

    Tito's does nothing for me, nor does Smirnoff. I do enjoy Absolut and the Goose straight, on the rocks. David, you're probably a fantastic bartender, but I'll skip your ingredient recommendations.

  11. So I know this post is almost 6 yrs old, but I just wanted to say that this was super helpful. Hopefully now I can enjoy vodka w/ feeling the need to empty the contents of my stomach ;D

    But mostly, I wanted to make a teensy correction. Tito's was actually founded n is distilled in Austin, not San Antonio. I'm from San Antonio, so it's actually super easy to find. N also, we're south central Texas, we don't say "yee-haw" there are too many city dwelling Tex Mex people for that kind nonsense in this area. XD

    Anyway, cheers, thanks for the info!

  12. Thanks for all the great recommendations! As a native Austinite, it's good to know that so many others are a fan of Tito's Vodka, which is actually from Austin and not San Antonio. The creator, Tito himself, is from San Antonio, but now lives in Austin which is where the vodka is made. We're thankful it's plentiful here, and also happy to have your other recommendations.

  13. Thanks for all the great recommendations! As a native Austinite, it's good to know that so many others are a fan of Tito's Vodka, which is actually from Austin and not San Antonio (we Texans have our pride). The creator, Tito himself, is from San Antonio, but now lives in Austin which is where the vodka is made. We're thankful it's plentiful here, and also happy to have your other recommendations.

  14. I'd love to read all those lovely comments, but this yellow on grey thing is making it impossible.

  15. Good info. Are you familiar with any local or regional vodka brands?

  16. Tito's is sold at all NH liquor stores. 1.75L is $33 regular price, currently on sale for $29 for the holiday's.

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