in

Top Shelf Vodkas to Stock Your Bar

The smoothest vodkas to sip straight or in a cocktail

It is a common misconception that vodka is just a drink for college students and young women. The truth is that vodka, like any other liquor, takes quite a bit of artistry to distill, requiring careful ingredient selection and an understanding of how to measure out water and ethanol.

Bottle of Absolut Vodka, a brand of vodka

But first: what is vodka, exactly? Like other spirits, vodka comes from filtering liquid through the fermented mash of cereal grains like corn, millet, wheat, or rye.

But unlike scotch or bourbon, which acquire their distinctive flavors from the barrels in which distilleries store them, vodka is notable for being highly purified and treated with charcoal.

Vodka is the main liquor in many popular cocktails, so find your favorite vodka brand to improve your mixed drinks!

Best Vodka Brands

Read on to learn all about the very best vodka on the market. 

Grey Goose Vodka

Grey Goose is an excellent vodka that is most notable for its clean, almost silky flavor, making it a strong option if you are looking for a top-shelf vodka.

Grey Goose’s refined flavor comes from its thorough preparation process.

Grey Goose makes their vodka from high-quality French winter wheat and alpine spring water and distills the vodka five times to impart the spirit with a smooth and clean taste, with just a hint of sweetness. Even better,

Grey Goose does not have the burning flavor that you get in lower quality vodkas, making it easy to keep on drinking for as long as you want.

Grey Goose also offers flavors including pear, orange, lemon, and more.


Ketel One Vodka

Ketel One Vodka is a superb vodka. It is both reliable and affordable, making it a great go-to brand.

This vodka is simple: a smooth vodka with no excessive flavors or features. 

Because of its clean and fresh taste, I suggest trying Ketel One Vodka out chilled with ice.

If you prefer to not drink vodka straight, a minimalist cocktail like a martini or vodka tonic is the best option.

The natural flavor of the vodka is too crisp and satisfying to mask it with excessive mixers.


Belvedere Vodka

Belvedere is the first Polish vodka on our list, and it’s also one of the best vodkas that money can buy.

Belvedere distills their vodka from a mash made of Polish rye and spring water, and its flavor is sharpened even further by Belvedere’s charcoal filtration process.

It’s not literally “distilled by fire,” as the Belvedere website snappily says, but it’s pretty darn close.

In terms of flavor, Belvedere aims to push the flavors of nature to the forefront, and they succeed with their main vodka, which has a smooth and starchy body.


Absolut Vodka

Absolut is a Swedish vodka, which is apparent from its taste.

Like other Swedish vodka makers, Absolut makes vodka from winter wheat, but what sets it apart is its gentle aromas and clean taste–not to mention its zero added sugar.

In addition, Absolut is an exceptionally strong brand because of its low price point.

Typically, buying high-quality vodka means that you need to pay a top-shelf price, but a bottle of Absolut costs between $20 and $30.

This means that you will not need to break the bank for a good taste of vodka.

Absolut offers a wide variety of additional flavors, including watermelon, lime, citrus, grapefruit, and many more.


Stolichnaya Elit Vodka

Stolichnaya Elit Vodka is a luxury vodka brand.

This high-end vodka is distilled three times and filtered through a combination of charcoal and quartz sand.

This vodka has a robust flavor profile, and an experience vodka drinker will be able to notice a variety of tasting notes.

The drink has a slightly sweet lemon aroma, and the strongest flavors include almond and vanilla.

Elit Vodka is quite smooth but has enough pepperiness to feel satisfying. This vodka can be prepared neat or used in a quality cocktail of your choice. 


Beluga Vodka

Beluga markets itself as a super-premium vodka that’s “Created, not made.” Considering the brand’s extensive production process, this makes sense:

Beluga makes vodka by filtering Russian malt with the crystal-clear water of an icy Siberian well, filtering the liquid again through a quartz-sand filtration system, and then letting it rest for 30 days.

The result is that all of Beluga’s vodka has an almost odorless and exceptionally clean taste –this is certainly not the rubbing-alcohol-flavored vodka you would drink in college.

There are also slightly sweet hints of vanilla and honey for those vodka sommeliers with a refined palate.


Chopin Potato Vodka

Chopin boasts that it is the most awarded potato vodka, and it makes sense why.

On the outside, you have a stylish bottle design that looks like it belongs in the world of high fashion (which is appropriate since Chopin has also entered into a partnership with Vera Wang).

Chopin has a creamy, earthy taste and slick finish, making it an excellent addition to any number of top-notch cocktails.

We recommend mixing it into a cocktail with herbs like rosemary or into a fruity-fizzy spritzer.

On the production end, Chopin stands out for its commitment to artisanal quality and local flavors: the company works in a centuries-old distillery where it produces all its vodkas by hand, with ingredients from within thirty miles of the distillery.


Cîroc Vodka

Cîroc Vodka is a French vodka that sets itself apart from its competitors with a grape-based recipe.

This quality vodka is made with fine white grapes and distilled five times. 

This vodka has a strong flavor, but after the first sip, you will discover some interesting flavor notes.

Some of the most notable flavors include lemon, herbs, and licorice.

Since this vodka can have a slightly bitter finish, it can be a little strange to drink straight. Cîroc Vodka does best with a citrus mixer, such as in a bellini or mixed with lemonade.


Crystal Head Vodka

For a smooth, top-shelf vodka, Crystal Head Vodka is a fantastic treat.

This Canadian brand may be celebrity-owned (co-owners Dan Aykroyd and John Alexander founded the company in 2008), but the product is extremely professional with strong attention to quality.

Crystal Head Vodka has a pure, almost sweet flavor.

There is a hint of lemon freshness, as well as a delicious vanilla undertone.

Despite the subtle sweetness, you still get the desired kick you want from vodka. The finish is peppery and warm, making for a satisfying beverage. 


Russian Standard Platinum Vodka

Russian Standard is the classic Russian vodka brand. If you want hardcore traditional Russian vodka, this is the brand to look for.

The vodka is smooth, unflavored, and made with extreme precision.

Russian Standard Vodka has a distinctively fresh aroma, almost like grass.

The body is light and bright with a soothing warm finish. This vodka won’t have your throat burning, and can even be sipped slowly for a pleasant drinking experience.

With such a neutral flavor, you could also use Russian Standard Vodka in any cocktail you choose, although it’s always nice to make a nod toward tradition with a Russian Mule


Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Tito’s Handmade Vodka is an extremely successful vodka brand.

This Austin, Texas, vodka is made in small craft batches with careful attention to flavor and purity.

Furthermore, for such a well-made beverage, it is shockingly affordable, making it a favorite for many vodka fans.

Tito’s can be drunk straight up, but it serves as a wonderful base for vodka cocktails.

Since it’s a Texas vodka, it works well with Tex-Mex inspired cocktails, utilizing lime and tropical fruit flavors. It’s also a popular vodka for a Bloody Mary and a vodka tonic. 


Hangar 1 Straight Vodka

Hangar 1 Straight Vodka is an American variation on grape-based vodka and is made by The Hangar 1 Distillery in California.

This vodka is distilled in small batches, made with the utmost care and attention.

In terms of flavor, Hangar 1 Straight Vodka is slightly sweet with floral hints but mainly sticks to a traditional vodka flavor.

It doesn’t have any strange chemical or oily features, which is indicative of its high quality. This is an overall excellent vodka that can do well in any cocktail.

However, this vodka is so smooth and has so much depth of flavor that it’s worth it to drink it straight, as the name suggests.


Haku Vodka

Haku Vodka is a Japanese vodka made with rice. Rice vodka has a distinctive flavor that is worth trying if you are interested in vodka variations.

Haku Vodka is sweet and floral and has none of the bitterness that you can find with lower quality grain-based vodkas.

Key flavor notes include sweet rice with a hint of floral freshness. Haku Vodka has a complex, well-rounded flavor that should ideally be experienced neat or on the rocks.

While this vodka will certainly be delightful in a cocktail, the flavor is frankly too special to be covered up by a mixer. 


Best Vodka Brands

  1. Grey Goose Vodka
  2. Ketel One Vodka
  3. Belvedere Vodka
  4. Absolut Vodka
  5. Stolichnaya Elit Vodka
  6. Beluga Vodka
  7. Chopin Potato Vodka
  8. Cîroc Vodka
  9. Crystal Head Vodka
  10. Russian Standard Platinum Vodka
  11. Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  12. Hangar 1 Straight Vodka
  13. Haku Vodka

Final Thoughts

Vodka is much more than the harsh-tasting low-quality brands you may have tried out when you were younger. Rather, vodka is a unique beverage that shows off the very best of distilling technology and innovation. Experimenting with these brands will help open up your tastes to some of the best vodkas on the market.

As you might have gathered, vodka originated in northeastern Europe over half a millennium ago. Its exact origins remain disputed, but it’s believed that people first distilled vodka during the Middle Ages sometime after Italian merchants first introduced wine to the Russian principalities.

Within the next few centuries, it became clear that brewers could create a similar drink by fermenting cereal grains or even potatoes!

To learn more about vodka, check out the best vodkas for martinis!

Did we forget to include one of your favorite vodka brands? Let us know and we will be sure to check it out. 

This page may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we'll earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

22 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. A relatively new brand backed by Kate Hudson called King Street Vodka is AMAZING!
    Incredibly smooth… AND made and distilled in AMERICA!

  2. I disagree.
    Neft vodka
    Reyka voda
    Tower vodka
    Nue vodka

    Haku taste like dirt
    Crystal head is just awful. What is Canadian wheat! Yuck!
    Beluga taste like someone cried in it. Gross

  3. First of all, Absolut is the most overrated vodka on the earth! I have been drinking vodka for over 40 years (and yes, I am a self proclaimed expert) and it has taken me that long to determine that Reyka and Purus are the best vodkas not even on your list!

  4. I enjoy Island Vodka. They have 3 flavors! Apple Gwayav, Mango Peach and the New Richie Reserve which is the classic original.

  5. Very good and concise rating. I have to agree with all of yiur selections. Two things. Stoli Elit is in my opinion the best of them all. And it is NOT Russian but from Latvia. Very important these days. And finally Absolut now has a premium called Elyx. Very close to Elit!

  6. The best vodka value in my opinion is Lukosawa. Potato vodka is my preferred beverage. A great American premium vodka is Blue Ice.

  7. Goodnight Loving Vodka is made in Austin Texas with artesian spring water from the Texas Hill Country. It’s the smoothest I’ve ever tasted. Way better than Tito’s!

  8. I have discovered a fantastic new vodka from Finland “Shaman Spirit”made of water from the glazers 👍 check it out 😍

  9. You had me going until you mentioned the step above rubbing alcohol, Tito‘s! This is nothing more than a $6 bottle of cheap vodka that sells for over $20, in reality the only good thing about this waste water, is that they had a terrific marketing plan that thoroughly fooled the masses and why people still buy this, and why people still praise this as a good vodka, is one of the great mysteries in life!!!

  10. One ROQ vodka is also a supreme contender. It could undoubtedly make this list with ease. If interested in trying it I’d be glad to send you a bottle to review. Have a great day.

  11. “Best” is always an objective label that I wish the author would have elaborated on for at least a short paragraph. Each one on the list falls in the top 25 of available to the masses and good to above average quality vodkas. “Best” is a stretch for all but a few of these in my opinion. Vodka is a spirit that is obviously consumed by many many people around the world but most often is “buried” in cocktails that hide it. Which makes it tougher to fairly rate its characteristics. Nothing wrong with that but for my enjoyment Anejo Tequila is the elixir of the God’s.

  12. Stoli is in my opinion the best go to vodka. I have been a neat vodka drinker for quite a while now. , and have tried most types available in my country . Stoli gives kick and yet smoothness, when served ice cold.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.