We all know that Russians are serious about their Vodka. But you might not know what the word actually means in Russian: it’s a version of the word for water (voda) that translates to “little water.”
The best vodka for any given night depends not only on how you plan to drink it but your mood and tastes that evening. You should be able to find a vodka for just about any night on this list of the fourteen best Russian vodka brands.
I’ve tried to give you a good overview of the myriad of options you have available. You’ll find vodkas at several different price points. There are staunchly traditional vodka brands as well as those that are innovating.
So take a look through to find a new vodka to try. I’m sure there’s a new favorite somewhere on there!
Best Russian Vodkas
- Russian Standard
- Jewel of Russia
- Moskovskaya Osobaya
- Smirnoff Vodka
- Green Mark
- Plugar Classic Rye Vodka
Beluga makes their vodka in Mariinsk, a small city on the Trans-Siberian railroad. They began producing vodka in 2002, although the Mariinsk distillery has been around since 1900.
The distinctive feature of Beluga vodka is in the ingredients. It’s distilled from a malt spirit, which is truer to the old traditions of brewing vodka in Russia.
These ingredients impart the flavor of cream of wheat and wild herbs in the final product.
Beluga sells six different varieties of their vodka: Noble, Transatlantic, Allure, Goldline, Celebration, and Beluga Epicure by Lalique. Differences in the production process, like the length of time they mature, and added flavors account for the divergent labels.
Known internationally as “Stoli,” Stolichnaya is an intense vodka that hits hard. Available since 1901, it’s had a lot of time to cultivate that reputation. Even more interesting, Stolichnaya was the first Russian vodka to escape from behind the Iron Curtain in 1972.
In terms of ingredients and production, Stolichnaya is a perfect representation of modern Russian Vodkas. It’s made from a mix of fermented wheat and rye before being distilled.
In terms of its effect on your palette, Stolichnaya hasn’t ever been known as a particularly clean or smooth vodka. Instead, it has a bite to it, beneath which are distinct notes of citrus. Mixes great with ginger beer for Moscow Mules.
Mamont was founded in Siberia in 2002. It fully embraces this wild, Northern identity—the brand takes its name from a species of Mammoth that used to live in the area. I mean, its bottle’s also meant to look like a Mammoth tusk.
Like Beluga, Mamont makes their vodka from malt rather than grains. The difference is that Mamont adds a small amount of cedar nut tincture (a concentration of the nut’s extracts.
This small touch makes a big difference in both taste and aroma, with cedar being dominant in both.
Russian Standard is a budget vodka, but it still possesses more than enough quality to give a bottle of its real value. First produced in the late 90s, Russian Standard has been winning people over with its rejection of fussiness and elitism in the vodka industry.
That doesn’t mean anything goes for them, though. They use all Russian ingredients and an old Russian recipe. They once accused Stolichnaya of not being a truly Russian brand.
Their ingredients are truly Russian, with the main one being Winter Grain. Once they start the fermentation process, everything follows a strict procedure: four times distilled and then 48 hours of relaxation before bottling.
Zyr vodka is so smooth to the taste that it’s almost a shame to mix it with anything. The brand itself is another Millennial vodka brand, first produced in 2003.
The makers of Zyr are obsessive about quality. After five rounds of distillation, the wheat and rye vodka gets tasted before bottling. But that’s not the only tasting, but the undiluted alcohol and water were already tasted to ensure quality.
All that effort comes through. The vodka is super smooth, which allows notes of white pepper and orange peel to come through.
Hailing from Siberia, Husky vodka is a clean and unassuming vodka. That makes it one of the best vodkas for mixing into cocktails, but it doesn’t quite have the character to be a true sipping vodka. And, its mid-range price point suits that role.
Made from the grains that grow in Siberia, burnishing its regional bonafide. It’s distilled five times and then filtered using a “cold filtration process.” The idea behind it is that impurities can be frozen out of the final product.
Vanilla is the main flavor you’ll find in Husky.
Drova is a newer entrant in the vodka game. They were founded in 2013 as a completely organic product. As you’d expect, then, the wheat and rye grains that go into Drova come from completely organic farms.
The other oddity of Drova’s manufacturing process is the amount of time they give the vodka to rest before bottling. Where other vodka manufacturers let their vodka sit for a couple of days (or as few as 90 hours), Drova’s vodka rests for a full month before bottling.
So does all of this make a difference to how Drova tastes? Well, it’s still vodka but has a sweetness to it that feels natural.
Jewel of Russia
Although its bottles have a high price tag, Jewel of Russia has established a reputation that matches those expectations since its founding in 1995. Their gorgeous bottle designs and superior product give all the vodkas made by Jewel of Russia a high-class feel. Indeed, so does their tagline: “The Drink of the Czars.”
I say all the vodkas because Jewel of Russia produces four very different varieties. Their Classic and Ultra bottles are traditional vodkas, with the difference lying in the fact that the latter undergoes more distillation and filtration. Both vodkas are incredibly clean and smooth, with strong peppery notes.
The other two, Berry Infusion and Wild Bilberry, have natural flavoring and lower alcohol content.
With a name that translates to Muscovite, Moskovskaya Osobaya wears its roots on its sleeve. They’re another brand that trades on the authenticity of their vodka, which in their interpretation, equates to a pure wheat vodka that’s distilled three times.
Although Moskovskaya Osobaya isn’t as well known internationally as some of the other vodkas, it has a long history. It was originally just called Moskovskaya when it was founded in 1894, but the added the Osobaya (meaning “special”) in the early 1900s when the Emperor called it so.
In terms of taste, it’s a classic vodka, clean and with a little bit of a bite and hints of black pepper.
Don’t be put off by Smirnoff’s high profile and ubiquity. It’s still a well-made vodka that delivers value for your money.
Founded all the way back in 1864 by Pyotr Arsenyevitch Smirnov, the vodka brand has gone through several owners (public ones during Soviet times and now private ones). Throughout all those changes, though, they’ve kept their flagship product—Smirnoff Red—authentic. When taken straight, the vodka has a black pepper taste on the front and a pleasant alcohol taste on the back.
You can also pick up one of Smirnoff’s many other products, like Smirnoff Ice, for your friends who don’t like straight vodka.
Green Mark is a reasonably priced vodka that makes efforts palatable to those who don’t like overly intense spirits. Launched in 2003, the all-wheat vodka comes in both 38% ABV and 40% ABV versions.
Green Mark uses some modern innovations in their production process. The most notable of these is their use of steam technology that removes human input from the fermentation process. Although it’s strange to hear about something hot like steam coming into contact with vodka (usually everything is icy cold), Green Mark believes the process leads to a more consistent product.
In terms of taste, Green Mark won’t knock your socks off. It’s very gentle and a little bit sweet, with hints of anise and fennel.
Polugar Classic Rye Vodka
Polugar Classic is a different interpretation of vodka. That starts from the use of rye as the only ingredient involved in fermentation.
The exclusive use of rye has several consequences in terms of both production and flavor. After three distillations in copper pots, there are two steps to the filtration process. First, egg whites are introduced to pick up any impurities before the usual charcoal filtering takes place.
It tastes very different from the other vodkas on this list, with a strong rye flavor that comes through in the final product.
Nemiroff has well over a century of experience in making vodka. It was first distilled all the way back in 1872.
Nemiroff is a great mid-price vodka, sitting somewhere between a Smirnoff and a Jewel of Russia on the pricing shelf. As a result, it has enough quality to drink straight up but can also do very well when it’s mixed into cocktails like a vodka tonic or Bloody Mary.
If you are drinking it straight, you’ll notice grassy flavors on the front end before the peppery aftertaste hits.
Named after Lake Baikal, from which it draws all its water (at a depth of 500 meters!), Baikal vodka is a clean and smooth vodka that’s easily drinkable. Notably, it’s an organic vodka and was the first in Russia to achieve this designation.
After fetching their water, Baikal uses some flavoring agents to improve taste, including linden honey, pine nuts, and pine nut fragrance. After that, they bottle up their ‘Classical Vodka,’ but they also produce several other varieties with more flavoring.
You can find Baikal Revitalizing (with cranberry flavor), Fragrant (with even more pine nut), and Warming (with pepper honey).
If you’ve ever had the thought that all vodkas are the same, I hope my list has changed your mind about that. Vodka is an incredibly diverse spirit in its ingredients, the way its produced, and the way it tastes.
The way to feel that difference for yourself is to try a few different vodkas at once. Then, all of these unique flavor profiles I’ve been talking about will pop out at you. (That might just be a great idea for a Russian-themed party for you and your friends.)
Don’t forget to check out our favorite dry vermouth brands for your next vodka martini!