Haters love to hate. When it comes to vodka, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same ignorant schtick. “It’s all the same,” people will say. “It just tastes like alcohol.” While vodka does bear the taste of the strong spirit, there’s a lot of complex, subtle flavors that you can find in a glass (or a martini or a shot) of fine vodka. With the cheap stuff, you’re missing out on quite a lot.
In order to enjoy your vodka the right way, I recommend choosing one of the best potato vodka (or grain vodka) brands and skipping the supermarket stuff altogether. Don’t equate these two types of vodkas, either. Knowing which vodka is made from potatoes and which is made from wheat can make quite a bit of difference.
When it comes to potato vodka, this doesn’t just apply to drink vodka straight. Corn and wheat vodkas are valued due to their subtle sweetness and smooth taste. Potato vodka, on the other hand, is very neutral in taste, making it ideal for mixed drinks. This means that the vermouth notes in your martini will come through a little bit clearer, the orange juice in your screwdriver will be a bit brighter, and your sea breeze will be a bit more vibrant and fruity. In other words, potato vodka is perfect for parties.
Before we get started with a list of the best brands of potato vodka, here’s a quick overview of vodka in general. By understanding how it’s made, what it’s made of, and how different vodkas differ, you can get a good idea of what you should be looking for in a top potato vodka.
Let’s get started!
Vodka is an alcoholic beverage that’s fairly pure by design. A well-made vodka is almost entirely water and alcohol, with just a hint of flavor from the source starch and perhaps a drop or two of artificial flavor. Vodka can be made from just about any plant with a high starch or sugar content, including fruit and sugar itself, but most vodka these days is made from grains like wheat and barley. Potatoes are also a popular base for vodka due to their neutral flavor profile.
In addition to its relative purity, one distinct feature of vodka is its high alcohol content. Nearly all vodkas are sold at around 40% alcohol by volume or ABV. This means that vodka will get you drunk, fast.
Is All Vodka Made From Potatoes?
No. Vodka is made from many plants these days. Many top brands of vodka are made from wheat and corn, while a few smaller distilleries continue to experiment with fruits and other sugary plants to produce unique, flavorful vodkas.
Potato Vodka Brands
If you’re looking for a bottle of affordable and excellent potato vodka, here are my top 10 recommendations:
1. Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
This Sweedish potato vodka is fairly unique among its peers. While most potato vodkas are distilled two or more times in order to make them ultra-pure and very neutral in taste, Karlsson’s Gold is distilled only once and bottled unfiltered.
This gives it a bold array of raw flavors that allow you to make very distinct cocktails. I’m reminded of truffles by the initial taste, while the finish has a peppery bite that pairs well with the thick mouthfeel.
2. Woody Creek Colorado Vodka
US residents should have no problems getting their hands on this all-American potato vodka. It’s quite neutral in taste with just a few subtle hints of herbs, citrus, and pepper as it finishes. You can enjoy this vodka alone or use it to make incredibly approachable cocktails with just the right amount of complexity. I love the way the bottle looks on the shelf, too.
3. Vesica Vodka
Polish potato vodka is legendary. Each incredible bottle of this vodka will remind you why. It’s got a perfect balance of soft, fragrant, fruity notes and hints of berries, chocolate, and marshmallows that will remind you of a night spent camping in the woods. Like other top brands, this vodka has a distinctly shaped bottle that’s just as handy for pouring as it is unique.
4. Claremont Vodka
Hailing from New Jersey, this pleasant potato vodka is incredibly smooth and accessible. It’s got the slightest hint of earthy chocolate tones in the finish and a wonderful mouthfeel that combine to make it perfect for martinis. If you’re a fan of subtly mixed drinks, this subtle vodka will be a big favorite.
5. Grand Teton Potato Vodka
Idaho potatoes are used as the base for this US vodka, which is both excellent and affordable. It’s a bit thicker than other brands and has a noticeably sweet taste that makes it quite pleasant to sip on its own. It’s perfect for sweeter cocktails, however, especially those with ingredients that pair well with the marshmallow notes in the finish.
6. Luksusowa Vodka
Russian potato vodka has nothing on this polish brand. Filtered through natural charcoal and oak chips, each bottle of Luksusowa has a bold, welcoming personality that somehow goes down smooth. It’s great for both cocktails and sipping chilled, with a sweet aroma and an incredibly sweet taste. Watch out for the bite, however — this vodka is quite crispy.
7. Chopin Vodka
Named after the famous Polish composer, this potato vodka has a nose like an apple pie and a distinctly earthy taste that somehow reminds me of cream. Like my other picks, it’s quite enjoyable to sip neat, but it really shines in appletinis and other cocktails. It’s an elegant choice that will give your evening just the right amount of class and sophistication.
8. Cape Cod Vodka
We return to America to examine this New England bottling of potato vodka. Made from a mix of corn and potatoes, this vodka has a hint of almond in its sweet tones and one of the gentlest finishes around. Despite how smooth this vodka goes down, there’s a little flare of heat at the end of each sip, making any cocktail you mix with it a masterpiece you won’t forget.
9. Vikingfjord Vodka
One of the cheapest options on this list, this Norwegian potato vodka is distinctly neutral. It’s probably the best option for budget mixed drinks when it comes to classy, gluten-free potato vodkas.
10. Zodiac Black Cherry Vodka
This Texan masterpiece pairs pure potato vodka with a hint of cherry. It’s practically a mixed drink in itself without any of the work. If you’d like to enjoy a classy American potato vodka with just the right amount of fruity flavor, Zodiac is a great place to start.
Why Choose Potato Vodka?
Vodka made from potatoes tends to be more mild and neutral than its grain and corn-based counterparts. While this might seem like a bad thing (since it tastes MORE like nothing), I find it very much the opposite.
Corn and wheat-based vodkas aren’t overpowering, but the sweetness and flavors brought out by the base starch can be a little much for some pairings and some drinks. With vodka from potatoes, the clear neutral base of the potato vodka serves as an incredible vehicle to carry the subtle flavors of the vodka itself. It also mixes incredibly well with just about anything, especially vermouth.
When you take the time to carefully compare potato and wheat-based vodkas, you’ll notice even more differences. Potato vodkas tend to feel heavy, full, and dense in the mouth, giving it a thick, often buttery mouthfeel when compared to brands like Grey Goose and Absolut.
Why Choose Top Brands?
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a world of difference between cheap vodka and a quality bottling. With potato vodka, however, there’s an additional thing to keep in mind: price. The world’s best tasting bottles of potato vodka are almost all available for under $40, while many top-tier brands produce incredibly high-quality bottles of potato vodka for less than $20. This means you don’t need to spend a lot of extra money to get an incredible experience.
How To Compare Vodkas As A Beginner
While top critics will use lots of language to describe a vodka’s aroma and taste, these things aren’t necessarily accessible to newcomers. If you don’t have lots of experience tasting vodka, it probably just tastes like alcohol.
The key to getting into luxury vodkas is to focus on the texture first. To get the most out of it, try taking “notes.” We call our experiences with spirits “notes” because we literally write down everything we can about each experience with a high-quality vodka (or whiskey or beer or another spirit). At first, simply write down how it feels in your mouth and how it sits in the glass.
Try to use words like “weighty” and “viscous” for a heavy vodka and “astringent” or “skittish” for a lighter one.
While you get the hang of comparing textures, you’ll build up a more refined palette that will be more perceptive to subtle differences between vodkas. I find that I get the most from the first hit of vodka on my tongue (while I can still smell the vodka in the glass) and the little bit of kick in the finish. Write down everything you can about both experiences so that you can compare your findings between brands. It’s okay if you don’t use fancy terms at first — just jot down your honest experience so you have something to compare.
Should I Chill Potato Vodka?
When you chill a spirit, you do two important things.
First, you mute the taste. With vodka, especially potato vodka, this process of “turning down the volume” of the taste definitely does something, but it’s not huge.
Second, you make the texture a much bigger factor. A cold vodka tends to be thick and rich, meaning you’ll spot more differences between a heavy potato vodka and a lighter grain-based spirit.
That said, there’s definitely a tipping point where vodka becomes too cold to enjoy. For many brands, this occurs at around 50 F. In other words, you definitely don’t want to store vodka in the freezer if you plan on taking the time to really appreciate it.
Vodka experts tend to taste things at room temperature in order to let as much flavor as possible, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. If you enjoy your vodka chilled, you’re free to keep it in the fridge and focus more on the texture.
Is Flavored Vodka Taboo Among Experts?
Adding artificial flavors to spirits is a bit of a hot topic among the tasting community. While the addition of natural flavors (from things like vanilla, tea, ginger, and lemongrass) can make vodka incredible, some purists think that it diminishes the work that goes into carefully cultivating the natural impurities formed by the distillation process.
In other words, they think it’s essentially cheating. Why spend time adding a subtle vanilla note when you can just chuck a couple of vanilla beans in the bottle and call it a day?
Just like with temperature, however, the key to success here is to simply ignore them. If you like flavored vodka, drink it! It’s essentially a mixed drink that you don’t have to mix yourself. If you prefer the taste of straight vodka, however, or you want more power to customize your mixed drinks, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it straight. Either way, you’re not infringing on other people’s ability to enjoy their favorite kinds of vodka.
The Best Potato Vodka Cocktails
Vodka is a key ingredient in lots of many exciting drinks, going well beyond your basic bloody or screwdriver. Here are some slightly fancier cocktails that you can make at home to kick things up a notch.
4 parts potato vodka
2 parts tomato juice, preferably fresh
1 part lemon juice
1 part jalapeno-infused simple syrup
Mix ingredients into a muddled cucumber, then strain. Garnish with a cherry.
4 parts potato vodka
2 parts lemon juice
1 part honey-infused simple syrup
Raspberries and prosecco to taste
Shake the liquid ingredients together with raspberries. Strain at least twice and top with plenty of prosecco.
Jerry the Icelandic Sailor
2 parts potato vodka
2 parts rum
1 part lemon juice
1 part peach juice
Mix ingredients together in a shaker and strain. Serve over ice.
Pumpkin White Russian
2 parts potato vodka
1 part coffee liqueur
1 part heavy cream
a dash of pumpkin pie spice
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker or stir together, then pour over ice and top with pumpkin pie spice. For a heavier pumpkin taste, stir in some spice with the other ingredients.
3 parts potato vodka
1 part vanilla syrup
a splash of tonic
Muddle the raspberries and syrup together, then add vodka, Strain over ice in a Collins glass and add a splash of tonic for fizz.
2 parts potato vodka
4 parts cranberry juice
1 part grapefruit juice (orange will do in a pinch)
Plenty of ice
lime (for garnish)
Mix liquid ingredients together and serve with lots of ice in a highball glass. Garnish with lime or even blend for a perfect cocktail.
Inventing Your Own Vodka Cocktails
Vodka is wonderfully neutral and very forgiving, making it perfect to experiment within the bar. When making your own vodka cocktails, I suggest starting out small with just a few ingredients. You don’t need to add much to vodka to give it a lot of flavor. It’s like drawing on a piece of white paper: sure, you can turn the whole thing black with lots of detailed shading, but if you’re just trying to convey a basic idea, you only need a thin line in the right shape.
The best way to illustrate this principle is to make an incredibly simple vodka cocktail. Pour some vodka into a shaker and add a hint of juice and a splash of tonic. You’ll come out with a refreshing drink with basically no effort that really lets both the vodka and the juice do their thing in tandem.
The Best Potato Vodka
Whether you want an accessible, neutral spirit to pair with dinner or you want the perfect ingredient for your cocktails, potato vodka is cheap, easy to find, and delicious.
You can buy most of the brands on this page from retailers in major metropolitan areas or have them shipped from many online companies. Be sure to check out what options are available in your state for online liquor purchases, as laws about shipping liquor vary. The low cost of potato vodka makes it a perfect spirit to splurge.
It’s incredibly cheap to pick up a top-reviewed world-class bottle, meaning you can enjoy the very best for just a few dollars. Try out all of the brands on this list and see which one is your favorite!