Do you like vodka? It seems like more and more people do have a preference for the brand of vodka they drink. Just this week a friend of mine on Facebook asked that question. Over 204 people responded. Some even posted drink recipes and photos of their vodka bottles. Heated conversations ensued within that Facebook post with friends actually defending their choice of vodka.
That post really made me think about vodka. What has happened to the vodka industry in the past few years? I have friends and family members that work for large spirit & wine distributors so I know that manufacturers invest quite of bit of money to roll out new products. I have been to flashy club events in Miami to promote a new liquor, and have attended expensive dinner parties sponsored by spirit manufacturers. What I have seen and experienced is that the booze business is good business (at least on the wholesale side).
If you have ordered a drink lately you can see that most places carry a variety of vodkas. I was out to dinner with a few friends this week and one of them ordered a vodka and tonic. The bartender asked my friend if she had a preference for vodka, and of course, she did. Just like the other 204 Facebook friends, she named her vodka preference without hesitation.
Sometimes we just fall into the same old routine. We order the same thing from a menu, dine at the same restaurants and drink the same vodka too. It’s just what we do. Why? Perhaps because it’s comfortable, we know what we are getting and maybe we just do not want to experience a different outcome, especially if it goes bad. As humans, most of us do not like change. But, maybe we should re-think our vodka choices. Sometimes change is good.
Did you know that there are vodkas that taste like buttered popcorn, smoked salmon, and even hemp? Being a vodka purist, those choices do not sound enticing to me when I am ordering a drink. However, I think I might be able to mix something up with the PB& J, made by Van Gogh or even the Blueberry Pancake vodka created by Mama Walker’s.
It’s odd, out of the 204 Facebook comments, nobody mentioned a flavored vodka. Not one person. However, what was mentioned was a variety of vodkas brands, a few I have never heard of. I wondered, am I falling into the routine trap when I order my vodka? Are you open-minded to try something different, just once?
OK, I have a confession. I minored in vodka in college. I used to be so good in vodka tasting, I could actually identify brand vodkas when I drank them. And, yes, I had a preference. Then, one day a friend whose son lived in Russia, introduced me to a few vodkas that I had never tried. I changed! I went from the routine to a new world of vodkas. If you have always selected the same vodka for your drinks, you may want to explore the options below.
Since I do not drink vodka like I used to, I haven’t considered too many small-batch options. There are plenty of vodkas, however, the list below was the most common recommended vodkas from the 204 Facebook friends.
Ketel One: This was created by a long-time Dutch family distillery that dates back to 1691. Kettle One was created in 1983 and was named after the traditional method of using copper pot stills. This vodka is made from non-GMO winter wheat. Part of the distilling process includes using copper kettles and is filtered with charcoal. This is a nice smooth vodka that tastes great when used in martinis.
Ciroc: Most common vodkas are made from a grain, corn or potatoes. However, Ciroc is made from grapes. There has been a debate as to whether this is a true vodka. The answer is yes. According to Diageo (the manufacturer and distributor) the grapes are distilled rather than aged, and therefore Ciroc is considered a vodka. Ciroc is a thicker vodka and I think it tastes sweet. Not one of my favorites.
Ocean: This is an organic vodka made on the island of Maui. A friend of mine introduced it to me since she is gluten free and eats/drinks organic products. So, when I was in Hawaii last year, my husband and I toured the family-owned facility. Ocean Vodka is made from organic sugar cane. What makes this vodka different is not only the fact it is made from sugar cane but also where they get their water to make the vodka. This water is sourced 3,000 feet below the Kona Coast. Pro-environment they even use solar power to the operate the distillery. You would think this vodka would taste sweet like Ciroc, but it doesn’t. It is crisp and light. If you are in Maui, it is worth the trip to the Ocean Vodka farm. The grounds are beautiful and they grow all the sugar cane needed on their 80-acre farm. Tours are available.
Russian Standard: In 1998 the Russians came out with a new vodka that was a big hit. Made in St. Petersburg, Russia with Russian winter wheat. Water, being one of the most important elements in vodka, comes from the glacial water of Lake Ladoga. Russian Standard states that their super luxe grade passes through 200 distillation stages. I haven’t tried Russian Standard’s luxe grade. But, their standard brand is smooth. It appears a little thick, but is nice to drink neat or have in a cocktail.
Zubrowka Bison Grass: This is a Polish vodka distilled with rye and a little Bison Grass. If you were in Canada or Europe, you would be able to pick up a bottle with the Bison Grass inside and the original recipe. However, the United States does not allow the blade of grass inside the bottle, the FDA considers it an additive. Also, the percentage of grass in the US recipe had to be reduced to be in compliance with the FDA. Although this vodka is considered a flavored vodka, I really don’t taste anything too overwhelming. This is one of my favorite vodkas. When I was introduced to this vodka, the bottle was purchased in Poland and was the original recipe and did come with the blade of grass inside. The US version is still good. This vodka is nice and smooth. No lingering flavor. I recommend drinking this one by itself, straight out of the freezer.
Tito’s: Made in Austin, Texas from corn. Tito’s is described as a handmade vodka (the state of Florida begs to differ on that and actually filed a lawsuit against Tito’s for that claim). According to Tito’s, the vodka is considered a small-batch vodka, it is micro-distilled and made in old-fashioned pot stills. This is an intensive process and usually reserved for cognacs. Some say that the corn makes Tito’s a little on the sweet side. I don’t taste that. I have tried Tito’s numerous times and I like it. It’s not my go-to vodka, but it is good.
Deep Eddy: This is also made in Texas from a small batch distillery, and of corn. Deep Eddy’s website says the vodka goes through the filtering process 6 times. I haven’t tried Depp Eddy’s. Frankly, I hadn’t heard of it before. But quite a few people from the Facebook group chose it as their go-to vodka. Therefore, I thought it was worth the mention. Next time I am out I will ask for it.
The list of vodkas could almost be endless. If you haven’t explored the different brands of vodkas, or maybe haven’t tried some listed above, step out of your comfort zone and order something new, just once!
If you have a small batch vodka preference, respond below and tell me about it.
Sandy Williams is a licensed Broker Associate with EXP Realty and sells in the Sarasota area. With over 22 years of experience, Sandy and her team have sold over 2,100 homes. Nationally recognized. Sandy is originally from the Midwest but calls Lakewood Ranch her home.
Photos from Shutterstock and Sandy Williams