Vodka is the most common distilled spirit used in cocktails. It’s sometimes distilled five or more times with the purpose of making it smoother and cleaner. Vodka doesn’t require aging and is most often 80-proof or 40% alcohol. It’s generally thought to have no discernible flavor or smell and is almost always clear in color.

However, all vodkas aren’t created equal, nor are they necessarily tasteless or odorless. The standard method for making vodka is by fermenting and distilling wheat, rye or corn. However, it can be of any type of grain or a variety of other raw materials including potatoes, sugar cane, beets, grapes, honey, molasses, apples and more. It’s a vast and varied category of liquor with distinct differences between brands.

  • Vodka Ingredients change the smell, flavor, aftertaste and burn. Popular vodkas include grain-based brands like SKYY, Smirnoff and Three Olives; wheat-based vodkas like Grey Goose, Polar Ice, Ketal One, Absolut, Stolichnaya (Stoli) and Svedka; and rye-based brands like Belvedere and Sobieski. Some consumers believe potatoes make a smoother vodka and choose brands like Chopin, Koenig, Grand Teton and 44 North. Less common ingredients like corn are used in Tito’s and UV vodkas or grapes found in Ciroc vodka.
  • Gluten-Free Vodkas appeal to consumers with gluten allergies who can’t drink beer and turn to liquor. To place a gluten-free label on a product, it must meet the FDA approval rating of less than 20 ppm of gluten. Companies with vodkas labeled gluten-free include Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka, Glacier Vodka, Grand Teton, Karlsson’s Handcrafted Swedish Vodka, Smirnoff Vodka, Three Olives and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
  • Flavored Vodkas exploded have become a hip choice in spirits. Now, if you can think of a flavor, a company probably makes it. This includes everything from common citrus, berry and other fruity flavors to dessert options like chocolate, birthday cake and cinnamon buns and spicy offerings containing chile peppers or sriracha. Most of the big-name vodka producers carry at least a handful of flavored options, but some carry a whole stable of distinctive choices. Brands offering a variety of flavors include Absolut, Smirnoff, Grey Goose, Belvedere, SKYY and Stolichnaya.
  • 100-Proof Vodkas are made for drinkers who desire stronger spirits or aficionados who perceive higher proof choices as being more crisp and clean. Brands with 100-proof versions include Svedka, Pinnacle, Smirnoff, Absolut, Stolichnaya and New Amsterdam.