Vodka is known as one of the most versatile cocktail spirits because of its neutral flavour, cocktail-ready clarity and easy availability across the world.
But when it comes to the best vodka for cocktails, it can be overwhelming choosing from the wide array of brands on offer.
Unlike Scotch Whisky, there aren’t any formal regulations governing the vodka distillation process.
So, whilst we might write vodka off as a fairly plain spirit, there’s actually a vast difference in flavours and distillation techniques.
Even the basic ingredients don’t stay the same!
It’s well known that cheap spirits give you a hangover so avoid the pain with our premium vodka brands to try at home.
Which vodka is best for cocktails?
We’ve bitten the bullet for you – tasting as many kinds of vodka as we needed to help you find the perfect accompaniment to any cocktail!
The best vodka for your cocktail really depends on the kind of cocktail you’re making!
The neutral nature of vodka means that it’s great when you want to let your other ingredients take centre stage.
So when you’re choosing which vodka to use for cocktails, consider what it’s going to be paired with.
If you’re making a batch of traditional Bloody Marys, for example, you probably won’t want to muddy that delicious tomatoey goodness with sweet vanilla vodka.
But if you’re mixing up a fruity Screwdriver, an interesting flavoured vodka might be the key to cocktail greatness.
Before we reveal our top pick for the best vodka for cocktails, here are some key points:
Vodka can be made from almost anything.
But common ingredients include grains like wheat and rye, potatoes, grapes, beets, figs, apples and rice.
Vodka is (almost) always at least triple-distilled, and often distilled more than five times.
Some people believe the more you distil the smoother your vodka will be, but others say that each distillation shaves flavour from the end product. It’s up to each individual producer.
Vodka is filtered after distillation.
This is often through charcoal, and then diluted with water to bottling proof.
Each step of this multi-step manufacturing process is unique to each individual vodka.
Right, let’s taste some vodka!
Our favourite Vodka for cocktails: Sapling Spirits
For us, the perfect starting point for a basic cocktail vodka would be something like Sapling vodka.
It’s a wheat vodka, quadruple distilled for crisp, clean clarity.
Perfect for whenever you want to achieve a delicate balance between flavours.
Side note: Sapling also plants trees for every bottle sold, which surely earns them another point in this ranking.
We love Sapling Vodka so much we featured it in our Apple and Elderflower cocktail kit.
Once you’ve perfected your cocktail skills with a basic vodka option, you can begin to branch into more outlandish flavour combos without fear!
Best vodka to drink neat
We don’t hold with half arsing spirit drinking, here at the Cocktail Society.
If you’re going to splash out on a sipping vodka, we think you should do it right and get your hands on something like the Belvedere Smogory Forest Vodka.
It’s a Polish rye vodka, with an intense toasty nose, an incredibly smooth flavour and a light caramel finish.
For a proper tasting experience, you should be prepared to snack as you sip.
Picture Slavic tapas and you’ll be heading in the right direction.
Caviars, pickled fruits and vegetables, cured fish, and salty pâtés on toast will all compliment this smooth sipping vodka beautifully. And you’ll feel dead fancy.
Best vodka for martinis
A vodka martini is the classic cocktail that everybody’s heard of.
Setting aside the ever-contentious shaken or stirred argument, you should be looking for a vodka that lets the lightness of dry vermouth sing.
We love anything Suntory, and their Haku Vodka is no exception.
It’s a uniquely floral expression, made from white rice, and finishes with a sweetness that any good martini needs.
Best potato vodka
Potato vodka has a particular subtlety that makes it popular across the world.
The mechanics behind making potato vodka means that it’s generally limited to a small-batch distillation, which means greater variation, more complex flavours and a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel.
We particularly enjoyed the Chopin Potato Vodka – another Polish offering, but made using an 18th century copper pot still that makes this vodka completely unique.
Best Vodka for Espresso Martinis
Chase Vodka’s original potato vodka is smooth and creamy, making it the perfect ingredient to use in the classic Espresso Martini recipe.
On the nose it has a mineral essence with hints of creamy vanilla.
A buttery palate and a clean smooth finish pairs perfectly with espresso in the luxurious cocktail.
If you’re looking to try the perfect potato vodka for the Espresso Martini, try our Espresso Martini cocktail kit.
Smoothest vodka for cocktails
If you’ve previously been burned by a bottom shelf bargain, deliberately searching for the smoothest vodka you can find might be the best starting point for you.
The unbelievably good Connoisseur 51 from Purity is one of the tastiest vodkas we’ve ever had.
Made using all organic ingredients and brewed over a mind-boggling 51 low-heat distillations, this delicate spirit is as smooth as they come. We recommend ordering a bottle immediately.
Best flavoured vodka for cocktails
Flavoured vodka has changed dramatically since the overly sweet and cloyingly artificial creations of the 80s ruined its rep.
It’s now better than ever, with fresh offerings flooding the market every year.
Even better, using flavoured vodka for cocktails brings out additional flavour profiles in your drink.
For a flavoured vodka that’s guaranteed to please (and you knew it’d pop up at some point) you can’t go wrong with Absolut.
For our money their vanilla vodka is best vodka for the Pornstar Martini recipe, so much so that we included it in our Pornstar Martini Cocktail Making Kit.
From summery watermelon and everything in between, whatever your cocktail calls for there will be an Absolut vodka you can rely on.
Best plain vodka
Have you ever wondered what that drinkably thick Californian fog that gathers around the base of the Golden Gate Bridge tastes like? No?
Neither had we. But once we saw the Hangar 1 Fog Point plain vodka, we knew we had to try it.
Nets set up across the Bay harvest the fog, which is then used to dilute Chenin Blanc and Viognier grape alcohol into an incredibly pure and fresh tasting vodka.
The production run is limited, though, so it’s definitely worth snapping up a bottle when you find it.
Best budget vodka
It’s good fun finding glitzy top-shelf options, but finding a decent vodka for cocktails doesn’t have to mean a hefty price tag!
Vodka can be made using exceptionally simple and speedy distillation techniques, which means you can still get a tasty tipple without breaking the bank.
Our favourite vodka for under £25 is an offering from beer aficionados Brewdog – who brew their Rogue Wave vodka in a single distillation that takes just seven days to go from barrel to bottle.
It’s got a lovely creaminess to it, with a vanilla start and a peppery finish – perfect for anything from the Cosmopolitan to the Woo Woo.
Try the best vodka for cocktails at home
Hopefully you’ve found the answers here to any vodka quandaries you might have had.
If you’re still feeling out of your depth, though, you could always choose from one of our vodka based bottled cocktails or get your hands on a cocktail kit!
Both are a good place to begin any voyage into vodka, as you’ll get to try a range of flavours and brands without having to commit to buying a whole bottle.
An unbelievably simple way to get your hands on an immediately sippable drink.