What is vodka?

Most associated with Russia and Slavic, Baltic and Scandinavian countries, vodka has become one of the world’s favourite spirits.

In its purest form, vodka is distilled ethanol that has been diluted with water. It's usually made from grains (often wheat or rye), potatoes or sugar-beet molasses, but the basic spirit can be made from many ingredients. It's distilled up to three times to purify and strengthen it, and micro-filtering also helps with the purification process.

As vodka doesn't naturally have much flavour, it's often infused with fruits, spices, herbs and even more unconventional ingredients, like bacon.

See how to make flavoured vodka.

How to use vodka

Plain vodka won't add much to cooked foods, but it does bring flavour to cold items, such as mayonnaise for a prawn cocktail. Flavoured vodkas can enhance creams and cold custards, too.

Almost anything can be macerated in vodka – after straining, this makes a delicious flavoured spirit to be enjoyed over ice.

If you'd like to try an alternative flavoured vodka, macerate it with cucumber, tarragon or beetroot vodka. Or, try adding garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon or orange peel and a chilli or two for a spiced spirit that would be ideal in a bloody mary.

See our vodka cocktail recipes.

How to store vodka

Vodka does not mature or change further over time. If kept in a tightly sealed bottle, it will last for years, but once opened, the alcohol will very slowly evaporate. It’s never a good idea to keep a bottle with a dispenser inserted for more than a few weeks or to leave a bottle half-empty. If you like, decant vodka into smaller bottles that can be kept tightly sealed until needed. Store in a cool place.

Where to buy vodka

Almost everywhere that sells alcohol.

Choose the best vodka

The more a vodka is distilled (and the purer the diluting water), the less flavour it will have.

Every vodka-making country has its own flavoured versions, some herbal and medicinal, others fruity. Russians especially like Pertsovka, a vodka flavoured with honey and black pepper. One of the most popular Polish vodkas is Zubrówka, flavoured with bison grass for a warm, vanilla-like flavour. Sweden alone has more than 40 vodkas flavoured with herbs, berries and fruits.

See our vodka review for the best options.