Love drinking vodka? Read our review of top 10 buys, from experimental craft bottles to cocktail-friendly classics, and find your next favourite bottle.
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Vodka is celebrated as the perfect mixer, often used to give standard drinks a little more kick. A measure of vodka in your cola or ginger ale, for example, is the ground floor on the elevator to discovering an entire skyscraper of cocktails.
However, vodka is no longer just about simply adding alcohol to your apple juice, as producers big and small look at adding character and flavour to their spirit from both the base product and the distillation method. The result is a new order of flavoursome vodkas that work as well in a naked martini as they do in a Moscow Mule. Here, we’ve picked our 10 best buys. All prices below are for 70cl bottles unless otherwise stated.
Curio cocoa nib vodka
Produced in a small craft distillery at Mullion in Cornwall, Curio has explored the idea of flavouring its spirits using some fairly unconventional flavours: cardamom, samphire and also Peruvian cocoa nibs, which bring a powerful, earthy, chocolatey note to the vodka. The distillery has really bucked the trend of flavoured spirits, which has now begun to shake off its murky past of pungent shot glasses and lurid colours, and this vodka makes for a very unusual, but quality base for an espresso Martini.
The past decade has seen plenty of vodkas hiding behind highly-massaged marketing stories, but amongst them are some true gems - with plenty of heritage. Potocki has one of the strongest histories in distillation, with original documents tracing its production back to 1784. The spirit today is made from rye and is lightly filtered before bottling to retain its strength of flavour and classic earthy finish. A ‘must try’ on this list, for quality, consistency and history alone.
Adnams Copper House Longshore vodka
If there’s one thing that Adnams know a thing or two about, it’s beer. With great brewing knowledge comes a keenness to experiment with different grains and the Adnams Copper House, a gleaming distillery which looks like the embodiment of a Jules Verne novel, has produced this vodka using barley, oats and wheat. This gives the resulting vodka a creamy but deliciously peppery note.
Available from Adnams (£31.99)
Crystal Head vodka
One of the most eye-catching bottle designs to ever be produced – not just in vodka, but the spirits world in general – Crystal Head has been developed in part by comedy legend Dan Aykroyd – once a Ghostbuster, now a spirits maker! With the bottle made by Bruni Glass in Italy, the spirit inside is quadruple-distilled then filtered through quartz crystals, which have come to be known as Herkimer diamonds. Hints of minerals add depth to this genuine gem of the spirits worlds.
Chase smoked vodka
Not all vodka comes from mainland Europe and this smoked edition, made in Hereford, is enhanced by delicate notes from ex-Scottish whisky casks from the island of Islay. It has a slight caramel colour to it, taken from the oak barrels in which it has laid slumbering for a number of months, resulting in a taste more akin to a mezcal than a vodka.
Sipsmith sipping vodka
The chaps at Sipsmith set up their small operation in urban West London in 2009 to distill in traditional copper pot stills: the first people to do so in nearly two centuries in London. Another small team making a range of spirits, their now-famous gin is highly acclaimed, and so is their vodka. Distilled using their 300 litre still named Prudence, it is an English rose of a vodka.
Vestal Vintage Kaszebe vodka
When is a vodka not a vodka? Vestal, produced by the charismatic Willy Borrell, takes the flavoursome route, distilling Polish potatoes from a single yearly harvest, bottling the spirit unfiltered, giving it a totally unique flavour – and terroir – year on year. Vestal isn't distilled to as high an ABV as other vodkas, meaning it technically can’t really be classed as a vodka (according to the EU), but it’s all the better for it. Outstanding, revolutionary and busting with flavour.
Available from Harvey Nichols (£39.50).
St George All Purpose vodka
Based in California, the chaps at St George are truly experimental. This vodka is born of a passion to create a more ‘normal’ vodka to work with soda, tonic and in a Martini, and they achieve this by using pear juice which is mixed with a grain base. And delicious it is too. Smooth is the word of the day here.
East London Liquor Company vodka
Made using 100% British wheat, this hidden gem is made a short walk from Mile End station in the very heart of London’s East End. Their distillery is also a restaurant, bottle shop, bar and a place where you can even distill spirits yourself. It really is a playground for the adventurous drinker, and their vodka doesn’t disappoint. It’s as good over ice as it is with tonic.
Our Vodka London Edition
Well, this is a curious bottling. Essentially inspired by the team at Absolut, looking to do some covert projects, they chose key cities around the world to distill special edition vodkas. Detroit, Seattle, Berlin were just three of the cities, and soon London was added. Be warned, their vodka comes in smaller bottles with a crown cap (the sort of thing you find on a bottle of beer) so once you open a bottle, make sure you have plenty of friends and play of mixers at the ready.
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This review was last updated in March 2017. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org