Vodka is the most popular spirit in the world and can often be found infused into plenty of different cocktails as its neutral taste provides a blank canvas for mixers. In just 2012 alone, 4.4 billion liters of this liquor were downed by the entire world.
So what makes this spirit special? Here we list down popular vodka brands and their price.
A Brief History of Vodka
The word vodka came from the Slavic word voda, meaning little water, with historical records showing its first conception as early as the 8th or 9th centuries in either Poland, Russia, or Sweden. In the 14th century, a medicinal product similar to that of vodka circulated, but this contained very little alcohol (as low as 14 percent ABV). It was used topically as a disinfectant and an antiseptic and also as a treatment for fever.
The vodka product that is more popularly known today was recorded in the 15th and 16th centuries in Russia and Poland and picked up worldwide traction in both the United States and Europe in the 1940s, right after World War Two.
How It’s Made
Vodka is traditionally made with fermented potatoes or grain such as rye, corn, and wheat, but some modern brands use molasses and fruits. This mash is heated and combined with yeast to convert sugar into alcohol.
Vodka requires no aging and can be drunk right away after its production. It is, however, diluted to bottling ABV no less than 37.5 percent. The water used for dilution and bottling is also important — companies use pure spring, calcium-rich, or water from any ultra-clean source to create a smooth drinking vodka.
Distillation is an important step in producing vodka to thoroughly remove all impurities in the spirits, thus resulting in utmost clarity. There has always been the thought that the more times the vodka is distilled, the smoother and cleaner it is, but some, like the French luxury brand Grey Goose, boasts of a single distillation method to keep the flavors of the base ingredients.
The spirits go through a round of filtration after distilling. Charcoal filtering is the most popular way, but options include activated carbon, wool, paper, and even cloth. This process is done to “polish” the vodka taste even more and remove its oily character.
Flavored vodka is making its rounds today with the cocktail emergence and brands like New Amsterdam and Skyy. After distillation and filtration, the flavoring process is done by adding choice botanicals, chemicals, or essences to the base vodka. The most popular flavor variants are citrus and berries.
This is nothing new, though. Since vodka was used to treat fever in the olden days, pharmacies would infuse a touch of local fruits into this medicine to cover up its less-than-pleasant taste.
What’s In It?
Unlike other spirits, there aren’t plenty of strict and specific regulations regarding vodka production, and different countries produce theirs uniquely.
Although Swedish vodka was initially made from grain, they started using potatoes in the 1960s, perhaps because of shortages. Vodka was referred to as brännvin (burn-wine) until the 1960s.
Nowadays, vodka from Sweden is made from winter wheat, although some do still use potatoes.
The first mention of vodka in Poland dates back to as early as 1405. Polish vodka can only be made from five usual grains: rye, barley, triticale, wheat, oats, or locally sourced Polish potatoes. The ingredients can be sourced from anywhere else as long as the production is done in Poland.
This type of vodka typically also has a higher bottling ABV at 45 percent.
Around 1430, a monk named Isidore made a recipe for the first-ever Russian vodka. Since he was highly knowledgeable on different methods of distilling alcohol, he created a more quality vodka. Vodka was referred to as “bread wine” in Russia. For some time, the liquor was exclusively produced in the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
Much like Swedish vodka, Russian vodka is also made using either wheat and potatoes.
What’s With Vodka & Potatoes?
Vodkas that are made from potatoes tend to be creamier in texture with a fuller flavor. Smaller potatoes are preferred as they are higher in starch compared to bigger spuds, which tend to be swollen with water.
During its emergence, the aristocrats in Sweden and Russia wanted the liquor to be exclusive amongst noblemen. However, the poorer folk wanted in on the fad, and they experimented with using more inexpensive ingredients — one of which was potatoes — that they could easily produce in their own homes. Soon after, the production of vodka became commercialized, and there was no longer a need to make this drink at home.
Many vodka producers still make use of potatoes in their spirit, like Chopin and Zodiac.
Did You Know?
Vodka weighs less than water.
As vodka is composed of ethanol and water, vodka actually weighs less. That’s because alcohol is lighter than water and will float on top.
Vodka is incredibly pure.
One of the purest man-made drinks in the entire world is vodka. In fact, this product is even considered quite healthy as it doesn’t contain any cholesterol or fat and is mostly gluten-free.
Vodka is not just a drink.
Vodka can be used in place of many different things. It’s a great alternative to windows and glass cleaners as it doesn’t leave streaks. It can also work as the perfect disinfectant for toilets and bathrooms.
If you are in dire need of aftershave, vodka works too! Just combine glycerin and your favorite fragrant oils into half a cup of vodka to make cheap, homemade aftershave.
What are Some Vodka Regulations
Although the rules surrounding the vodka business and production are not as strict as whiskey rules, some specific regulations still need to be followed. These are used in determining what can and can’t be called vodka in each region.
In Canada, vodka must be made with grain or potatoes and charcoal filtration. The final spirit must be void of all taste, character, and aroma.
However, in 2019, the Food and Drug Regulations have allowed the use of any type of agricultural ingredient, examples of which include honey and dairy products. This is to support innovation and to bring Canadian vodka to an international scale.
In the United States, it’s a lot stricter. The FDR defines vodka as a neutral spirit that has been thoroughly distilled to remove its distinctive aroma, taste, and color. It should not be aged or stored in wooden barrels. Only vodkas that are filtered with no less than one ounce of activated carbon per 100 wine gallons of spirits may be labeled as charcoal filtered.
With European brands like Ciroc using grapes as its base ingredient, the EU was forced to become more lenient when it came to their vodkas to avoid uproars. Since traditional vodka should be made from potato or grain, brands that use neither of these ingredients as their base would have to clearly indicate it in their packaging if they want to label their product as vodka.
Vodka Brands Price Information
|Brand||Country||Category||Main Ingredient||Alcohol Content||Average Price|
|Absolut||Sweden||Budget||Winter wheat||80||Roughly $19|
|Chopin||Poland||Standard||Potato, rye, wheat||36/80||Roughly $28|
|Crystal Head||Canada||Premium||Peaches and cream corn||80||Roughly $48|
|Deep Eddy||USA||Budget||Corn||70/80||Roughly $13|
|Grey Goose||France||Premium||Soft Wheat||80||Roughly $35|
|Ketel One||Netherlands||Standard||European wheat||60/80||Roughly $23|
|New Amsterdam||USA||Budget||Corn||70/80||Roughly $12|
|Pinnacle||France||Budget||Winter Wheat||70/80/100||Roughly $11|
|Royal Elite||Uzbekistan||Budget||Organic Golden Wheat||80||Roughly $19|
|Smirnoff||USA, UK, Italy||Budget||Corn||70/80/90/100||Roughly $13|
|Stoli||Latvia||Budget||Wheat and rye||70/80/100||Roughly $19|
|Svedka||Sweden||Budget||Winter wheat||70/80/100||Roughly $12|
|Three Olive||England||Budget||British wheat||70/80||Roughly $13|
|UV||USA||Budget||Wheat, potatoes, corn||60/80||Roughly $9|
Factors That Affect Price
Although vodka is made from the same base ingredients, here are some factors that make one brand of vodka higher in price than the other.
Vodkas that are produced in smaller, more craft-style distilleries tend to be higher in price than those vodkas produced in big sites. The distillation process can also differ from one brand of vodka to the other and the filtration method used.
Since vodka should technically be flavorless, flavored vodkas pose no threat to the final price. The process of infusing flavors is considered inexpensive.
Some vodka producers use ingredients that are more exotic and labor-intensive to produce. If the base ingredient is plentiful, then it’s highly likely that the vodka will be cheap. If the vodka uses rare and exclusive ingredients from some exotic place, that will definitely hike up the price tag.
Some brands are marketed as premium vodkas, while others are more budget-friendly.
Here are some popular vodka brands in the vodka market today. We’ve narrowed them down to categories according to their prices.
Grey Goose is a French luxury vodka brand that was created with the elite in mind. The brand became exactly that — sipping this vodka became a clear status symbol, just like owning a Mercedez Benz or a Rolex. This vodka is made from 100 percent premium French ingredients and goes through a unique single distillation method. A Grey Goose vodka 750ml bottle starts at roughly $35.
Instead of using the traditional products for the base ingredients, Ciroc vodka is made from distilling grapes. The brand is inspired by the wine-making tradition in France and is a superbly fresh and fruity spirit. The product is gluten-free and distilled five times. A Ciroc vodka 750ml bottle starts roughly at $27.
The Swedish brand Svedka uses Swedish winter wheat that goes through distilling five times. The result is a clear, medium-bodied spirit, with creamy vanilla notes and a hint of spicy pepper finish. The brand has been making vodka for the past 20 years. A Svedka vodka 750ml bottle starts at roughly $12.
How much vodka does it take to get drunk?
We sincerely hope you’re not trying to get drunk now and drive later, but just for your information, it takes about six to eight 1.5-ounce shots on average to get someone drunk on vodka. Factors like gender, weight, and age should also be taken into consideration.
Which vodka is best for ladies?
There is no such thing as “vodka for ladies,” but if we were to choose, a pretty pink drink like New Amsterdam’s Pink Whitney  is the perfect product for the girly soul. It is lower in proof than most vodkas at only 60 and has a pink lemonade flavor. This variant was named after NHL star Ryan Whitney.
What’s the best way to drink vodka?
There is no absolute best way to drink vodka. Some people prefer drinking it in shots, but others aren’t too keen on the harsh alcohol bite. Others prefer vodka in cocktails or paired with choice mixers such as fruit juices and tonic water.
The important thing to remember about vodka is that it’s best served cold. Make sure to store the entire bottle in the freezer for a couple of hours prior to serving. Since vodka is mostly alcohol (which solidifies at -15°C), you don’t have to worry about the bottle cracking or freezing over.
Although vodka is not as nuanced when it comes to flavor as other options in the world, it is nevertheless a great liquor to enjoy, especially if you don’t like complications in your cocktail. The spirits are a great compliment to your favorite mixers and juices.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!