Last Updated on March 16, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Traditional vodka originating from Eastern Europe is “supposed” to have a neutral flavor.
But recently, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) amended vodka’s definition to “without distinctive character, color, aroma, or taste.”
Now, what does vodka taste like? Can you drink vodka straight? Let’s see what experts say.
What Vodka Really Tastes Like
Vodka tastes like ethanol, water, and subtle notes of the base ingredient used to make it.
This neutral spirit is supposed to be flavorless and colorless, but quality-made vodkas would have slightly sweet and subtle flavor notes.
“There’s a big difference between vodkas if you taste them. To claim that vodka is flavorless and tasteless is just silly.”– Jon Kreidler, Chief Officer of Tattersall Distilling Company.
You can drink vodka straight or use it for mixed drinks like Bloody Mary and Vodka Tonic. Vodka would also taste good with cranberry juice, lime juice, and orange juice.
What The Experts Say Vodka Tastes Like
Watered Down Nail Polish Remover (Chase Johnson)
According to the Bar Supervisor of Ace Hotel, Chase Johnson, the flavor of vodka resembles a nail polish remover.
The vodka from Boyd & Blair has vanilla and almond notes. But if he had to describe vodka’s flavor in general, it would be like a watered-down acetone version.
Creamy (Greg Seider)
For Greg Seider of Summit Bar and Manhattan Cricket Club, vodka has more texture than flavor. He said that a great vodka is smooth and has a creamy texture.
He stated it is a must because many people considered it their drink of choice and recommended Tito’s Handmade Vodka .
Spicy, Briny Water (Mary Bartlett)
Mary Bartlett, Beverage Director of Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, stated that quality vodka is more subtle than other spirits.
Describing vodka is tricky, but she concedes that vodka is like spicy, briny water.
Bartlett suggested an olive with some citrus or herb flavors in the brine when planning a vodka martini to add more depth to the vodka.
Everything from Fruit to Grass (John deBary)
According to John deBary, a bar director, vodka procedures aimed to craft a clean, pure distillate that contained some notes from its base ingredients.
He detailed that Ciroc vodka is made of grapes, leading to a distinct fruity aroma, while the Aylesbury Duck, made of Canadian soft white winter wheat, is grassy and spicy.
A Lot of Things (Dale DeGroff)
For Dale DeGroff, sometimes called King Cocktail, defining vodka as odorless, tasteless, and with no character is laughable.
If you start drinking vodkas, you will notice how different they are. And even if the vodka has been distilled multiple times, some flavors are still present in the drink.
Spice, Cream, Citrus & Pepper (Joaquín Simó)
Joaquín Simó, the owner of Pouring Ribbons, also agreed with the distinctions between vodkas based on the base ingredients used.
For instance, potato vodka can be oily in viscosity, while rye-based vodka has a touch of spiciness.
Wheat-based vodkas tend to be creamy and smooth while drinking corn vodkas gives the impression of a rounded sweetness.
Bread, Sweetness & Je Ne Sai Quoi (Gary Regan)
For the late Gary Regan, a bartender, and award-winning writer, it is hard to describe the flavor of vodka.
Sometimes you would notice bread notes, and sometimes there would be soft sweetness when you drink vodka.
He said that describing the character of a good vodka would be impossible, and the drinker must only experience it.
Baked Bread, Grain & Spice (Simon Ford)
As a co-founder of The 86 Co, Simon Ford has worked on searching and crafting unique notes and characteristics to make their vodka product stand out.
His company introduced the Aylesbury Duck, which he described as grainy and spicy. He also believed that vodka would taste like baked bread or wheat if made of wheat.
Black Pepper & Lemon (Ivy Mix)
Ivy Mix, co-owner and bartender of Leyenda, described vodka as tasting and smelling like black pepper and lemon because it is a neutral grain spirit.
This description would fit in for certain vodka brands. For example, Reyka, a small-batch vodka from Iceland, has a slightly spicy taste similar to black pepper.
Factors That Significantly Affect Its Taste
The alcohol contents of vodkas vary greatly depending on the brands. Many vodkas have 40% ABV, which would still be easy to drink.
But some vodka producers can reach over 80%, making it hard if you drink straight vodka.
Some popular brands, including Ketel One, Grey Goose, and Belvedere, are best sipped slowly despite the high alcohol content.
Absolut vodka, between the bottom and top shelf brands, has a silky texture and full-bodied mouthfeel.
Drinking vodka was made easier by numerous flavored vodka varieties in the liquor market.
Flavored vodkas are infused with natural and artificial flavor extracts. Some companies also started producing brown vodka to fit the whiskey trend.
The distillation process removes the impurities of the spirit, creating a clean vodka drink.
However, distilling vodka multiple times does not guarantee a better-tasting vodka, and it can produce a bitter aftertaste to the spirit.
Is Vodka Supposed To Taste “Neutral & Flavorless?”
Yes, vodka is supposed to have a neutral taste and flavorless profile. But as seasoned vodka drinkers, we can say that even plain vodka would have a slight sweetness or bitterness.
Recently, TTB redefined vodka by indicating that it should be without distinct taste, color, aroma, or character .
For many years, flavored vodka varieties have become another way to enjoy vodka with less alcohol kick.
Vodka’s smoothness is also perfect for mixing with any mixed drink and cocktail recipes like cranberry juice, ginger beer, grapefruit juice, soda water, and tonic water.
Is vodka sweet or bitter?
Vodka has a mildly sweet taste, but the alcohol content makes it bitter.
Does vodka taste like pure alcohol?
Yes, vodka tastes like only pure alcohol if not thoroughly distilled and cut. Drinking pure vodka with no mixers or ice would give you a particular taste of the base ingredient.
Is there vodka that tastes like water?
Yes, Beluga vodka tastes like water with subtle hints of sweet vanilla, honey, and oatmeal.
What does vodka taste like without alcohol?
Vodka without alcohol would taste like water. This distilled spirit is only made of alcohol and water, so removing alcohol would leave the other ingredient to dominate the taste.
Vodka is an alcoholic beverage that tastes like ethanol, water, and subtle notes of its base ingredients.
Drinking vodka straight would be enjoyable, but most of the time, it is often used for vodka cocktails.
A poorly made vodka tastes like a burning alcoholic drink, but a quality-made one would have subtle notes of the main ingredient used.
Flavored varieties have become a trend in the industry, making vodka a refreshing and enjoyable beverage.
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! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.