Bartenders Tell Us The Best Value Vodkas For Mixing Spring Cocktails


In the sprawling world of booze, sometimes vodka gets lost in the shuffle. Seen more as a flavorless spirit included in cocktails to give drinkers a buzz, it’s rarely invited to the table occupied by its barrel-aged counterparts. Heck, it doesn’t even get the respect that its cousin, gin, basks in thanks to the various herbs (and of course juniper) that are added to what was more or less vodka in the first place. Where’s the justice in that?

In the hands of experienced bartenders, vodka finally gets its chance to shine. These pros know how to draw out and highlight the nuances produced through the use of creative filtration techniques and unique source ingredients. And while there are vodkas listed as “ultra-premium” and “triple-distilled” sold for a price point higher than your favorite Scotch, this is probably the easiest spirit to find a great deal on.

With all this in mind, we asked bartenders to tell us the best-tasting bang-for-your-buck vodkas to mix into cocktails this spring.

Russian Standard Vodka

Bryson Downham, beverage director at Toups Meatery in New Orleans

“My bang-for-your-buck vodka? Russian Standard. Smooth, clean, and cheap. The only three things that matter in a vodka.”

Royal Gate Vodka

Gavin Koehn, bar manager at Otoño in Los Angeles

“I think Royal Gate all the way. Most of what you pay for in a bottle of vodka is the marketing, and Royal Gate does almost none. It’s cheap and it gets the job done. Plus, it’s birth involves an Eyes Wide Shut-style party in the 1950’s in San Francisco so it’s good and wholesome.”

Ketel One Botanicals

Andrew Holmes, director of food & beverage at 8UP in Louisville

“What’s my bang-for-your-buck vodka? Ketel One Botanicals: with lower calories, no carbs, just add sparkling water and a twist. I prefer my vodkas clean and easy to drink.”

Luksusowa Vodka

Felipe Ojeda, beverage director at The Scape Goat in Miami

“I’ve been a fan of Luksusowa polish potato vodka for a long time. It’s very smooth and extremely affordable. Comparable to the likes of Chopin, which is also potato based, but about half the price on the shelf! Talk about a product that hits above its weight class.”

Kirkland Vodka

Shawn Stanton, bartender at Public House in New York City

“The best bang-for-your-buck vodka? No question. Kirkland Brand vodka — it’s delicious and affordable. Grey Goose in a different bottle.”

Smirnoff Vodka

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Benjamin Rouse, bar lead at Henley in Nashville

“Vodka is made to take on the flavors of what it is mixed with. Smirnoff is clean and well made, making it the perfect option for spiking a lemonade or sweet tea.”

Cathead Vodka

Maggie Dandrea, bartender at Hot Tin in New Orleans

“What’s my go-to bang-for-your-buck vodka? I like Cathead vodka from Mississippi. It mixes great in cocktails and they support the arts.”

Modest Vodka

Alex Schmaling, head bartender at Beacon Tavern in Chicago

“I like Absolut for something you can find in just about any liquor store, but these days there are tons of more locally-made vodkas based on where in the country you’re shopping. Modest Vodka is made in Madison, WI out of 100% corn and can generally be found at a very good price.”

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

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Crystal Pavlas, head bartender at Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans

“My favorite bang-for-your-buck vodka and why? Tito’s vodka because it gives me no hangover. No need for further explanation.”

Belvedere Vodka

Kia Tilmon, head bartender at The Roof in New York City

“My go-to vodka is Belvedere. I don’t like over-powering flavors and sweeteners covering up the taste of the spirit, and Belvedere is just so smooth and clean. If it’s chilled enough, I don’t need to add anything.”

Ketel One Vodka

Cesar Mejias, bartender at Tacology in Miami

“My favorite bang for your buck vodka is one that I can easily drink over ice with lemon . Ketel one has always fit the profile. Not too creamy like the potato vodkas, and not so smooth that you feel like you’re not drinking.”