Over and over, people underestimate vodka. It’s treated like a neutral spirit. Tasteless. Inert even. And sure, there are vodkas out there that fall into the category of “a simple way to get buzzed without any discernable flavor” (we’re looking at you, Grey Goose), but a well-crafted vodka is so much more. A great vodka distiller can pull flavors and nuances out of grains like rye, wheat, potatoes, and even beets that will wow you.
Vodka, as a category of booze, is also incredibly accessible price-wise, thanks to the lack of barrelling. The spirit is typically distilled, cut with local mineral water, filtered, and then bottled. There’s no years-long aging process in expensive barrels kept at a controlled temperature in equally expensive storage spaces. In fact, there’s little between the field and the bottle here — just a grist mill, fermentation tank, still, filtration system, and a master distiller plying their craft. That means even the highest quality vodkas are far cheaper than middle-of-the-road bourbons or dark rums.
So where does one start their journey of discovery in the world of vodka? We have a few answers. The five essential bottles of vodka below will give you a sense of the variety of expressions on the market. These are the bottles that’ll acquaint you with the style and prove that vodka is far more than a neutral spirit meant to get you lit without tempting your palate.
Absolut Elyx — The Welcome Drink
What to talk about:
Absolut changed the game when it came to how we interact with spirits in the consumer market when they brought on Andy Warhol to sling their vodka in America. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, Absolut alone accounts for 250 bottles of booze sold… wait for it… every minute around the world.
So when Absolut decided to up their game, the world listened. Their Absolut Elyx — “elyx” is Swedish for luxe — is a single estate, single grain spirit that’s distilled in antique copper stills and cut with local high-quality mineral water. This is grain-to-glass dialed up to eleven.
How better to greet your friends upon their arrival than with a familiar friend upping its game?
That wheat from the single estate — a castle estate that has been growing wheat for 600 years — shines through on the nose. There’s a clear grain essence here with a light hint of white chocolate creaminess. Next, a fatty nut nature comes into play alongside creamy butter, hints of salt, and a nice mellow spice, all leading to an incredibly clean finish.
This is the perfect vodka to stir up into a dry martini to hand your guests as they walk in the door.