Choosing the best cheap bottle of vodka is tough. Vodka is a versatile spirit — largely a neutral grain alcohol with little to no taste. This makes it the perfect base for almost every kind of cocktail imaginable. It’s also fairly cheap to make since it’s unaged. Much of the cost of the brown spirits comes from the big expense incurred while storing barrels, sometimes for decades.
Picking a good and cheap bottle of vodka is a little dicey. Vodka should be as close to flavorless as possible. This, generally, comes from multiple filtrations of the spirit after a few distillations. Each distillation cleans the alcohol of impurities while each filtration pulls all the imperfections from the spirit until you have a clear booze that should be nearly tasteless.
So a good litmus for vodka is how harsh it burns. If it burns like the fires of a Soviet invasion of mainland Europe, it’s a piss-poor vodka. If it tastes like a voluptuous mineral water elixir with a slight alcohol edge, it’s the good stuff.
To help you choose the best cheap bottles of vodka on the market, we thought we’d compile a short list of 15 great options under $20. That means heavy hitters like Tito’s just miss the list. We’re leaving the huge plastic bottles you see on the bottom shelf off the list too, and focusing on the well-crafted standards. We’re also leaving all the flavored vodkas aside. That’s a topic for another day.
Moskovskaya is far and away the best bottle of vodka you can buy for around ten bucks. It’s a legit, old-school Russian vodka that’s very smooth and, thus, very drinkable.
You can take shots of this stuff without any qualms and it works wonders as a base spirit in any cocktail. Oh, and did we mention it’s usually ten bucks a bottle? Pro tip: You should always have a bottle of Moskovskaya in the freezer.
Vodka of the Gods
Okay, we’re breaking our own rules already. But Trader Joe’s Vodka of the Gods is the only plastic jug of vodka worth mentioning.
Where the other cheap plastic jug vodkas get very oily and poison-y smelling, this one stays the course with the neutrality. Overall, it’s cheap vodka that comes in a half-gallon jug for ten bucks. Translation, mix it into White Russians or Cape Codders and you’ll be perfectly happy.
Platinum 7x Vodka
This American vodka is made at the Buffalo Trace distillery with corn and it’s distilled, wait for it, seven times. Gimmickry aside, this is a very suitable vodka for mixing drinks and has a great price point. What more could you want?
Smirnoff is a classic Russian-American vodka. The recipe for this one was mastered back in Russia with charcoal filtration and since then the brand has dominated the vodka scene.
A bottle of Smirnoff is still cheap — you can get it on sale for ten bucks a lot of the time — and it’s a great base spirit for infusions, making your own gin, cocktails, and, yes, even taking shots to get the night started.
Sweden’s signature vodka brand is a classic, wheat-based spirit. The process here is a long, quintuple distillation process that’s so clear the vodka doesn’t even need special filtration. The end result is a fine vodka that’ll make your next Moscow Mule pop.
Sobieski Polish Vodka
Poland knows its way around a vodka still. Sobieski’s rye base is a tasty spirit with an almost peppery edge to it. Is it the best Polish vodka? Who’s to say. It’s certainly not the worst. Buy a bottle, mix up a Bloody Mary, and get back to us on how rad this one is.
Seagram’s “Extra Smooth” Vodka is a winner for the marketing alone. Rough vodka is hard to handle, smoothness is key.
This vodka gets the job done. You can count on it if you’re mixing any cocktail and it works well as freezer bottle you can swig from every now and then (we all have long days).
The Baltic nation of Finland produces a barley and glacial water vodka that’s damn tasty as far as vodkas go. The taste here is very neutral and welcoming. It’s the perfect shooting vodka that works in almost every cocktail configuration. Try it with your next vodka soda order, the clarity and minerality of the vodka shines through every time.
Smirnoff Vodka 100 Proof
Smirnoff 100 is a great party vodka. The extra ABVs really amp up the good-time-vibes here. The smoothness of the Smirnoff recipe and process make this one perfect for punches, shots, and, well, fun.
Plus, the higher ABVs mean you’ll need less of it, saving you a little cash. Theoretically, anyway.
Monopolowa is one of the best tasting potato vodkas on the market. Overall, this is a tasty vodka with a nice, clear minerality from the water and a sharp alcohol bite from the potato.
Mix this one up in a Martini and you will not be disappointed. It’s also gluten-free, if you’re into that.
Missouri based 360 Vodka is all about sustainability. The pop top bottles are reusable and the company offers a refund for their return (if you’re in the area). The grains used for the spirit all come from within 95 miles of the distillery to decrease carbon emissions and the label, water, and even ink are all recycled materials.
And, yes, the vodka inside the bottle is good. Mix it, shoot it, and recycle that bottle!
Back up in Sweden, you’ll find a little brand called Absolut. Who are we kidding, Absolut is one of the best-known brands in the world. They sell 90 million liters of the stuff every year.
The winter wheat vodka is a high watermark in both well-executed vodka and amazingly well-placed marketing. Even though this one is closer to 20 bucks a bottle, it’s worth every cent. It’s smooth, tasty, and very easy to drink.
This wheat-based, American vodka is one of the flashier bottles in the vodka aisle. It’s an award-winning vodka that shines on its own or in a vodka soda. Overall, you can’t go wrong here if you’re looking for a great entry point to high(ish) end vodkas that aren’t over-marketed and, therefore, overpriced.
Stoli is the mountaintop when it comes to vodka. It’s a clean and very quaffable vodka that deserves a spot in everyone’s freezer.
It’s also dynamic and works in all the cocktails from a Cosmo to a vodka soda to endless shots. Stoli is flat out the best 20 bucks you’ll spend on a fifth of vodka.
Kirkland Signature French Vodka
This one is over the $20 limit we set ourselves. But, bear with us. This is a half-gallon bottle. So if you could buy this in a regular fifth, it’d only cost you about $9.85 a bottle.
Moreover, this French vodka is delicious and often rates higher than other French vodkas like Grey Goose. This is the perfect vodka to shoot, mix, or sip. It’s damn near tasteless except for a whisper of alcohol from the wheat distillate. And you just can’t beat that price.