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Bartenders Shout Out The Vodkas They Like Sipping Straight

Vodka gets a bad rap. The clear distillate is often thought of as a neutral spirit, where all the flavor has been stripped out. But our own blind taste tests of vodkas proved that’s unequivocally not the case. While vodka should have a clean taste, it’s still made from fermented grains, potatoes, or even fruit that’s distilled into alcohol — just like every other spirit on the shelf.

Meaning it’s going to carry some flavor notes over from that process. Plus there’s the water added to proof down the distillate — adding perhaps a touch of minerality or even perceived sweetness.

Now that we know vodka is and should be flavorful, let’s take a look at some seriously good sipping vodkas. To do that, we reached out to some of our favorite barkeeps to find out which vodkas they’ll actually sip straight. We ended up with 14 (!) vodkas worth investing your time and money in. If you’re into any of these bottles, make sure to click the prices to give them a try yourself.

Leopold’s Silver Tree

Leopold Bros.

Hailey Landers, bartender at Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library in Portland, Oregon

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $33

Why This Vodka?

As with nearly everything Leopold Bro.’s does, this vodka hits all the notes you want in a good, well-crafted spirit. It is unbelievably smooth and dualistically complexly layered, unlike most “ultra-smooth” vodkas out there. Silver Creek unabashedly presents the drinker with dynamic floral characteristics as well as a sturdy foundational backing of cereal notes and round texture.

Broken Shed

Broken Shed

Tom Levron, USBG bartender in San Diego

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $26

Why This Vodka?

Broken Shed Vodka is made from only two ingredients: New Zealand water and cows’ milk whey distillate. The whey distillate provides a silky mouthfeel. The nose is very mild, even for vodka, with vanilla and finishes with black pepper minerality.

Van Gogh

Van Gogh

Kevin Smith, food and beverage manager at The Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg, Florida

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

Why This Vodka?

The original Van Gogh Vodka is easy to drink straight, especially when chilled. It’s ultra-smooth and has a unique texture thanks to the vodka going through several distillations and incorporating ingredients like corn, barley, and wheat sourced from Europe — Netherlands, Germany, and France — making for a luxurious sip.

St. Clair

Lawrenny

Pascal Pinault, director of restaurants and bars at The Confidante in Miami

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $79

Why This Vodka?

As of today, there are so many different vodkas great for sipping. But if I have to pick one without breaking the bank, it will be Saint Clair Vodka from Lawrenny. Made with the highest quality of water and flavors ranging from cassia bark, juniper, and dill, this vodka is extremely well balanced and perfect for drinking straight.

Beluga Gold Line

Beluga

Ryan Anderson, complex director of beverage at Ace Hotel in New Orleans

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $99

Why This Vodka?

Coming to this conversation as a person who drinks vodka only occasionally, I always tend towards spirits that have a great round flavor to them. I like Beluga Gold Line for drinking by itself. Beluga is Russian vodka that utilizes Siberian wheat and well water in its production, making it an incredibly smooth and textured vodka perfect for sipping on the rocks.

Belvedere

Belvedere

Ryan Mish, bar manager at The Graceful Ordinary in Chicago

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $30

Why This Vodka?

I have always enjoyed Belvedere if I’m drinking vodka straight. It’s easy to find and has a velvety mouthfeel with notes of vanilla, spice, and a little bit of pepper from the rye.

Grand Teton Huckleberry

Grand Teton

Noah Serna, bar manager at The Arid Club in Boise, Idaho

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $25

Why This Vodka?

I frequent the Grand Teton Huckleberry Vodka on the rocks from Grand Teton Distillery. The vodka is infused with real huckleberries sourced from the region and a pleasant fruity flavor profile really shines through. It’s incredible.

Guillotine Heritage Barrel Aged

Guillotine

Piero Procida, director of food & beverage at The London West Hollywood in Beverly Hills, California

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $87

Why This Vodka?

Guillotine Heritage Barrel-Aged Vodka is an aged vodka from France which is unique in that it is made with grapes from Champagne and aged in cognac barrels. Hence the color takes on a golden amber color with wood on the nose with caramel and sweet vanilla on the palate.

For someone who wants to actually sip and enjoy vodka, this provides that alternative. It truly is a masterpiece and actually gives a new take on vodka without adding any sort of synthetic flavoring.

Ketel One

Ketel One

Matthew Olson, restaurant manager at Sabroso + Sorbo at The Notary Hotel in Philadelphia

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $27

Why This Vodka?

My favorite vodka for sipping or enjoying just chilled would be Ketel One. It has a very clean taste to it and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste. Their botanical line is great for enjoying over ice or with some club soda. The grapefruit and rose notes are particularly refreshing on a warm day with a little ice.

Stolichnaya Elit

Stolichnaya

Myles Holdsworth, director of food and beverage at The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

Why This Vodka?

If you are going to drink straight vodka, best to choose a top-tier option. One of my favorites is Stoli Elit. It is crafted from only the finest grains and undergoes a uniquely extensive filtration process.

Deep Eddy

Deep Eddy

Frank Riffa, mixologist at SoBou in New Orleans

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $18

Why This Vodka?

I’m a big fan of Deep Eddy Vodka as it’s an all-natural vodka that comes in a variety of flavors including lemon, lime, grapefruit, and even tea. They’re sweetened with natural sugar cane making it so delicious that you can drink straight from the bottle. But the unflavored vodka is highly sippable as well. It’s always my number one sipping vodka at the bar.

Grey Goose

Grey Goose

Brandon Parnell, director of beverage for Flora-Bama in Perdido Key, Florida

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $35

Why This Vodka?

Grey Goose is made with single-origin Picardie wheat and limestone leached spring water from Gensac-La-Pallue. This combination yields vodka with a sweet taste profile and an exceptional mouthfeel.

Reyka

Reyka

Ryan Pines, beverage director at Ukiah in Asheville, North Carolina

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $30

Why This Vodka?

For me, I would have to say it’s Reyka vodka. Icelandic vodka is made with glacier water and filtered through volcanic rock, which allows the vodka to really shine and be super smooth.

Barr Hill

Barr Hill

Sam Nelis, head bartender of the Barr Hill Distillery Bar in Montpelier, Vermont

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $40

Why This Vodka?

Barr Hill Vodka is the best vodka to drink straight. Why? Because it has flavor! Barr Hill uses three pounds of raw northeastern honey, they ferment it into mead, and then that is distilled. Barr Hill is proud to say their vodka is distilled only twice, which retains the flavorful essence of honey in the final distillate. Barr Hill also does very little to filter the vodka, retaining as much flavor from their hearts cut as possible.

The vodka is creamy, full-bodied, and has a luscious mouthfeel with notes of butterscotch and vanilla.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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