We’ve all awkwardly stood in the booze aisle of our local grocery store (or liquor store if you live in one of those states), not really sure what we’re doing there. We’ll find ourselves in the vodka section wistfully glancing up at the $50 bottles of Grey Goose, Chopin, and Belvedere wondering when we’ll be able to walk out the store with one of each like a boss. Instead our bank account dictates our eyes be cast downward toward the Popovs and knock-off Stolis. Fret not, here’s a tidbit of information that will make you feel better about buying from the bottom shelf — it makes almost zero difference in quality of product.
Jason Horn, a vodka expert and spirits columnist for Playboy, decided to take one for the team and taste test five bottom-shelf vodkas. Maybe not so surprisingly, the variations of tastes range from meh to pretty good. Popov vodka, that large plastic jug found at the bottom of the bottom shelf with its red label and black bulbous Russian Orthodox domes (because authenticity is what you’re looking for in a vodka from Connecticut) wins the day. In fact, Horn calls Popov “surprisingly good! And it’s not that it’s just neutral. It has some kind of interesting herbal and almost a sort of savory quality.” That’s the verdict of a professional, folks!
In case you’re wondering how this can be, it comes down to the fact that vodka prices are almost 100 percent dictated by marketing. In fact, there’s zero correlation between price and quality of product when it comes to vodka. This is generally true of tequila, gin, and rum, too.
That’s not to say there aren’t some super-terrible tasting spirits out there. There are. Just don’t let high prices be a factor for deciding what you like to drink. The bottom shelf is usually just as good.