Americans love their vodka. And two beloved international brands, Absolut and Grey Goose, each played a part in the spirit’s rise to fame. While Absolut brings in higher sales on a global scale, Grey Goose consistently makes VinePair’s list of the best vodkas and is viewed as a symbol of luxury.
While both are distinguished vodkas brands with massive market shares, they offer drinkers a clear choice in both style and production method. As if destined to be competitors, their stories are surprisingly intertwined. Keep reading to learn more about how these two leaders in premium vodka compare.
Absolut was founded in 1879 by Lars Olsson Smith, a Swedish entrepreneur and politician who was the first in his country to produce a cleaner and better-tasting vodka. He named the revolutionary spirit “Absolut Rent Brännvin,” which translated to absolutely pure vodka.
Following Smith’s death, the state-owned Vin & Sprit eventually assumed control of the company. But, during the 1970s, Sweden’s spirits industry entered a downturn, forcing Lars Lindmark, Vin & Sprit’s CEO, to seek help from the American market. In 1979, the spirit was relaunched in the U.S. as Absolut Vodka, with an old-style medicine bottle as the inspiration for its new vessel.
Grey Goose drinkers may be surprised to learn that the brand was inspired by Absolut. After Sidney Frank, an American businessman and the founder of an import company, took note of Absolut’s success, he decided to give the industry some good old-fashioned competition. But to create the perfect vodka, Frank set his sights on France. As Forbes explains, Frank wanted his vodka produced in France “because he believed the French create the best in everything.” It also gave Frank the perfect excuse to charge more for his luxury vodka.
Following Grey Goose’s release in 1997, it wasn’t long before the spirit was lauded as the world’s best-tasting vodka by the Beverage Tasting Institute. In 2004, drinks giant Bacardi acquired the brand for an estimated $2 billion.
Produced in the Swedish town of Åhus, Absolut is made with locally sourced water and winter wheat and is bottled at 80 proof. Absolut Elyx, a single-estate vodka considered to be Absolut’s luxury offering, is distilled using an antique copper still and has a slightly higher proof of 84.6.
Grey Goose’s ingredients come solely from France — where it is also distilled and bottled — with winter wheat grown in Picardie and spring water sourced from Gensac-la-Pallue. It too comes in at 80 proof and, unlike many of its competitors, claims its vodka only requires one distillation.
VinePair’s review of Grey Goose applauded the spirit’s texture along with its “exceptionally clean, smooth-finishing sips,” and a neutral profile that “doesn’t smell or taste like alcohol.”
Absolut Elyx, also reviewed by VinePair, is touted as the go-to vodka to add to your liquor cabinet. The vodka’s uncharacteristically rich aromas and “robust character continues on the palate in the form of pleasant grain flavors and bold texture.”
Vespers, Cosmopolitans, and Moscow Mules would all make perfect libations for the bottle of Absolut or Grey Goose on your bar. When considering the Vodka Martini, VinePair touts Grey Goose and Absolut Elyx as first-rate choices for the iconic drink. Absolut Elyx’s slightly higher ABV ensures the vodka “hold[s] its own when mixed with a heavier glug of vermouth,” while those who prefer very dry Martinis will be quite pleased with Grey Goose as the base.
Absolut’s myriad flavors can also make for a fun twist on cocktails. Lloyd Jusa, head sommelier and director of the Saxon Collection Wine Program at Saxon Hotel, Villas, and Spa in Johannesburg, South Africa, says that when it comes to the brand’s portfolio of nearly 20 flavors, “Absolut Peppar is their most unique offering, and arguably makes an exceptional Bloody Mary.”
What the Pros Think
When comparing the two brands, Jusa gives Grey Goose points for its “very good quality, brand loyalty from a prestigious market, and unique manufacturing process,” but says its “narrow product line, high price, [and] low market share outside the U.S.” leave something to be desired.
For Jusa, Absolut’s collection of flavors will “cater to all types of drinkers,” and its unique bottle and accessibility are all strengths. “It is hard to find a bar or liquor store that doesn’t have at least a few bottles in stock,” he says. “Though it may not be the best, it is a quality, reliable vodka with a clean taste.”