Likely the bottle you swiped from your parent’s liquor cabinet in your earliest drinking days, vodka is undeniably one of the world’s most popular spirits. Due to its neutral flavor profile, vodka is a great base spirit for a number of cocktails, including classics like the Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, and Martini. While vodka is so prominent on today’s market — and despite the fact that it’s arguably the most common introductory spirit — a number of myths continue to follow in the spirit’s wake. To separate fact from folklore, we debunked five of the most widely held vodka myths and even broke down the rationale behind a popular yet futile TikTok trend.
Vodka is always distilled from potatoes.
Despite the fact that just 3 percent of the world’s vodka is distilled from potatoes, there is a common misconception among drinkers that all vodka is made from the starch. In reality, unlike most other spirits categories, vodka can be distilled from anything containing fermentable sugars or starches — the most popular of which are winter wheat and corn, which are used to produce labels like Grey Goose and Tito’s, respectively. As there are no regulations on which agricultural products can be used to make vodka, a number of brands have gotten creative, including Kástra Elión, which is distilled from olives, and Barr Hill, which is made with Vermont honey.
Celiac folks can only drink vodkas labeled “gluten-free.”
Many drinkers on gluten-free diets may be under the impression that they can only enjoy vodka if it’s distilled from gluten-free products like corn or potatoes. However, even though some may be made with gluten-containing grains such as wheat or rye, all distilled vodkas are gluten-free unless a distiller adds additional gluten-containing ingredients after distillation is complete. While most vodkas are safe for people with celiac disease, Beyond Celiac recommends taking a close look at the ingredients used in flavored vodkas for any gluten-containing additives.
The more times a vodka has been distilled, the higher the spirit’s quality.
While the number of times a vodka is distilled can have an impact on the spirit’s flavor, it would be incorrect to assume that more distillations always equates to higher quality. The majority of vodkas on the market are distilled two or three times, at which point any further distillations have no noticeable impact on the spirit’s quality. In other words, a vodka that has been distilled three times will be virtually indistinguishable from the same vodka distilled five times. Furthermore, many brands utilize crafty marketing techniques to trick consumers into believing their product is of higher quality than their competitors, such as claiming that their spirits have been distilled hundreds of times. In reality, this claim is a reference to the number of plates inside the column still used to distill the vodka — of which there are hundreds — rather than the actual number of times the liquid passes through a still.
You can use a Brita to manually make cheap vodka of higher quality.
Contrary to popular belief among young college students with low bank account balances and an abundance of Burnett’s, running cheap vodka through a Brita filter will not up its quality. What separates a bottom-shelf vodka from higher-quality alternatives are a number of impurities that can only be removed at high boiling points, meaning that the spirit’s quality can only be improved through another round of distillation, not filtration. Instead, what college students — and a number of TikTok creators — may be experiencing is the filter’s ability to cut the spirit’s taste and smell, which can work to alleviate some of vodka’s signature burn and lead some to say it tastes like water after just one pass through their Brita.
Vodka is tasteless.
Vodka is a neutral spirit, but that doesn’t mean individual expressions lack nuance or distinctive characteristics. Because vodka can be made from any number of agricultural products, the spirit often has aromatic and flavor qualities reflecting the crop it was distilled from. For example, Haku Vodka, which is distilled from rice, shines in Martinis with its crisp, light flavor and fruity finish while Ketel One, a rockstar in Bloody Marys, offers notes of black pepper on the nose with a slightly floral finish.