It’s clear, neutral, and unassuming. These three traits, simple as they sound, are what make vodka a classic choice among spirits consumers. The category is so popular, in fact, that it’s held the title of most consumed liquor by volume in America for 52 years and counting.
The vodka category grossed $7.3 billion in revenue in 2021 alone. That’s over $2 billion more than the second best-selling category, tequila, sold. It’s also leading the charge as the most popular base spirit for ready-to-drink beverages. But despite the stronghold it has as a category, it’s not always easy for vodka brands to differentiate themselves from the rest, in part due to the simple nature that makes them so versatile to begin with.
We asked seven bartenders to share the vodka brand they think is most underrated. Their picks include vodkas with unique stories, innovative distillation techniques, compelling ingredients, and more.
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The Most Underrated Vodkas According to Bartenders:
- Nikka Coffey Vodka
- Rock Town Vodka
- Pau Maui Vodka
- Community Spirit Vodka
- Social House Vodka
- Helix7 Vodka
- Timeless Vodka
“Nikka Coffey Vodka showcases exceptional distillation technique, focusing on texture and very light aromatics. It is silky, clean, and pays homage to the grains that it is made from. Vodka, as a neutral spirit, is unforgiving; there is nowhere to hide. Nikka Coffey Vodka is distilled using Nikka Distillery’s continuous Coffey still that they use for their famous whiskies. They are master blenders, and the vodka is a blend of separate barley and corn distillates. The result is one that spirits nerds will love, but it is also very neutral and will appeal to a casual vodka drinker. While there are many vodkas on the market that are proudly flavorful (and delicious), I consider many to be more aromatically akin to white whiskies or eau de vie. Nikka Coffey Vodka is unmistakably vodka and an example of how truly compelling the category can be.” —Matt Young, general manager, Cure, New Orleans
“One of the most underrated vodkas on the market is Rock Town Vodka from Arkansas. Rock Town has been my rail vodka at Allegory since we opened in 2018. It is distilled from 100 percent corn and is super clean and neutral. The best part is that it’s cheap. It’s half the price of premium vodkas. I blind-taste-test guests all the time, and they assume Rock Town is a premium-priced vodka. Since it’s distilled from 100 percent corn, it checks the ‘gluten free’ box that Tito’s shamelessly markets. If someone asks me if I have Tito’s, instead of arguing with them I simply answer, ‘I don’t, but I have something better for cheaper.’ It works seamlessly every time.” —Deke Dunne, head bartender & beverage director, Allegory at the Eaton, Washington, D.C.
“An excellent underrated vodka is Pau Maui Vodka from Hawaii. Interestingly, Pau is made from pineapples rather than grains or potatoes. It has a very clean, neutral flavor that makes it a great choice for a wide range of cocktails. Pau’s pure taste, versatility, and smoothness make it unbeatable for the price point.” —Amy Traynor, author & cocktail blogger, Moody Mixologist, Manchester, N.H.
“Community Spirit Vodka is the most underrated. It is a top-shelf vodka with an incredible commitment to serving the community. They dedicate every aspect of the brand to the pursuit of positive social change and to elevating the causes people care about most. The palate has a soft corn flavor. It has a light texture with earthy notes of corn to start, followed by a sweet, crisp, and slightly mineral finish.” —Lynnette Marrero, co-founder, Speed Rack; bar director, Llama Inn & Llama San, NYC
“I think Social House Vodka may be the most underrated vodka. Social House is not only from my beautiful home state of North Carolina, but they use delectable North Carolina corn in their vodka. It is slightly sweet and finishes so clean, you feel like your mouth is tasting for the very first time. I’m a huge fan.” —Bob Peters, beverage director, CocktailClass.com, Charlotte, N.C.
“Helix7 Vodka. This is a vodka made in France from Icelandic water and is charcoal-filtered. It is a clean, mineral-driven vodka that has a little citrus tone and is perfect for a Martini or any up drink. It’s a great all-around go-to if you just have one vodka on your bar at home. They also have a great recycling program for their packaging, which makes you feel good about using it.” —Amy Racine, beverage director, IRIS, NYC
“Timeless Vodka. It’s hard to say it’s underrated, though, because those who know, know. The name says it all. This Black-owned vodka is a go-to. Once you open the bottle and taste it, you know it’s a crisp, premium vodka. Its clean palate is great for craft cocktail making. On a personal note, Timeless was created by a beautiful couple. It’s legit love in a bottle.” —Deniseea Taylor, mixologist, @chickenandchampagne, New Orleans