Vodka is often chosen specifically for its mild character, but a great bartender knows that the right vodka can take even the simplest cocktail from good to great. And while classic bottles with tons of name recognition dominate the vodka market, lots of bars are now sourcing lesser-known products with their own distinctive character.
We asked bartenders and bar directors to share their favorite new vodkas they’ve recently added to their bars. Here’s what they said.
The 15 best new vodkas, according to bartenders:
- Sobieski Rye Vodka
- Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka
- Haku Vodka
- Wheatley Vodka
- Misguided Spirits Howe and Hummel’s Crooked Vodka
- Kástra Elión
- Hanson Organic Vodka
- Bedlam Vodka
- Jackson Hole Still Works Vodka
- Reyka Vodka
- ALB Vodka
- Palma Vodka
- Dida’s Distillery Pressed Vodka
- Cirrus Vodka
- Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka
“We love Sobieski Rye Vodka from Poland. Made with 100 percent pure rye and water only, this smooth vodka is distilled by the reputable Sobieski brand, named after the ‘Lion of Lechistan’ King Jan III Sobieski. Sip it in a Martini or use it in a cocktail like our Mortini, made with Sobieski vodka, green Chartreuse, strega, maraschino liqueur, and lime.” —Mark Loaker, beverage director, LeTour, Evanston, Ill.
“Caledonia Spirits never misses and their Barr Hill Vodka is no exception. The influence of honey adds depth of floral wildflower and vanilla, creating a subtle sweetness that curbs the harshness found in most vodkas. Makes a great mule.” —Olivia Whirty, bar manager, Giusto, Newport, R.I.
“Haku Vodka. [It’s] made from polished white rice, and is twice-distilled, blended, and bamboo charcoal-filtered [which] makes for a very nice, unique vodka. Great viscosity and mouthfeel with a mellow flavor profile allows it to be easily enjoyed on its own, poured into a Martini, or mixed into a cocktail while maintaining its unique character and body. Combined with some pretty sexy packaging, [it’s] a no-brainer vodka for me.” —Scott Taylor, beverage director, Harris’ Restaurant, San Francisco
“A vodka that has earned a spot on our bar this year is Wheatley Vodka, a part of the Buffalo Trace family, which is known for their high-end bourbons. This vodka comes from master distiller Harlen Wheatley and is five-times distilled, which makes it a very clean and versatile spirit to have behind our bar.” —Josh Fassett, lead mixologist, Formento’s, Chicago
“Misguided Spirits’ Howe and Hummel’s Crooked Vodka. This is a New York City brand created by bar industry veterans. The price and quality are on point.” —Pete Vasconcellos, beverage director, Albert’s, New York City
“Kástra Elión is a premium Greek vodka made from single-origin organic wheat and natural spring water from Crete. It’s distilled five times, filtered with olive pit charcoal, and makes the best dirty Martini I’ve ever had.” —Larry Davis, bartender, Ciel Social Club, Washington, D.C.
“Hanson Organic Vodka from Sonoma County. It’s a lovely, grape-based vodka that’s infused with Meyer lemon. Very well-balanced and cocktail-friendly. We love supporting family-owned and smaller distilleries.” —Alex Lighty, bartender, Ruse, St. Michaels, Md.
“I like the body Bedlam Vodka has. This vodka is distilled from 100 percent long-grain white rice in Durham, N.C. The vodka has an umami, rice-forward, sake-like nose, and is super clean on the palate. I love it in a Martini, or just with club soda.” —Judy Elahi, beverage director, 101 Hospitality, Washington, D.C.
“Jackson Hole Still Works Vodka, [by] a boutique distillery in the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Jackson Hole is fully committed to sustainable sourcing and everything from grain to glass is sourced in Wyoming. The product itself is smooth and crystal clear with a hint of earthy grain flavors. It makes a really fantastic, simple Martini and blends well in cocktails.” —Terence Lewis, beverage director, Safran Turney Hospitality Group, Philadelphia
“Reyka Vodka is a new product for us at Miller + Lux and we love it in our Rite of Spring cocktail. Distilled in Iceland using renewable energy, [it’s from] an emission-free distillery that relies on the area’s volcanic activity to assist in filtration and production. I call it a ‘green vodka’ because of this use of natural Icelandic resources. At the price point, Reyka is one of the smoothest vodkas available. It boasts citrus notes and a light, clean finish.” —Shiva Thapa, head bartender, Miller + Lux, San Francisco
“The best new vodka on my bar would be ALB Vodka. It’s a local vodka made in Albany, N.Y., and uses water from the same reservoir that holds the water that makes NYC bagels and pizza taste so great.” —Mathew Scherl, general manager & beverage director, Lagos Restaurant & Lounge, New York City
“Palma Vodka. It’s from a well-known distillery in Mallorca and made with pure organic wheat alcohol, Mallorcan water, and a touch of Mallorcan sea salt.” —Nelson Gallo, mixologist & head of bars, Marbella Club, Málaga, Spain
“We recently added a local vodka from our neighbors, Dida’s Distillery, in Rappahannock County. Unlike most vodkas which are made from grain, this vodka is distilled from grapes produced at their farm winery. They begin the process by making wine and then distilling and purifying it into vodka, like the process used to make CÎROC. The result is a smooth vodka that exudes a soft warmth with a hint of grape character.” —Justin McEnaney, tasting room manager, Blue Rock, Washington, Va.
“The newest vodka that we’ve been using is Cirrus Vodka, which is a potato-based vodka that is distilled and bottled in Richmond, Va. This vodka has only been around for about 20 years and has started to gain some attention, especially locally in D.C. While most vodka is grain-based, we find that potato-based vodka is much smoother.” —Sulaiman Popal, bar manager, Lapis, Washington, D.C.
“Boyd & Blair, just outside of Pittsburgh, is low-key making amazing distillates across the board. They source all Pennsylvania potatoes and use Champagne yeast for fermentation, which in combination creates a really nice, creamy mouthfeel. They take really tight cuts during distillation, and it comes across in the quality of the final product. It stands up in a really wet Martini as well as it works in a vodka and soda. Just a beautiful, consistent, and reliable distillate.” —Brandon Thrash, general manager and beverage director, Middle Child Clubhouse, Philadelphia