Vodka is a staple for a reason: It’s a high-low workhorse. It serves as the star of iconic cocktails like the Cosmopolitan and the Espresso Martini, and offers its neutral profile to the ubiquitous dive bar necessity that is the Vodka Soda. While often overlooked in favor of its fellow clear spirits or given a bad rap for its many flavored expressions and fruit-soaked interpretations, vodka deserves a place on every home bartender’s bar cart, and we’ve chosen our favorites to share this season.
From entry-level, budget-friendly picks for those just dipping their toes into the vodka arena, to those who are full-fledged connoisseurs, here are seven of the best vodkas to gift to your nearest and dearest.
Best budget vodka: Watershed Distillery Vodka
Best splurge vodka: Jean Marc XO
Best vodka for beginners: Wódka Vodka
Best vodka for geeks: Arbikie Nàdar Vodka
Best vodka for cocktail lovers: Spirit Works Distillery Vodka
Best vodka for the boss: Chopin Vodka Family Reserve
Best vodka for whiskey lovers: LiV Vodka Standard Edition
Best Budget Vodka
Many maintain the stale belief that vodka has no nuance, but Watershed Distillery proves them all wrong with its vodka, which is distilled from corn and apples. The expression is bright and fruity with a hint of citrus, making it the ideal vodka to shake into seasonal cocktails. And don’t let the $25 dollar price tag discourage you from enjoying this vodka in a Martini — it’s tasty enough to chill and sip with just a lemon twist.
Average Price: $25
Best Splurge Vodka
The term XO, meaning “extra old,” is most often associated with Cognacs. But Jean Marc XO Vodka borrowed the labeling for its flagship expression, which is produced in the Cognac region of France. While there is no age statement on this vodka, Jean Marc XO employs an elongated production process, including nine small-batch distillations through traditional copper alembic stills. The luxurious spirit has a lusciously smooth texture, imparting perfumed notes of white flower and fresh fruit that’s worth every penny.
Average Price: $60
Best Vodka for Beginners
Produced in Poland, Wódka Vodka is crisp and clean, making it the perfect pick for those seeking a smooth and straightforward foray into the category. Distilled from an all-rye base five times and double charcoal-filtered, the vodka carries neutral yeast notes accompanied by hints of white pepper. That hint of savoriness makes it a perfect choice for shots or stirring into a Spicy Bloody Mary.
Average Price: $18
Best Vodka for Geeks
When you think of Scottish spirits, whisky is likely the first that comes to mind. But the holidays are all about surprises, like this isle-made vodka. Distilled from green peas, Nàdar Vodka hails from Montrose’s Arbikie distillery, a climate-positive production facility that was the first in Scotland to produce both clear and brown spirits using traditional Scotch distilling techniques. The vodka’s flavor profile is somewhat akin to a pea eau de vie, delivering savory, green, and earthy aromas and flavors. Forget the cocktails — this one’s strictly for sipping and will please any spirit geek in your inner circle.
Average Price: $50
Best Vodka for Cocktail Lovers
When picking a vodka for that friend who breaks out the cocktail shaker at every opportunity, we recommend one with some versatility that provides a neutral profile without sacrificing intensity and complexity. That’s where Spirit Works Distillery Vodka comes in. Distilled from organic red winter wheat harvested in the Sacramento Valley, this spirit is energetic and expressive, offering a delicate sweetness and earthy notes that shine in cocktails like the Cosmo and the Lemon Drop.
Average Price: $36
Best Vodka for to Impress
Want to earn some brownie points with someone important before heading into the new year? Aged for two years in 50-year-old Polish oak barrels, Chopin Vodka Family Reserve is certain to do the trick. The expression is distilled from a rare type of young potatoes harvested from the Chopin Family Estate in Poland, as well as spring water sourced from beneath the distillery’s grounds. The resulting vodka offers a melody of flavors, with subtle fruit notes complementing the oak rather than expected aromas of caramel, wood, and vanilla. Whether you give it away or snag it for yourself, this is a spirit worth splurging on.
Average Price: $130
Best Vodka for Whiskey Lovers
In case you haven’t heard, whiskey is a hot-ticket item, especially when the holidays roll around. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-box for the whiskey wizard in your life who’s fully stocked up on the brown stuff, consider gifting LiV Vodka Standard Edition. The spirit is made from 100 percent Long Island-grown corn using techniques more common in whiskey production: It’s distilled in both column and pot stills, and it’s non-chill-filtered. The resulting spirit is lively, opening with sweet aromas followed by a peppery spice on the palate — definitive proof that vodka can be full of nuance.
Average Price: $25