Shaken or stirred? Olive or twist? Few cocktail conversations feel as tired as those concerning how you “should” enjoy a Martini. (Make and drink it however you damn please!) Yet one area remains where the record should be set straight: gin versus vodka.
While purists will forever side with juniper-laced gin, no longer is this a question of clear-cut quality. Liquor stores stock dozens of impressive vodka brands, and the category brims with options that deliver distinct — if subtle — character. Things haven’t always been this way but the vodka Martini can now be so much more than a flavorless alcohol delivery vehicle.
From wheat- and rye-based bottles to brands pushing boundaries with fruit and other ingredients, here are the 11 best vodkas for Martinis.
This Polish rye vodka opens with clean, mineral-driven aromas. The bite of peppery grain and booze on the palate translate to a Martini that’s subtle on flavor but packs an enjoyable punch — as this cocktail should. Average price: $30.
Bistro La Fine Vodka
Five times distilled in triple pot stills, this French wheat vodka delivers muted sprays of citrus and a hint of black pepper. Married with vermouth, it presents an approachable Martini whose profile is just as attractive as this vodka’s sleek packaging. Average price: $28.
Chopin Rye Vodka
An enjoyable bite of rye grips the finish of this Polish vodka, while notes of black pepper and brown bread define the palate. The mix of savory and spice demands a juicy Castelvetrano olive garnish. Average price: $25.
Grey Goose Vodka
With an exceptionally smooth finish, Grey Goose lends texture and silkiness to a classic Martini. Skip the olive and opt for a lemon twist here to bring out the spirit’s subtle citrus notes. Average price: $29.
Distilled from rice and filtered through bamboo charcoal, this Japanese vodka has an attractive floral character and a pleasantly sweet finish. While it dazzles when paired with dry vermouth, mixing with sake only enhances the distinctive character of rice. Average price: $28.
Jean-Marc XO Vodka
Another high-quality French wheat vodka, Jean-Marc XO has a graceful profile. Fresh fruit and white flower notes provide a subtly perfumed character. Where other vodkas are completely overpowered by vermouth when mixed in a 50:50 Martini, this expression holds its own. (We also love it mixed exceedingly dry and cold.) Average price: $60.
Kástra Elión Vodka
This stunning Greek vodka is distilled from olives and grains, and shows definitive character from the get-go. Saline notes mingle with an unexpected burst of fruit, while the texture is velvety and well-rounded. Serve with an olive garnish but hold the brine. Average price: $55.
An elegant wheat vodka from a quality Cognac producer, this expression has an exceedingly clean profile, and shows hints of minerals. It mixes a quintessential Vodka Martini — the type a British secret service agent might drink — and lands with luxurious weight when chilled down to near freezer temperature. Average price: $37.
Priced at just over 10 bucks, this Polish rye vodka is the ultimate pick for mixing budget-friendly Martinis. It has an entirely neutral profile but — crucially — also shows no hint of ethanol on nose or palate. The same cannot be said for almost all of the big-name brands on liquor store shelves, many of which retail for two- to three-times as much. Average price: $13.
St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka
A blend of neutral grain spirit and St. George’s flagship pear brandy, which is distilled up to 95.1 percent ABV, this vodka retains a whisper of eau de vie, and serves attractive prickly heat on the finish. Stirred with vermouth, it delivers a memorable Martini — one we like to garnish with a small grapefruit twist. Average price: $30.
Watershed Distillery Vodka
From Ohio, this vodka is distilled from corn and apples, a combination that provides a sweet, fruity profile, and full-bodied texture. Bursts of citrus on the finish point to a lemon twist as the ideal garnish. Average price: $25.