The holiday season brings with it prized traditions, family gatherings, and festive drinks to get us through said gatherings. Often the unsung hero of back bars, vodka is a bartender’s workhorse — a versatile spirit that finds a home in countless trendy cocktails, from Cosmopolitans to Espresso Martinis.
Vodka is essential to any home bar cart, especially for the budding mixologist in your life. From celebratory shots to shaken and stirred cocktails, a good bottle of vodka is a requisite to any holiday gathering. Ranging from entry-level to geeky, these seven bottles are sure to be a yuletide hit among your friends, family, and colleagues.
- Best budget vodka: Sobieski Vodka
- Best splurge vodka: Chopin Vodka Family Reserve
- Best vodka for beginners: Reyka Vodka
- Best vodka for geeks: Vestal Vodka Unfiltered (2015 Vintage)
- Best vodka for cocktail lovers: Kástra Elión Vodka
- Best vodka for the boss: Reisetbauer Axberg Vodka
- Best vodka for whiskey lovers: Castle & Key Sacred Spring Vodka
Best Budget Vodka
While many “neutral” vodkas arrive on the palate with unpleasant hints of ethanol, this offering over-delivers for its price tag. A Polish expression made from rye, Sobieski outperforms its similarly priced competitors by a longshot and even stands above many big-name brands — many of which are double or even triple the cost. Add it as a stocking stuffer or bring it along to your next holiday party — this is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Average price: $13
Best Splurge Vodka
If you’re looking to splurge on your loved ones this season, Chopin’s Family Reserve is a no-brainer. It may seem like a steep price to pay for a bottle of vodka — a category often viewed as being tasteless — but this is not your everyday expression. Distilled from a rare potato variety grown on Chopin’s estate, the spirit is aged in 50-year-old Polish oak barrels for two years before it’s bottled. The result is a balanced, fruit-forward liquid with a delightfully long finish. If it’s a sipping vodka you seek, look no further.
Average price: $130
Best Vodka for Beginners
From Borgarnes, Iceland, comes this mineral-forward, delightfully fresh vodka. Reyka is made using Icelandic glacial spring water and is filtered using volcanic rocks for a clean, quaffable spirit. With its slightly saline and almost minty profile, this is begging to be mixed into a dry Martini with a twist.
Average price: $19
Best Vodka for Geeks
A single-vintage vodka, this memorable bottling from Vestal is made from the Miranda potato, a variety known for its sweet flavor. The resulting vodka will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the category — an earthy aroma is met with floral and fruity flavors on the palate, making for a delightful sip that’s unlike any other on the market. Distilled only once in a pot-column hybrid still, and bottled without filtration, this is a truly unique vodka that’s a must-buy for the spirits connoisseur in your life.
Average price: $28
Best Vodka for Cocktail Lovers
For true Dirty Martini lovers, there’s no such thing as too much olive. If you have a pal who orders theirs filthy, there’s no better vodka to give them this year. Hailing from Greece, Kástra Elión is distilled from grains and olives, and its briny flavor is unmistakable. On the palate, a velvety viscosity is met with hints of fruit for a well-balanced sip. Mixed into a Martini, this expression adds a saline appeal — no brine necessary.
Average price: $55
Best Vodka for the Boss
This vodka is sure to leave an impression. Known for its world-class fruit and vegetable eaux de vie, Hans Reisetbauer proves with this bottle that it produces equally impressive gins and vodkas. This expression, made from a wheat base, offers notes of fresh fruit and flower blossoms, and has a decadently viscous texture on the palate. A long finish makes each sip of this vodka worth savoring.
Average price: $42
Best Vodka for Whiskey Lovers
For the whiskey collector who has everything, think outside the box this year. While this vodka won’t match the darker-hued bottles on their shelf, it is made using the very same mash bill as Castle & Key’s bourbon: 73 percent corn, 10 percent rye, and 17 percent malted barley. The spirit is bursting with notes of sweet and spicy grain alongside subtle wafts of dried berries and toasted nuts — and is proof that vodka can, in fact, have character.
Average price: $32