We Tried Frito-Lay's New Vodka

When it comes to liquor, vodka is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages out there. The clear spirit doesn't take on many distinct characteristics, and that's by design to make it so versatile. According to Taste of Home, vodka is distilled to remove characteristics, aromas, flavors, and colors from its body, leaving you with a clear spirit that is, at minimum, 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). 

The process of making vodka is pretty simple — plant material that is high is starch or sugar, like wheat or rye, is fermented and later distilled. Sometimes, unusual products like apples, quinoa or honey are used (via Liquor.com). But, for centuries, potatoes have been a staple for making the spirit. 

These days, vodka made from potatoes is harder to find. Potatoes are more time consuming to use than other materials because they must be peeled before distillation. Also, potato vodka has a totally different mouth feel and taste than vodka distilled from other grains (via Liquor.com). But in some countries, like Poland and Sweden, distilling vodka from potatoes is still a common practice today. 

Since potatoes and vodka are a natural and age-old pair, it wasn't a total shock when Frito Lay announced that their first foray into the alcohol business would involve a spud-based vodka. Luckily, we got our hands on a bottle and can give you all the details, so you can decide if Lay's Vodka is something you need to add to your liquor cabinet. 

What's in Lay's potato vodka?

Lay's potato chips are one of a kind because they're made from Frito Lay's very own variety of potatoes. According to the Hartford Courant, the company processes close to 1 million pounds of raw potatoes per day at a single plant. It takes 100 pounds of potatoes to make 27 pounds of chips, so the company relies on a solid and steady supply. The Lay's potatoes, developed by Frito Lay food scientists, are drier and more grainy than your typical types of potatoes like russets or Yukon golds. 

So, to make Lay's Vodka, Eastside Distilling (which distilled and bottled the spirit) blended two vodkas: one made from potatoes grown in Portland, Oregon and another that used the proprietary Lay's potatoes. The 750 milliliter bottle is 80 proof, meaning it contains 40% ABV. The Lay's Vodka is distilled four times, which is pretty standard as vodkas are usually distilled between one and five times (via Difford's Guide).

How much does Lay's vodka cost?

Lay's has the power of brand recognition in their favor always. Whether you're at a sandwich stop or a gas station, you can expect to find a bag of Lay's potato chips in flavors that taste the same every time you open a bag. While the company's chips are accessible, their foray into alcohol isn't at a low price point by any means. A bottle costs $40, putting it in the premium vodka category. According to Drizly, a 750 milliliter bottle of Tito's or Grey Goose will cost you around $30, so it's definitely on the higher end, but the price is also probably due to the limited availability. 

Lay's and Eastside Distilling only produced 1,300 bottles of their collaboration — on the front of the label, each bottle is individually numbered. A price tag of $40 for a limited-edition spirit is not outrageous by any means. However, when it comes to the staple vodka you always have on hand, you might look for something a little more affordable. 

Is it available for purchase?

Lay's and Eastside Distilling debuted the vodka collaboration on December 16 and let fans know that the product was available in extremely limited quantitiesIt only took a few hours for the vodka to sell out. It's obvious that the unexpected drop was intriguing to customers who were curious how a popular snack food would translate to booze. 

It was smart for Lay's to drop such a unique product around the holidays, as it's the perfect gift for chip addicts as well as vodka lovers. It's not certain whether or not the two companies plan to collaborate to distill more Lay's Vodka, but at least one more drop would likely be successful considering the demand. However, it doesn't seem likely that Lay's will dive head-first into the alcohol business full-time, as they've been doing pretty well at selling us salty snacks for decades. But if a Fritos whiskey ended up being a thing, we wouldn't be shocked.  

How does it fit in to Lay's product lineup?

As previously mentioned, this is the first alcohol product to come from Frito Lay. The company tends to stick to brands of snacks, mostly savory and crunchy items like tortilla chips or pretzels. So it's hard to compare to anything from Lay's, a company that has never even released a drink product before. The timing makes sense as 2020 saw a major increase in alcohol sales (via Food and Wine), so what company wouldn't want a piece of the pie? 

Recently, Arby's unveiled a similar stunt, debuting their own (also sold-out) vodka flavored like their french fries. It seems like unconventional alcohol products are the hot thing to do right now whether its Oreo Thins wine or Sonic hard seltzer. We appreciate that Lay's take on vodka is rooted in tradition, down to its crisp and clean flavor that bears no resemblance to chip flavors like barbecue or sour cream and onion. 

The final verdict

As far as taste, Lay's clearly made a smart move by collaborating with Eastside Distilling on the product. The Portland, Oregon craft spirits company has plenty of experience when it comes to alcohol production, including their award-winning Portland Potato Vodka. Since the Lay's Vodka has no flavors reminiscent of salty chips, it is perfect for a cocktail to pair with a bag of your favorite flavor. 

Upon opening the bottle, it smells like the average vodka without an overwhelming alcoholic scent. The flavor itself is light, fresh, and easy to drink. It has a crisp finish that doesn't burn whatsoever going down. The vodka itself has a slight sweetness to it, making it very easy to sip on its own or to pair with your favorite mixer. It's a bit different than expected as Lay's is known for perfecting savory flavors, but it's not an unwelcome surprise at all. For a vodka martini or even a basic vodka soda, this is a solid option. The novelty is in the packaging and the idea that the spirit is distilled from potatoes destined to be chips. But as for the flavor, it is solid across the board, even for the biggest vodka snobs.