The Best Cheap Vodka, According To A Bartender

There are many myths surrounding vodka that you should stop believing, such as the common misconception that all vodkas taste the same. Any cocktail enthusiast will tell you that, in fact, some brands have a much more distinct flavor than others.

You might wonder who the first person to create vodka was. The legend goes that a monk, known as Isidore, first formulated vodka around 1430, and got it to as strong as 40% ABV (via Russia Beyond). It was probably around Eastern Europe much earlier than this but this is the first record of it. The name 'vodka' comes from the Russian word for 'water'. 

This spirit tends to be used in many mixed drink recipes for its neutrality but it's more versatile than you might think, you can even use vodka in cooking. While it's popular to drink straight and alongside appetizers in Eastern European countries, it's probably not healthy if you drink vodka every day.

When you do indulge, you want to pick the right vodka, as there are a lot of variables that go into making different types and the wrong formulation could mean an unpalatable taste and a bad hangover (via Ale Sessions).

Not all vodkas are the same

In an interview with Mashed, Jack Schramm, the former head bartender at Existing Conditions and co-founder of Solid Wiggles Jelly Cakes said that looking at the raw ingredients of the vodka was important. Most vodkas come from grains or potatoes but some come from soybeans, rice, and molasses (via Ale Sessions).

"Wheat vodkas tend to be clean, pristine, and the most neutral. Rye vodka is a little spicy and carries more weight from the grain. Potato vodka will have the most body and an almost oily, rich finish," Schramm says. Ale Sessions concurs, stating that vodka made from rye or wheat tends to be considered higher quality and therefore usually more expensive. Schramm says that if you're after a less expensive vodka but still looking for quality, he recommends the brand Absolut, which is made from wheat. Another suggestion is Sobieski, a rye-based vodka, and Vestal, a potato vodka.

However, if you do happen to have a cheap vodka on hand, Schramm recommends using other high-quality ingredients to balance out the experience. "It's unfair to mix a budget vodka with Diet Sprite and Jolly Ranchers then claim that the vodka tasted bad and gave you a hangover," he said.

And for those of you wondering about corn-based vodkas, Schramm deems them "underwhelming" and tends to avoid using them. Sorry Tito's.