Food & Drink

The 6 Best Vodkas for Sipping Straight

Vodka’s original selling point has proved its undoing. Turns out that regardless of it being marketed as odorless or tasteless, you can both smell and taste an 80-proof spirit. So, while it’s content to lie low in your Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini, there is such as thing as good stuff and said good stuff has flavor, dammit. What’s more, it deserves to be appreciated on its own. So if you are in possession of a good bottle, next time chill it in the freezer or pour a good slug over a big ice cube like you would with a nice bourbon, and go one-on-one with the eastern Europeans’ gift to civilization. If you’re stuck for which brands are worth a shot, here are six great vodkas that work just fine on their own.

Absolut Elyx ($42)

Absolut’s small-batch, luxury offering is distilled in copper stills and made with single-estate winter wheat. It’s sweet, a touch nutty and incredibly silky with a weighty heft, oozing out of the rectangular, copper-flecked bottle and easing down your throat, with no trace of vodka’s signature burn.  

Nikka Coffey Vodka ($43)

Made by one of Japan’s top whisky distilleries, this fresh, nuanced vodka is crisp and clean but also filled with soft flavors of citrus essence, green mint and sweet peas, with just a hint of white pepper bite on the finish. Not only is this vodka delicious on its own, but it would be a shame to cover it up with any other ingredients. If you absolutely must, top it with some soda water. But otherwise, keep it in your freezer and pour it straight into a glass.

Russian Standard ($20)

Served ice cold and taken as a shot (the Russian way), there is nothing like a straight hit of Russian Standard. It’s invigorating, palate cleansing and wonderfully refreshing. Vodka might not be thought of as a go-to food-friendly spirit, but believe us when we say this one truly is the perfect accompaniment for the bold fare you might see on a Russian spread, from salty smoked salmon to pickles to pâté.

Purity ($30)

Named 2017 best vodka in the world at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, Purity is distilled a whopping 34 times. While you might expect the resulting spirit to be flavorless, with more in common with water than booze, it is far from it. It’s slightly sweet and ultra-silky on the palate, with a hint of baking spices and minerality. Chill it down with an ice cube and get to gulping.

Snow Leopard ($37)

This spelt-based Polish vodka is light and bright with a lingering, almost fennel-like finish. While it does make for a great Vodka Martini, it’s also great on its own as an aperitif before dinner. Bonus: It comes from a brand that gives back. The company donates 15 percent of the profits to the Snow Leopard Trust, which helps protect endangered snow leopards.

elit Vodka by Stoli ($52)

Sold in a tall, almost architectural bottle, Stoli’s luxury offering makes its presence known. Luckily, it follows its entrance up with an equally impressive flavor. Made with a balanced mix of winter wheat, spring wheat and rye from a single estate in Russia, it’s lightly zesty on the front with some sweet honeysuckle notes, then finishes with a mild black pepper burn.