Neutral, run-of-the-mill vodkas are great for most vodka cocktails. But Martinis are a different story. Within that classic two-ingredient cocktail, there’s nowhere for a lesser spirit to hide. You need a spirit so clean and so good that you could drink it straight. Here are five vodkas that will taste great in your Martini even if your bartender just winks at the vermouth.
This new Ukrainian vodka is crafted specifically for mixing into cocktails. Thanks to a slow filtration though birch charcoal, it keeps some of the spiciness that comes from the portion of rye that goes into the mash, as well as the cooling taste of cucumber. But most present is a crisp minerality from the water pulled from an underground spring, which makes a Martini made with Zirkova feel downright refreshing. The brand itself recommends garnishing the drink with a sage leaf, which opens up a whole new world of aromatics that you probably never considered in a Martini.
For a Full-Bodied Martini: Ultimat Vodka, $25
Made in Poland, this impressively silky vodka is made from potato, wheat and rye grain. The rye adds complexity, the potato creates richness and the wheat ensures a smooth finish. The final product is the base for a rounded, full-bodied Martini.
It’s fair to be hesitant to put beets in your Martini, but don’t think twice before mixing this vodka distilled from beet sugar into your next cocktail. Made in Brooklyn, New York, in a laboratory-grade still built by the distillery’s owners, Industry Standard is distilled only once, resulting in a distinctly earthy flavor. If you only buy one vodka for your Martini, we suggest devoting your budget to this brand—and garnishing with a lemon twist to offset its almost savory flavor.
We grant you, $47 is a steep price for a bottle of vodka, but when it’s a vodka that tastes as complex as this Washington state vodka, it’s worth it. At once nutty and spicy with a hint of citrus, it is good enough to sip straight. And that’s the sort of flavor you need if you’re only adding a whisper of dry vermouth as you do in a Dry Martini.
Indiana-based distillery Cardinal Spirits strays from more prototypical ingredients like wheat and potatoes in favor of white grapes. Though you may have been scarred by other grape-based vodkas before, this one is highly sippable and mixable. It’s also a great vodka for those who are more typically drawn to gin, or those who want to make the transition from vodka to gin-based Martinis. While very smooth at first, the flavor develops into a slightly herbal finish.
Rye whiskies are known for their biting, spicy flavors, and this vodka made from rye grain proves that those qualities translate to other spirits as well. Made in the village of Krzesk, Poland, Chopin’s rye offering lends a heat to Martinis that complements the sweet, herbal tones of vermouth.