How to Drink Vodka — 5 Rules for Picking a Vodka

vodka nutrition facts

Neustockimages/Getty Images

“Low-calorie.” “Gluten-free.” “Filtered a billion times.” How did vodka become so  unclear? There are a lot of terms and tricks to navigate when finding the right way to choose and sip your drink.

This five-step guide will help you wade through the complicated world of the neutral spirit.

1. That vodka might be “vodka.”

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below


Earlier this year, Ketel One launched Botanical, a vodka distilled with herbs and fruit “essence.” The brand says the spirit’s low calorie content (73 per 1.5 oz) and lack of artificial flavors appeal to health-conscious imbibers.

It’s still booze, says Rob McCaughey of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, but technically it’s not traditional vodka, which must be 40 percent ABV, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Ketel One Botanical is 30 percent.

Drink it and enjoy it if you want to, but it’s not real vodka.

2. Super-filtering is not actually a thing.


Terms like “ten-times-distilled” and “triple-filtered” describe the processing required to turn grain (or potatoes, or corn) into alcohol. “But the average consumer can’t taste how many times a vodka’s been distilled,” says Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at the Dorsey at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Anything beyond three distillations can be redundant, adds Kristine Bocchino, beverage director at Lunetta in Santa Monica. Pitbull’s brand, Voli 305, is distilled 17 times, which, like Pitbull himself, is excessive.

vodka facts

oneinchpunch/Getty Images

3. Texture trumps flavor.


Treat great vodka as you would great whisky: without calorie-laden cheap mixers.

“If you’re sipping it on its own, you’ll want something with at least some essence of its raw material,” says McCaughey. That means picking rye- and potato-based vodkas, which typically hail from Poland (Belvedere, Chopin, Debowa). Vodkas made with potato can have a creamier texture, while rye-based vodkas have a zesty, spicy character.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Unsure of where to start? Gather a few friends for a blind tasting. It’s the best way to cut through all the marketing hype to find a taste and texture that you like, McCaughey says.

4. GF? GTFO.


Although base ingredients can be key, don’t blow your budget on a bottle that touts what isn’t inside. Even if a spirit is fermented with wheat or rye, the distillation process effectively removes all gluten from the vodka.

Tito’s vodka, for example, uses a corn-mash base and proudly flies the gluten-free flag. Other corn-based brands, such as Deep Eddy, are also GF but don’t explicitly advertise as such.

All vodka without any flavored additives is gluten-free, so think twice about paying extra for anything that labels itself GF.

5. When you mix, opt for fresher flavors.


Vodka cocktails, by way of college “punches,” have acquired a piss-poor reputation. Restore respect with simple add-ins that lend balance and lead to quenchers.

Our go-to? Shake 1.5 oz vodka, 1 oz Campari, and 1.5 oz orange juice with ice. Strain into a glass with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with orange and cinnamon. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*