The 5 Best Vodkas (Yes, Vodkas) for Your Home Bar

... And why bourbon fans owe the spirit a debt of gratitude

By Kirk Miller

 
Vodka
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04 October 2017

Welcome to Pick Your Poison, wherein the world’s best bartenders help stock your bar, one spirit at a time.


Today is National Vodka Day.

And we could certainly use a drink.

But ... vodka? The maligned, tasteless choice of the unrefined masses and clueless college students everywhere?

But today we are here to say: give it a chance. Vodka’s an underrated spirit, and possibly the most versatile thing you’ll have in your home bar.

To get a better idea of what vodka can do, we went to the experts: The Sub Zero Vodka Bar in St. Louis, which claims to have the largest selection of vodka in the country.

“Vodka is the perfect blank canvas for a creative bartender,” explains Dustin Parres, Sub Zero’s Bar Manager. “It adds 'oomph' without dominating flavor, and allows the bartender to focus on the fruity, sour, sweet, floral or herbal elements they want to play up most in the drink they are creating.”

According to Parres, vodka actually enjoyed almost three decades as the number one spirit in the United States. “Vodka distillers actually paved the way for the modern bourbon craze,” he notes. “After years of focusing on producing vodkas that were uniformly tasteless, colorless and odorless, they began to distill and filter vodka less. By leaving more flavor and character in the bottle, distillers created more robust vodkas and curious consumers began to seek out even more robust spirits.”

So, not all vodkas taste the same. Here are Parres’s five picks that prove it.

Stolichnaya Elit
The first super premium vodka released nationally, and readily available at most high-end establishments. This Russian vodka is rested in a freezing tank and filtered through white linen, giving it a creamy mouthfeel not typical of wheat-based vodkas, along with a clean taste with just a hint of vanilla on the finish.

Reyka
This Icelandic vodka, filtered through lava rock and made in a 100-percent geothermal-powered distillery, offers a great balance of cleanliness and character. A great choice for traditional martinis.

EFFEN
The toasted wheat in this Dutch vodka brings out plenty of natural sweetness (without any added sugar). EFFEN should be enjoyed straight up, shaken and as cold as possible — sometimes I add a skewer of olives for the perfect contrast of salty and sweet.

Russian Standard
The name says it all. This vodka adheres to Dmitri Mendeleev’s standards of distillation for a clean flavor and the bold, biting finish, found in all great Russian vodkas.

Pearl
A great St. Louis brand with tons of flavors and great versatility makes this an obvious choice as the base of many of our most popular cocktails.

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