The Five Biggest Vodka Myths

While vodka is usually associated with Russia and other Eastern European countries, it’s actually America’s favorite spirit. (We drink more vodka than gin, rum, tequila and cognac combined.) But despite its popularity, it’s still pretty misunderstood. To clear up some common misconceptions, we asked Tony Abou-Ganim, an all-star bartender and author of  the recently published Vodka Distilled, for help. Here are the five most common myths he hears, along with the truth. Cheers!

All Vodka is the Same.

Not even close. The spirit reflects where it comes from and what it was distilled from. “Traditional-style vodkas, primarily from Eastern Europe, are much more assertive, robust and celebrate their raw ingredients,” says Abou-Ganim, while “the West produces a much softer, more approachable vodka.”

More Distillations = Better Vodka.

We hear this from a lot from both brands and consumers. But according to Abou-Ganim, this isn’t true. For one, each company defines exactly what constitutes a single distillation, and every distillery is set up differently. And if a vodka is over-distilled, there’s a risk of stripping out all the “flavor, aroma and character of the base ingredients,” he says. What you’re left with is essentially pure alcohol.

Vodka is Made from Potatoes.

While vodka can be distilled from potatoes—as with the Swedish Karlsson’s Gold Vodka—it can also be produced from pretty much anything. (The French Ciroc is grape-based, and there’s even a brand made from milk.) But most vodka in this country is made from corn, wheat or other grains.

You Don’t Need to Buy Good Vodka for Cocktails.

“I can’t promise you will always be able to taste the difference in the final drink,” Abou-Ganim says. “But if you drink enough of it, you will certainly feel [the difference] the next day. Life is too short to drink cheap, poorly distilled vodka!”

Price = Quality.

How much should you spend on vodka? It’s a pretty tough question, since the price tag isn’t an accurate indicator of quality. So, “do your homework: Taste as many vodkas in as many different price ranges as possible,” Abou-Ganim recommends. “I’ve tasted wonderful bottles of $12 vodka and wonderful bottles of $50 vodka.”

Learn more about vodka and get lots more cocktail recipes in our vodka guide.

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  • bjorn.arvidsson.7 posted 1 year ago

    Above the bottom-shelf swill, vodka is perfectly acceptable. I use Luksusowa or Monopolowa; smooth, easy drinking and $20/handle. I grew up near where they make Absolut, and that is nice, and so are the Russian vodka's like Stolichnaya ands Moskowskaya, but beyond that, IMHO, you're wasting your money. I'll spend money on something aged in different barrekls, with differing malt-bills, etc, but not on Vodka. Because it's the biggest seller in the US, a lot of people who don't like other, more flavoured liquors, like to show off and buy vodka costing more than a 15 year old single malt. Ridiculous!

  • Mister Bill posted 2 years ago

    Vodka is basically ethanol produced from grains. It takes on flavors from the base grain. Distilling smooths out the Vodka and can reduce it to "meh". Triple, quadruple, etc. distilled can mean different things and produce different results. Many producers distill several times while other use a fractionating still to achieve the "distillations", much like a oil refinery.

    In the United States, many vodkas are made from 95% ethanol produced in large quantities by agricultural-industrial giants Archer Daniels Midland and Midwest Grain Processors. Bottlers purchase the base spirits in bulk, then filter, dilute, distribute and market the end product under a variety of vodka brand names.[

    At the end of the day, it's not how it's made, what it's made from, where it's made, how much it cost, how the bottle/label looks, or what's trendy.... it's all about WHAT YOU LIKE!! Don't be swayed by marketing or bartenders trying rackup you tab, and above all don't drink a brand of vodka to look "cool."

  • gothsheekgmailcom708476938 posted 2 years ago

    That one that all vodka is the same BUULLLSHIIIT!!!!!! I can attest to there being different levels of vodka. When I was younger and used to drink quite often (I finally had to admit that I was developing a drinking problem and have gone from nightly to once in a blue moon thing and I cut myself off after two which since my tollerence is pretty much zero, two screwdrivers and i am pretty buzzed and dozing off at the 1-1/2 mark..
    Back then I used to drink a cheap brand called "Bartons" I actually asked a cashere joking around if they mixed the stuff with nail polish remover or acetone or terpintine or something, because it tasted and smelled like nail polish remover with acetone. She did not find the humor in that question.
    I wondered silently if the stick up her ass was removable or had it just fused with her intestines and removing it would likely kill her.
    I didn't dare ask her that, she was the type who would kick customers out without a second thought if they looked at her wrong or breathed to loudly.
    Now when I drink, I have Smirnoff or Grey Goose when I feel like really celabrateing something special., like getting married.
    I can tell a huge difference even in a shot, the Smirnoff and GG go down a lot more smoothly than the old swill, pretty sure that I was onto something and that lady knew it and had an important secret to keep.

  • Richard5709 posted 2 years ago

    Having once spent some time as a bartender, this is what I was told, by U.S. patient laws to be called Vodka it must be , colorless, odorless, and tasteless. This of course is not the case of imported Vodka and there is nothing better or my potent than freezing cold Stoly to make you see things.

  • ljdcooksgmailcom542866841 posted 2 years ago

    Absolutely true J.T!!! Im tired of people trying to tell me that all alcohol is safe(gluten free) because of the distillation!!!

  • ljdcooksgmailcom542866841 posted 2 years ago

    Absolutely true J.T!!! Im tired of people trying to tell me that all alcohol is safe because of the distillation!!!

  • posted 2 years ago

    Interesting point on distillation. Some cheaper vodkas (which I tend to frequent, for cost reasons) tend to cover up the lack of quality attendant to the price by stating 3-5 times distilled. I assume any vodka must be distilled at least once but what should we be looking for?

  • J.T. posted 3 years ago

    Another is that ALL vodka is gluten free. This is not so, just ask the TTB. If it is made from a product that contains gluten (wheat, barley, rye based), then no matter how much you distill and filter, it will always have traces of gluten in it. Some brands feel this is good enough, but to put someone who has celiac disease at risk just because you want to run a marketing campaign, I think I would rather sleep at night. One of the smoothest naturally gluten free vodkas on the market that I have tasted is Azzurre Vodka out of Vegas. Made from apples, wine grapes, and sugar cane, you can sip it on the rocks like a fine bourbon and enjoy every minute of the experience.

  • justin.i.harmon posted 3 years ago

    Tito's vodka is Guten free. Also no hangovers.

  • MikeLM posted 3 years ago

    About six or eight years ago, the Wall Street Journal had a fun, front-page article about the making of the new designer vodkas. According to the Journal, you think of a catchy name, design an idiosyncratic bottle and a flashy label, and figure out some quirky water to mix with your alcohol (I believe one brand claims to use water from melted icebergs.) Than you order your Beverage-Grade Alcohol, which is 98%+ pure alcohol... from Archer Daniels Midland, the giant agricultural-products producer. They will deliver it to you either in a railroad tank car or a tanker semi-trailer truck; your choice. You do your hocus-pocus and behold- you have a $50 vodka!

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