Unlike whiskey or tequila, vodka can be distilled from, well, pretty much anything. In addition to more standard potato and wheat bases, vodkas made from corn, whey and even fruit can now be found on back bars and on store shelves. And, yes, they all taste different, which means they’re all worth seeking out.
Even though vodka is often referred to as a “neutral” spirit, its base ingredient still impacts its flavor and texture. For instance, corn produces a subtle sweetness, while fruit-based vodkas exhibit, yes, fruity notes. Then there are ingredients like quinoa and whey, whose characteristics are likely more difficult to imagine in your liquor, but they play important roles nonetheless.
These are eight foods that can be turned into vodka, complete with a recommended bottle for each.
Made near Rochester, New York, this eau-de-vie-like vodka from Rootstock Spirits is made from New York State apples. The distillery plants its own apple trees, and then grows and presses the apples on site before distilling the juice. Tree Vodka has a distinct fruity note that evokes apples, as you’d expect, but also bananas. It’s bright, clean and slightly sweet, with a freshness that’s hard to find in grain-based vodkas.
Prairie’s organic, GMO-free vodka is made by Phillips Distilling Company in Minnesota, where it’s produced by distilling locally grown corn. And no, it doesn’t taste like corn-based moonshine or white dog. Instead, Prairie is lightly sweet with notes of corn, melon, pear and citrus. It’s creamy on the palate before finishing clean and refreshing. Prairie Organic Vodka is a natural addition to cocktails, including classics like the Vodka Collins, as well as creative drinks featuring fresh fruits and vegetables.
Comb Vodka hails from New York’s Hudson Valley, where it’s made in small batches from orange blossom honey. While many vodkas are distilled multiple times, Comb is only run through the still once, and it’s left unfiltered. According to the makers, this light touch preserves more of the base ingredient’s flavors, allowing the sweet and floral notes to shine in the finished product. Expect lush honey-apple tones, mild citrus and a dry, warm finish.
Proving that maple is more than just a pancake topping, Vermont Spirits distills its vodka from maple tree sap. It has light caramel aromas and a gentle, sweet maple flavor. That sweetness stops short of cloying territory, but it makes this vodka a good base for sweeter-style cocktails.
This Houston-based vodka begins with Idaho-grown potatoes. The vodka is distilled once, refined by a five-stage filtration system and then cut with water sourced from a 200-feet deep well. The finished product is robust and earthy, with a hint of grapefruit peel on the finish.
Quinoa is most often seen bulking up a grain bowl or sitting beside a main course on your dinner plate. But a two-year joint research project between French distillers and Andean farmers resulted in this superfood finding its way into a bottle. Fair Vodka is a delicate spirit with a light body and a toasty, earthy flavor.
Rye isn’t just for making whiskey. Belvedere employs the sturdy grain, plus water from its own well, to make its Polish vodka. The spirit is full and velvety on the palate and sports mild vanilla sweetness alongside white pepper, almonds and rye spice. Stir it into a Martini or sip it over ice to taste the subtle qualities of the rye.
Whey is the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained, and it’s a typical byproduct of the cheese-making process. It’s also the basis of popular protein supplements. So, it’s probably not the first thing you think of when you ponder vodka. But New Zealand’s Broken Shed uses whey and local water to produce a full-bodied vodka with sweet notes of vanilla and a touch of anise on the finish.