Spirits & Liqueurs Vodka

The 10 Best Vodkas for Martinis in 2021

Shaken, stirred, with olives or a twist.

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According to Tony Abou-Ganim, author of "Vodka Distilled," the original vodka Martini had an unusual moniker. "In the 50s, with vodka gaining popularity on gin and people starting to substitute vodka for gin in a Martini, bartenders, especially in New York City, were looking for a name for the drink," he explains. The winner? For some reason, was the Kangaroo. As it appeared in "The Esquire Drink Book" from 1956, the Kangaroo was one wet Martini, with a 2:1 ratio of vodka to vermouth, and a lemon peel garnish.

"As we start to celebrate cinema more and James Bond becomes a superstar," says Abou-Ganim, "Americans embraced the vodka Martini," and the strange name was dropped. Starting with the 1962 film "Dr. No," James Bond was drinking his vodka Martinis drier, and always shaken not stirred. Abou-Ganim argues that the secret agent "had more to do with vodka's popularity than anything else." In 1976, vodka surpassed whiskey as the nation's most popular spirit, and it has stayed on top since.  

Smirnoff was Bond's original choice, with bottles of the brand making cameos throughout "Dr. No," and later Bond films have featured Stolichnaya and Belvedere. But you don't have to stick to those brands. With the expansion of the category in the past half-century, there's a vodka for any kind of Martini you want to drink. With the help of industry experts, we've collected the absolute best vodkas to get to make that perfect Martini right now.

Best Overall: Stoli Elit

Stoli Elit

Image Source / Drizly

  • Region: Russia
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Grain, Mineral Water, Cream

Triple distillation of estate-grown grain, followed by an elaborate set of filtration methods involving quartz, birch charcoal, freezing and ion charging, results in "one of the most light-bodied, pleasant vodkas to drink," says Anthony Baker, a veteran of NYC cocktail dens like The Aviary and The Grill. It makes for a super-clean Martini that reveals what Abou-Ganim calls this vodka's "subtle nuances" as you sip. 

Best for Dry Martini: Hangar 1

Hangar 1 Straight

Image Source / ReserveBar

  • Region: California
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Orange, White Pepper, Cinnamon

A wheat-based vodka that is run through a column still and a rustic, copper-pot vodka made from viognier grapes are blended together to produce this punchy spirit from the San Francisco Bay area. With both citrus notes and assertive pepperiness, it can take either a twist or savory garnishes like cocktail onions or gherkins.

Read Next: The Best Vodkas

Best for Cosmopolitan Martini: Absolut Citron

Absolut Citron Vodka

Image Source / Wine.com

  • Region: Sweden
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Lemon Peel, Lime, Orange

Abou-Ganim likes to put his vodkas through the paces by subjecting them to a blind expert tasting panel that samples the spirits neat and in cocktails. Ideal vodka for the Cosmopolitan? "It was unanimous on the Citron," he reports. Infused with lemon, lime, grapefruit, and mandarin orange with no added sugar, it's "the benchmark," he says—"tried and true"—for mixing with cranberry and Cointreau.

Best for French Martini: Finlandia Cranberry

Finlandia Cranberry Vodka

Image Source / Drizly

  • Region: Finland
  • ABV: 37.5%
  • Tasting Notes: Cranberry, Raspberry, Cream

A lip-smacking concoction including Chambord and pineapple juice, the French Martini gets a berry-forward boost from this vodka distilled from six-row barley, crystalline glacial water and local cranberries.

“Scandinavia has always been famous for its delicious, organic cranberries," says Slava Borisov of Chicago's Travelle at The Langham, "and those countries take excellent care of their ecosystems, forests and water sources.” All that stewardship results in a "very special" vodka.

Best for Dirty Martini: Woody Creek

Woody Creek

Image Source / ReserveBar

  • Region: Colorado
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Potato, Earth, Pepper

Distilled only once from Rio Grande spuds grown on the husband-and-wife producers' own farm in the high country outside Aspen, Colo., this "earthy, funky, vegetal" vodka is Abou-Ganim's pick for a potato vodka bold enough to stand up to the most powerful-tasting accompaniments. It's the right pour, he says, for a Dirty Martini garnished with a blue cheese-stuffed olive.

Best Russian: Beluga Gold Line

Beluga Gold Line Russian Vodka

Image Source / Drizly

  • Region: Russia
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Flowers, Cream, Alpine Herbs

"It is Beluga’s philosophy to have this vodka rest after each step of the production," explains Borisov. After a five-time filtration process to achieve maximum smoothness, the vodka's final resting period is 90 days. "This allows it to reach perfect balance and harmony," Borisov notes. Sold with a wooden hammer and brush for breaking and removing its wax seal, this limited-edition, giftable bottle imparts "delightful floral notes and a creamy aftertaste" to a citrus-garnished Martini.

Read Next: The Best Russian Vodkas

Best for Lemon Drop Martini: Ketel One Citroen

Ketel One Citroen

Image Source / ReserveBar

  • Region: Netherlands
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Lemon, Lime, Honey

The unanimous choice of Abou-Ganim's blind tasting panel for a Lemon Drop is this Dutch vodka from a 330-year-old family distillery. Copper pot distilled, it is infused with four varieties of lemons and two types of limes for the sweet, bright citrus high notes that mix so well with triple sec and fresh lemon juice in the drink.

Read Next: The Best Flavored Vodkas

Best Budget: Russian Standard

Russian Standard Original Vodka

Image Source / Drizly

  • Region: Russia
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Pepper, Sourdough Bread, Cream

At less than $20, this popular Russian brand is affordable and easy to find. But it's also a quality vodka, made using robust winter wheat from the Black Steppes and pure glacial water. "It really represents Russian vodka's character," Abou-Ganim explains. "It's big, bold and spicy, and you can taste the grain." But quadruple filtering also gives it a smoothness that goes down great in a savory Martini.

Best for Apple Martini: Crystal Head

Crystal Head Vodka

Image Source / ReserveBar

  • Region: Newfoundland
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Tropical Fruit, Wildflowers

Distilled four times from Canada's super-sweet "peaches and cream" corn, then filtered a whopping seven times, in part through semi-precious Herkimer diamonds, this vodka from Crystal Head starts off fruity and finishes polished and clean. It's the one to reach for when mixing up an Apple Martini. Take it out when you're bartending for friends; the distinctive glass-skull bottle will wow them.  

Read Next: The Best Gifts for Vodka Lovers

Best European: Grey Goose

Grey goose vodka

Courtesy of drizly

  • Region: France
  • ABV: 40%
  • Tasting Notes: Flowers, Almonds, Light Toffee

Made from soft winter wheat grown in Picardy of northern France, along with spring water from the Cognac region, this smooth, delicate vodka by Grey Goose is a pleasure for Francophiles and Martini lovers alike. With a slight, earthy sweetness akin to a hint of almonds and toffee, it's the bottle to reach for when you want your Martini a touch less dry, as it mingles beautifully with a bianco vermouth and a Meyer lemon or tangerine peel.

Why Trust Liquor.com?

Betsy Andrews has been writing about wine and spirits for two decades. A long-time gin drinker, she first discovered how exciting vodka can be back in 2012 when she was working at Saveur magazine and edited a story on new American craft vodkas. Her favorite way to drink vodka is in a Salty Dog, with fresh grapefruit juice in an iced highball glass with a salted rim.

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