Dec 01, 2015

Best Value in Booze: What's the Best Vodka Under $25?

There are times to try new things. Times to taste different flavors, experiment with products, seek out something you've never encountered before...And sometimes, you just want to know what the best option is. The easy choice. The go-to. The everyday variety you know will work when you need it, and rely on every time.  

created at: 12/01/2015

Throughout the rest of the year, ManMade is seeking out the best affordable bottles of a variety of spirits that work well in your home bar, but know you can grab at the store the next time you head to a friend's house or a party.       

Of all the spirits in our Best Value in Booze series, there's the least to say about vodka. When it is at its best, it's colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It's filtered and distilled as many as seven times, and its very design is to not be distinguishable by its bold character.

created at: 12/01/2015

Vodka is often perceived (and we say: rightly so) as a starter spirit. Something that will disappear inside a mixer, or simply get you messed up. A thing young people drink when they're more interested in alcohol content than the sipping experience, before the drinking man learns to appreciate other clear spirits like gin or blanco tequila.

So, how to judge a vodka? Well, good vodkas certainly do have perceptible differences between them, and they also add things than flavor or aroma: texture, body, and astringency. Good vodkas shouldn't remind you of the smell you experience right before the doctor gives you a shot. They should be experienced as somehow slightly sweet and vanilla-like.

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Our vote for best value bottle is this guy: Russian Standard. You can barely see the name on the label, but its there amongst all the Cyrillic. It's actually a pretty new brand, from the late 1990s, and comes from Saint Petersburg.

It's made with soft winter wheat from the Russian Steppes geographic region, which is distilled four times before filtering through charcoal and spending two days in "relaxation tanks." It's mixed with water from glacial lakes, particularly Lake Ladoga. 

And, the results are (and I hate this word when referring to spirits): smooth. Smooth as in - not harsh, pleasant on the palette, and with just the right amount of warmth. It tastes like alcohol in its most basic form, which, of course, it is. It takes to the cold particularly well, and comes out of the freezer fresh and bracing. I mean, I admittedly would never drink 2 oz. of just cold vodka on any given Friday night, but when I tried it, I sorta saw the appeal. That's a big endorsement from a gin guy. 

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It comes in at less than $20 a bottle (usually $17-18), and gets high ratings everywhere. It won the number one, top pick Chairman's Trophy at this years Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and ranks highly on nearly every shootout I can find.

When I drink vodka, I'll drink this. And be very happy to do it. Go check it out. 


For more in our Best Value in Booze series, check out these great bottles!



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Uncle Tito on Dec 03, 2015:

I was converted to drinking Vodka a year or two ago.  I got really tired of hangovers, and the vodka soda with some lime is one that can go down all night with a stress free morning.  As a now "ex" gin drinker, your statements on vodkas being only good to mess up kids is pretty off point.  I supposed I used to agree with you, then I lost the snobbies and realized quality booze is just that: quality.  A quality vodka is not nutral.  There are very subtle notes of malts, without a tannic bite.  It should be smooth, it should not be flavorless.  Try a few good craft distilleries, and neat things happen.  Now, for under $25; most will not qualify. Sad trombone.  My go to vodka is Tito's out of Austin Texas.  If I can find it, I'll give Russian Standard a try, but I've never seen it... regional maybe?  As far as a "mixing vodka" is concerned? Smirnoff Red Lable. It is pretty dang nutral, and if that's what you're going for; well yay I guess.

TF on Dec 02, 2015:

I prefer Sobieski personally.  Far cheaper, also well reviewed.

joshskies on Dec 02, 2015:

I'd recommend contacting Mr. Witherspoon at Witherspoon Distillery in Lewisville [email protected] . He has a very in-depth perspective about the big business of distilling and liquor. As a craft distillery, he makes a damn good 2yr Single Malt that can compete with 12+yr bottles.   I've been to his facility a handful of times (tours, bringing people in from out of town, enjoying damn good booze), and his story as well as the information he has gathered over the years is great insight for any patron who enjoys a good drink and wants to know the down and dirty.

Anonymous on Dec 02, 2015:

Gotta give my endorsement to Tito's Vodka. Solid price point, and has a little bit of bite while being plenty smooth.