Saturday, 6 December 2008 | Tags:

Originally known as the "water of life", vodka has been a popular spirit for centuries and is typically enjoyed straight-up or mixed. We find out more about vodka, both for drinking and for cooking.

The Basics

  • Water is the primary ingredient found in vodka which is combined with any agricultural material that can ferment. The most common ingredients include rye, wheat, potatoes and corn.

  • A good vodka has a dry grain or charcoal taste.

  • A vodka’s smoothness depends on the quality and type of the ingredients used. Wheat gives vodka a much smoother character than most other ingredients.

  • Vodka originated in either Poland or Russia (both claim to be the first to distil it), but is now made in other areas of the world. The flavour varies depending on its origin and ingredients. For example:

    • Russian vodka is made mostly from wheat and is considered to be robust and hearty, with a slightly oily texture.

    • Polish vodka is made from grain and potatoes, and is considered smooth, even creamy.

    • Swedish vodka is made using wheat mash and typically doesn’t have a discernable taste.

    • Finnish vodka is made from grains, usually wheat.

  • Price doesn’t necessarily dictate quality or taste. The world of vodka marketing is fierce, and you may end up paying for the brand rather than the taste or quality.

  • Flavoured vodkas have recently come on the market with interesting options like lemon, raspberry, orange, currant, apple, and vanilla. A flavoured vodka its best enjoyed on its own, since it’s typically more expensive and you don’t want to drown the flavour with juice or pop.

  • When cooking with liquors or spirits like vodka, it’s not necessary to use the finest or most expensive products. Avoid using flavoured vodkas or extracts because they create an artificial taste.

Other Considerations

  • If you like to drink your vodka straight-up, store it in the freezer. It won’t freeze, but it will become thicker like syrup, which makes it very pleasant to swallow.

  • To enjoy vodka the traditional way, gather with friends and drink it straight-up, served with a variety of salty and spicy snacks, including olives, spicy nuts, and even caviar if that’s your thing.


To help us try out our international selection of vodkas, we invited an international group of testers, matched to each vodka’s country of origin. We tested:

  • Stolichnaya (Russia): $21.75
  • Finlandia (Finland): $21.25
  • Absolut (Sweden): $21.89
  • Wyborowa (Poland): $ 19.99
  • Grey Goose (France): $47.99

Taste Test

  • The Grey Goose, which claims to be the best tasting vodka in the world, didn’t impress any of us, including our French representatives.

  • The flavour and smoothness of the Wyborowa from Poland was favoured by 66% of our panellists over its Russian rival Stolichnaya.


This test definitely proved that a high price doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good product. It was close between the Wyborowa and the Stolichnaya, but we feel it’s really up to your own personal taste. Don’t be afraid to try different types, and remember not to believe all the marketing hype.


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