Vodka is Stupid: Why You Should Stop Wasting Your Money On High-End Vodka

Vodka Is Stupid

Earlier today I came across an interesting article written by a woman named Jen Agg, who with her partner Grant van Gameren, runs a Toronto based restaurant called The Black Hoof & Company. The title of the article couldn’t be more straightforward: Vodka is Stupid. And I absolutely love it.

The gist of what she wrote is that here in North America, and surely in other parts of the world, high-end vodka like Grey Goose or Belvedere is so distilled that it effectively tastes like nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. So when you order, say, a vodka Red Bull, you’re basically drinking an alcoholic Red Bull that still tastes like shitty, cough syrup. In her own words:

A vodka martini ought to be renamed “I like being drunk” because that is its only purpose. Whereas the pleasure of sipping a well-made Manhattan is its own fun, the slight buzzy inhibitions of alcohol, just a pleasing side effect. Why wouldn’t you want your drink to taste like anything?

But it’s not fair to compare a silly, boring drink like a vodka martini to a flavour bomb like The Manhattan. Even worse is the dirty vodka martini. If your desperation for flavour has you drinking olive brine, just drink gin. Please. Gin is vodka’s smarter, classier, more worldly older sister. Vodka wants to go clubbing and hook up with Johnny Redbull, that hot guy she met last week (who’s not actually that hot and wears too much cologne). Gin wants to have dinner, a little wine and really talk about stuff, like politics and indie rock.

I totally and wholeheartedly agree with what Jen is saying. I drank vodka when I was 19 because I didn’t know any better… like 10 shots in a night kind of not knowing any better. Eventually I discovered gin and my world was transformed, simple but still flavorful, just garnished with a bit of lime. Though I have to say that even gin has had the same thing starting to happen. For a while I was making my gin and tonics with Hendrick’s, but honestly, it’s so filtered that it doesn’t really taste like anything to me, either. So I stick with Bombay Sapphire which has just the right amount of flavor.

Now, clearly this point of view and Jen’s article doesn’t take into account flavored vodkas, or vodkas which aren’t filtered and could be from a different country. Say, If you add some rosemary and some sage, and hell, some bacon into some vodka and let it infuse, I’m sure it would taste awesome. That’s not being contended. But, if you drink artificially flavored vodkas like Smirnoff blueberry or watermelon, well, that’s still pretty gross in my opinion.

Anyhow, the point of all of this is simple. Drink alcohol that actually tastes like something, don’t waste your money on vodka that’s marketed as being better just because it’s expensive. You should also check out the Black Hoof’s drink list, they’ve got some pretty legit looking cocktails on there.

24 Comments Vodka is Stupid: Why You Should Stop Wasting Your Money On High-End Vodka

  1. yishay April 13, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    I found out that cheap vodka tastes better. But men drinking cocktails… i don’t know. there’s something off.

  2. Bobby Solomon April 13, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    @yishay – Men drinking cocktails is weird? Since when? Sounds like you’ve got a skewed sense of gender norms, bro.

  3. Adrian April 13, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    This is an entirely nonsensical view of vodka consumption. The higher end products might be more expensive but there’s a reason—they don’t leave you feeling as hungover in the morning. Many of the vodkas have additives eg. Stolichnaya has wine added, which make for complete hangover fuel. Gin and vodka should be viewed independently from each other. Sorry, Bobby, but you and supposed expert, Jen Agg are way off the mark here.

  4. Bobby Solomon April 13, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    @Adrian – And what makes you an expert? Show me an article that proves what you’re saying, something backed by science? If you drink a bucket of Stoli or a bucket of Belvedere you’re going to feel like shit no matter what.

    Bring the facts with your big talk.

  5. ryan April 13, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    get em, bobby!

  6. Dr. Oc April 13, 2011 at 1:24 AM

    If you love Bombay Sapphire you haven´t tried Tanqueray (No 10) yet. IMHO the best cost-benefit.

    On the other hand – there are also great vodkas out there, with flavour etc. but grey goose is just overprized s*#t. the one i really enjoyed last year was “held vodka” – a small brand from Berlin est. in the 1920´s and now revived by some guys.

  7. Paul April 13, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    As someone who drinks, well, way too much alcohol – I can attest that the expensive vodkas actually leave me feeling totally refreshed the next day, even if I drink 10 shots, as you put it. However, in terms of gin, I can have only 1 or 2 drinks and still be slapped in the face with a nasty hangover the following day.

    I don’t have any fancy shmancy science to back it up, only my personal experience. Though I can say through various conversations I’ve had, I’ve noticed everyone’s body responds differently to different types of alcohol, so it’s probably more of a subjective thing.

    Ultimately, it’s all about experimentation and finding out what works best for you! For some it’s a tasty gin, perhaps for others (like me), a smooth vodka. :)

  8. Andrew Lyons April 13, 2011 at 1:30 AM

    I’m not really a drinker, but I’ve downed half a bottle of cassis flavoured absolut in an evening and felt great the next day.
    I’m not recommending though :)

  9. Sebastian April 13, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    I can recommend two flavored vodkas from Poland, Krupnik, a honey-flavored vodka that is best served warm and ?ubrówka, vodka that is flavored with a tincture of buffalo grass.

  10. Matt April 13, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    I have gotten just as hung over on Grey Goose as I have on Russian Prince or Smirnoff (forgive the brands if they’re not as popular in the US).

    The Grey Goose tasted better going down but the hangover was still awful.

  11. Whateverfriend April 13, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    First, I love the seriousness of this post :)
    Well, I like a nice drink every now and then, and I do notice that my taste is approving bit by bit. But it has come to my attention that almost (!) every alcoholic drink (pure or mixed) has “something off”.
    I often ask for lemon, ice, or a twist of the peppermill to be satisfied.
    My favorites: White Lady, Cinnamon Wodka from Poland and Martini Fiasco. I created the last one myself :)

  12. Sarah April 13, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    My body has simply never responded well to vodka. And I work in a vodka bar (in Toronto, coincidentally), so I’ve tried my fair share.

    I find that with vodka I just go from sober straight to hungover in about, oh, 4 drinks. I just skip the entire fun part.

    Gin on the other hand, has me giddy and bubbly and social (and it’s so yummy!). I rarely feel completely horrendous the next day, although it’s also rare that I consume more than a handful of drinks in a night.

    I will say though that some high end vodkas are actually about quality. Take, for example, Ulitmat from Poland. It’s a small-batch, copper-pot distilled vodka that is made to be heavy and oily and flavourful on the tongue. Plenty of flavour and meant to be consumed without mixers. Same goes for lower-ends like Tito’s from Texas, Zubrowka from Poland, or Zoladkowa from Poland. All flavour vodkas (not artificial fruity flavours, mind you).


  13. Matt April 13, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    How about this for an idea. Drink what you want to, and enjoy drinking….and then mix it with a dash of ‘stop worrying what other people think’. Your life will be better.

  14. Justin R April 13, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    If you dig gin, go with micro-distilleries. DryFly is a wonderfully flavourful Gin (my favourite), it’s smooth like Sapphire, but more aromatic so you can really taste/sense the juniper it came from. Totally transforms a G/T. Yummy stuff. A similarly delicious small batch is Cascade Mountain Gin made in Bend, Oregon. Giv ‘er!

  15. Karen April 13, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    If you like Gin, you can’t go wrong with Martin Miller’s, made in the UK.

  16. true April 13, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    As a Toronto native familiar with The Black Hoof and Company, and an avid cocktail drinker of both gin and vodka, I must say that my favourite vodka of all time is definitely Zubrowka, a Polish vodka distilled with hints of Bison grass.

    Priced at about $25 at the liquor stores here, it is by far the best vodka for the price and actually tastes like vodka. You can slip it slowly, by itself, savouring the flavour.

    There is a Russian bar here in Ottawa, where I currently live, who serve it with slices of pickles.

  17. PerfektTommy April 13, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    As a chemist in my last life, I always thought the iterations of expensive vodka were funny, since it’s mostly a measure of successively distilled ethanol. This was borne out, in a way, on a MythBusters episode using charcoal filtering.

    I don’t drink, but I love gin’s use of botanicals, and the variety of tastes and mixtures you can arrive at. That being said, when I do imbibe, my gin and tonic usually has Tanqueray Ranjpur, for that extra zest.

  18. KYLE FITZPATRICK April 13, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    As someone whose blood is made entirely of vodka, I take great offense to this attack on my heritage.

    And Jell-O shots don’t taste as good with gin or whiskey or rum. JUST SAYIN.

  19. TheDoctorJones April 13, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Bobby – i think you can see the common bond that holds all of your blog’s readers together…we’re all filthy drunks :)

  20. JS April 13, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Akevitt. Gin is for boors.

  21. Vakgraun April 14, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Bobby, I kinda not agree what you say in. I’m hands down a lover of Gin (god a bar here in Buenos Aires makes a Gin tonic with cucumber that blows minds) but I tasted well made vodkas that actualy had good taste, a taste so good that you can drink a vodka with just Ice and enjoy it like you can Enjoy Whiskey.
    Did you try a poland Vodka call Wyborowa Exquisite?
    the good thing about this vodka is that is distilled using 100 % Dankowslie Slote Rye Grain.

    Like I sayd at the begging of the post im more a Gyn or good Rum, but this vodka deserves a special place among vodkas.

  22. Vakgraun April 14, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    plz be kind and don’t focus on my typing mistakes (obviously my main language isn’t English)

  23. Dan January 17, 2016 at 4:35 PM

    The only really good vodka mixdrinks are screwdrivers and bloody marys. And when I buy vodka, I go midshelf. But Gin is way better than vodka any day of the week. From a Gin tonic to far more sophisticated cocktails. Never buy low shelf gins (they taste as bad as low shelf vodka) Try some Beefeater, or some Tanguray. Gin can replace any vodka in any cocktail, and you will look super fancy ordering it.?

  24. Mark August 17, 2016 at 8:28 AM

    A-freaking-men, I totally agree with this. I’m not a fan of vodka, I like cocktails that have ingredients in them that add taste to the drink, not ingredients added just to raise the alcohol content. But, I’m not an alcoholic, so maybe that’s just me, and you. I especially agree with your dirty martini comment, that’s an unfortunate trend, why not just add a splash of bong water while you’re at it?

    I completely agree that wasting money on “premium” vodkas is just stupid, the only caveat I would add is there might be something to the idea that drinking really cheap vodka might make you feel bad. Ethanol is not the only product of fermentation, there are esters, aldehydes, acetone, etc. These can be carried over in distillation, but every successive pass or increase in reflux ratio reduces these compounds more and more, making a more pure product, but at the same time making the end product more expensive because of the increased time and energy. Really cheap bottom-shelf vodkas like those found in big plastic handles for $7 were quickly and cheaply distilled and may have quite a lot of congeners still in them, which could give you a bad hangover, and they are also going to have some taste to them. But once you’ve gotten into the mid-market products, you’ve probably reached a level of quality control where this is not a problem any more.

    Another way to think about how stupid it is to pay for premium vodkas is to set a bottle of premium vodka next to a premium whiskey of a similar price point and consider what went into the making of each bottle and how that should affect price. In a whiskey, you are concerned about taste from nonalcoholic factors coming through, so your mash bill (ie, the mixture of grains you use, the quality of those grains) is really important. In a premium vodka you’re just going to distill everything but ethanol and water out anyway, so the mash bill is far less important. That’s one round for whiskey. Now vodka may be distilled to a higher purity level than whiskey, so that’s one part of the process where vodka is going to be more expensive than whiskey. However, the main contributor to the cost of premium whiskey is the aging process. You have bourbons and scotches at the same price point as Belvedere Vodka that are 9, 12 years old. Think about that, having to hang onto a product, having to pay the warehousing space on a product for a decade before it is ready to sell, how much cost that puts into the making of that product, compared to a premium vodka that is pretty much ready to sell the day it comes off the distillation unit. There is no question premium vodka is a ripoff.

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