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If you only know one thing about the Russians, it's that they love their vodka. The name even translates to 'little water' in Russian, showing you how seriously they take it as a nation.
They probably laugh about the vodkas we have elsewhere, as they're bound to be pale imitations of the real thing.
If you're looking for an authentic vodka experience, you'll need the stuff that comes from Russia itself, not some knock-off brand that tries too hard but doesn't come close. But what are the best Russian vodkas out there?
After all, it would be so embarrassing if an actual Russian turned up to your house party, and you offered them sub-par vodka that didn't live up to their high standards. When you're used to the best, nothing else will do.
You can definitely taste the difference when you sip some proper vodka - you'll almost be able to feel the snow biting at you, and before long, you'll be wearing one of those big fluffy hats with no idea where it came from.
The great news is many bona fide Russian vodka brands are available globally, so you don't have to go far to find them.
Here, we give you a run-down of some of the best brands that fit the bill. They are perfect for any occasion and will cater to all your vodka needs. The only thing left to do now is read on about the 8 best Russian vodkas and party!
What better place to start than a drink with Russian in the name? This smooth vodka is 40% alcohol and perfect for people on a budget.
Although it costs less than many other vodkas, it is high quality and has a great reputation among vodka drinkers.
The company started producing vodka in St Petersburg in the 1990s. This alone should tell you that it's the real deal.
Russian Standard vodka contains glacial water from Lake Ladoga, which is pure and soft, contributing to the smooth taste of the vodka. If that hasn't convinced you, the URL of the Russian Standard website is simply www.vodka.com - straight to the point.
Russian Standard is especially good for mixing since it blends perfectly with other drinks and provides a neutral base. We particularly love it in fruity cocktails like a good Cosmopolitan, as it enhances the fruit flavors.
Here's an elegant vodka with a slightly peppery taste - if you love heat, this is the drink for you! It is dry at first but softens as you sip it, finally giving way to a bittersweet aftertaste.
You will be able to detect subtle hints of various flavors, taking your taste buds on a journey in every mouthful.
As well as the drink itself, the packaging also has many attractive features. The vodka comes in a stylish square-ended crystal bottle that shows off the purity of its color - it is absolutely clear with no cloudiness or bits in it.
The bottle is rounded at the top and finished with an authentic seal. This design has been going strong and unchanged for 300 years.
The water blended into Jewel of Russia vodka comes from underground wells that are more than 500 feet deep. It then gets distilled and filtered five times each, using special techniques and materials.
The tagline for this vodka is 'The drink of the Czars' - if it's good enough for royalty, it's good enough for us regular folk.
This brand, known as Stoli, offers a wide range of different flavored vodkas, from blueberry to salted caramel.
Although these are all great to try, the product we are concentrating on here is their original premium vodka. With its classic red label, this vodka is smooth and supple.
Stoli was founded in 1938, and the company has been innovating ever since. It was owned by the state until 1997 when a billionaire bought it out.
The brand's history is steeped in mystery, which you can almost taste with every sip of their intriguing vodka.
The vodka goes exceptionally well with traditional Russian dishes, such as smoked fish. It is not quite the neutral flavor of other vodkas and has somewhat sweet notes.
This means it is great for drinking neat over ice or mixers but can interfere with the balance when used in cocktails.
When you hear the word husky, you're bound to think of blisteringly cold weather, blizzards and sleds being pulled by dogs across the snow.
In fact, these things perfectly encapsulate Siberia, which is exactly where this vodka is produced. It is named after the area's famous dog breed.
Water is drawn from underground springs to make the vodka, which is what gives it the fresh taste it's known for.
It is filtered at low temperatures to remove as many impurities as possible, then distilled five times, leaving a taste as pure as snow.
The primary flavor is vanilla, but this is still relatively subtle, and the taste remains fairly neutral overall.
It is a good choice for cocktails and mixers but doesn't stand up to scrutiny on its own, as it isn't as smooth as you'd like it to be.
The label says gold line, and it’s got a premium price to match.
No expense has been spared in producing this quality vodka, and each bottle takes a long time and labor to make. The processes are complicated, which ensures an exquisite end product.
The flavor of this vodka is enhanced by malt spirit, which makes it taste full and non-diluted.
Additionally, the water in it is artesian water taken from Siberian springs which has come to the surface naturally rather than being pumped. The whole cycle takes three months to complete.
Only 900 bottles of vodka are made every day because bulk production would go against the ethos of exclusivity endorsed by the company.
Each one has a unique identification number placed on the bottle by hand, along with a 3D beluga fish and a smart metal label.
Zyr has patented a special 9-5-3 formula for making their vodka: 9 filtrations, 5 distillations and 3 tastings.
Once the water has been collected from the North West of Russia, near Finland, it is filtered 5 times before being blended with fermented grains, then again 4 times more.
After that comes the distillation stage of purifying it and giving it a crystal-clear quality. It is tested thrice during the whole process - firstly for flavor, secondly for texture, and then finally for consistency.
Unlike other vodka brands, Zyr doesn't add any extra ingredients to their recipe - they simply make sure the initial ingredients are of a high enough quality to produce fine vodka.
They are sought from the best natural sources possible and processed with the utmost care, which is clear from the resulting taste.
The vodka is best served chilled or on ice to experience the full flavor palate.
This entry may be a little contentious, given that it's not actually produced in Russia anymore. However, it cannot be ignored that Smirnoff was the original go-to Russian brand, founded in Moscow in 1864.
You can buy the vodka at 80, 90 or 100 proof, and the website shows off the various flavors you can purchase at most liquor stores.
The vodka is filtered 5 times through charcoal, which is part of what's known as The St Petersburg Model.
Although this is now commonplace in vodka production, no other brands were carrying out such a lengthy process when Smirnoff started trading.
While the taste is often seen as quite strong, it is great for mixing with any kind of mixer or as an ingredient in your favorite cocktails.
Smirnoff is a staple spirit in most drinking establishments because it is very affordable and seen as the standard vodka in stock.
In fact, the brand asserts that it is 'The World's No.1 Vodka' - that claim doesn't come without years of evidence to back it up.
Here is another vodka made in Siberia, in one of the oldest distilleries in the Altai region. All stages of the production process happen in the same place, so these are overseen together to ensure consistency between batches.
The vodka is distilled 6 times, which is more than the usual 5 and keeps it extra pure.
The packaging is very striking - at first glance, it looks like it contains some kind of exclusive shampoo. You can tell that, whatever it is, it's high-end.
The bottle is very sleek, with a unique appearance and slight slant. Its glass has a translucent, frosted quality, which effectively adds to the air of mystery at the heart of the brand.
As well as the original recipe, there are limited editions of this vodka and also a red version called Mamont Blood. This uses the same exquisite vodka base, but the addition of berries, roots and herbs gives it a dark, earthy flavor.
We recommend all products in the Mormont range, so why not discover them for yourself?
There are a few important factors to consider before purchasing your next bottle of Russian vodka.
Much like any other spirit or alcoholic beverage, Vodka can vary in terms of the alcohol percentage it contains. In Russia, the general advice is that the stronger, the better, but you should be careful about picking up the strongest bottle on the shelf.
If a vodka has a really high percentage but is relatively inexpensive, it is dangerous to have questionable ingredients. Also, cheap vodkas will burn on their way down your throat, whereas the better ones won't.
Your best bet is to go for one with 40% alcohol content, as this is the industry standard.
Most companies nowadays will distill their vodka three times at least, with some even choosing to repeat the stage more often than that. This is done to remove anything that appeared as a by-product of heating the ethanol.
It is similar to filtering, whereby the water usually passes the same number of times through charcoal to remove any impurities.
It is very important that these stages are completed thoroughly since water makes up a high percentage of the overall drink and has a noticeable effect on its taste.
For this reason, most distilleries are located in areas that have unrestricted access to pure water sources such as springs and glaciers.
Many premium vodka brands offer flavored vodkas in addition to their original stuff. You can get vodka in almost any flavor you can think of, whether it's a simple fruit such as apple or something more exciting like toffee.
Some will even create vodkas infused with your favorite candy!
The possibilities are endless, and vodka really is the perfect spirit for getting creative. A flavored vodka can bring out certain notes in its base, making it taste very different from your regular vodka.
It's sometimes hard to believe that all these different tastes come from the same original drink!
A very important factor to consider when buying vodka is what you will be doing with it - do you want to drink it straight or combine it with other things in a spirit mixer or cocktail?
Smoother vodkas are usually better for sipping, whereas you will want a balanced vodka that won't overpower any other elements for mixing. Sipping vodkas tend to be more expensive, but this is not always the case.
Some purists insist that you should drink your vodka straight to experience the tastefully, but it is equally valid to enjoy it as part of a delicious cocktail.
Related: How To Open A Wine Bottle Without A Corkscrew
We've got you covered when it comes to FAQs about vodka!
On your mission to find the perfect vodka, you will likely have come across the terms' standard' and 'premium,' but you might not know what they mean in this context.
The main difference between the two is that standard vodkas are made from things like potatoes and sugar beet, whereas premium vodkas are made from higher-quality grains.
This makes it possible to produce different flavors - you can get premium vodka infused with mango, orange, caramel and much more. Premium vodka also has a more involved distillation process and is smoother to drink.
You may have heard this one making the rounds as a 'fun fact' - and it is 100% true! Although a high proportion of vodka is water itself, the ethanol content brings the weight down to lower than pure water.
Alcohol is lighter than water, meaning it will float nicely on the top. You can take advantage of this in some cocktails when you want to separate out different colors, for example, to achieve a cool but simple effect.
The Food and Drug Regulations define vodka as a neutral spirit - this means it has been distilled many times so that it lacks both color and a distinctive flavor. Therefore, manufacturers are not permitted to age vodka or store it in wooden barrels.
To qualify as being 'charcoal filtered,' vodka must be filtered with at least one ounce of carbon for every 100 gallons of the drink.
The Canadian regulations are mainly similar to the US ones, but every country will have its own regulations - make sure you are familiar with any ones that are relevant to you. Wherever you live, we hope you enjoy one of the best Russian vodkas out there.
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