The Expert-Recommended Vodka Brands That Are Worth The Hype

Vodka bottle with ice, limes, mint, shot glasses
Vodka bottle with ice, limes, mint, shot glasses - New Africa/Shutterstock

They say you get what you pay for, and that's true — some of the time. There are definitely instances in which restaurants and stores sell food and beverages for unreasonable markups that don't reflect the quality. But in a lot of cases, expensive food and drink costs what they do because the ingredients are high quality and/or difficult to source, and because they require the labor of a highly skilled team of chefs, distillers, winemakers, or whatever it may be.

At any given store, you can find vodkas ranging in price from less than $20 to well over $50, sometimes much more. Based on the labels alone, it's not easy to determine which of the pricier vodkas are really worth the cost — so we asked an expert. Daily Meal reached out to Molly Horn, Manager of Cocktail Strategy and Spirits Education at Total Wine & More, to tap her knowledge on when it makes sense to pony up for expensive vodka and which brands to consider. As far as higher-end vodkas that are truly worth their price tag, she named three in particular: Absolut Elyx, Gallant, and Belvedere -- each for their own purpose.

Read more: The Ultimate Vodka Brands, Ranked

Ingredients And Process Make For The Perfect Vodka

vodka bottles in an assembly line
vodka bottles in an assembly line - Nordroden/Shutterstock

Before hitting the store it can be helpful to know exactly what you're paying for when you splurge on a fancy vodka. Horn explains that ingredients play a significant role in determining the cost of a bottle; for one thing, vodka can be made out of all sorts of base ingredients, from wheat and barley to apples and potatoes, and some of those ingredients are more expensive than others.

"French Winter Wheat, for example," Molly Horn told Daily Meal, "is more expensive than corn or barley, which is why a grain-based vodka is usually priced lower than the former." She also points to the source of water used in the distillation process, which she says "can indeed have an impact on flavor, just like how you notice a difference in flavor -- not even good or bad, just different -- between different brands of bottled water." And finally, the method of filtration can impact cost as well. A charcoal filter is standard, but some distilleries use lava rock beds, quartz crystals, or other modes of filtration — the choice of which can impact the mouthfeel of the vodka (i.e., how watery or thick it feels on your palate).

Molly Horn's Vodka Selections

Two martini cocktails with olives
Two martini cocktails with olives - Plateresca/Shutterstock

For Molly Horn, ingredients are a major factor in determining her favorite vodkas. "Wheat vodkas are my personal go-to -- Absolut Elyx is excellent in anything from a classic martini to on-the-rocks," she shared. Gallant is another wheat vodka (made with water from the Gensac spring in the Cognac region of France, no less) that earned her stamp of approval for sipping straight, describing it as "smooth and creamy." She also noted that good vodka made from rye makes for an excellent dirty martini, and named Polish vodka Belvedere as one that fits that bill.

The best part is that none of these three vodkas are astronomically expensive — bottles of each can be found in the $35 to $55 range. Still, Horn recommends not wasting good vodka on cocktails where you won't be able to really appreciate the spirit. Flavorful ingredients like fruit or vegetable juices can drown out the subtleties of a quality vodka.

"If you are making Bloody Marys or Screwdrivers, it may not be worth it to spend the big bucks," she advised, "but if you're sipping straight Martinis, there is a tangible difference in mouthfeel and flavor profile."

Read the original article on Daily Meal.