In this post I am going to discuss the world’s most popular spirit: that’s vodka of course! Most people believe that vodka can only be made from potatoes or grain, but nowadays this is just not the case. Vodka can, in fact, be made out of any starch/sugar rich plant matter. Some vodkas are made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, sugar beets, milk, and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. I tried a vodka recently made from the now trendy super food called quinoa. It was surprisingly good and I plan on stocking it in the very near future. We currently stock vodka made from milk sugar (Vermont White), maple syrup (Vermont Gold) and grapes (Ciroc). Each of the less common bases creates a distinctly different flavor, but in general each produces a spirit that tends to be sweeter than its grain or potato brethren.
While grains based vodkas dominate today’s market it is not because they make the best vodka, but rather because they happen to make the softer, more mixable vodka preferred by most of today’s consumers. Grain vodka also happens to be the least expensive option when it comes to producing a vodka, which is also why many producers choose to make this the base of their products.
Potatoes are the most common alternative to grain based vodkas. A potato based vodka tends to be more flavorful and heavier than its grain-based counterparts, which generally makes the spirit less mixable. Potatoes are also exponentially more expensive to use, because only the skins can be turned into alcohol. It is the combination of these two factors which leads producers towards grain vodkas. In fact, as you can imagine, all of the other base products I have mentioned above would be much more costly to purchase than wheat or rye, two the most common forms of grain used in vodka production. This combined with the sweeter flavor profile of the exotic bases are the main two reasons you don’t see more of these ingredients utilized often to produce vodka.
Personally, potato based vodkas are my favorite. They are still quite versatile in their mixablity, but they have a more robust flavor. In my opinion, this makes a better martini, vodka tonic or the ever classic vodka rocks. On a side note, all vodkas are gluten free; this means if you have Celiac disease you are not just restricted to the labels that state they are gluten free. It is a little know fact the distillation process removes the gluten protein no matter what base the spirits is created from. The only way a vodka could contain gluten is if a flavoring containing gluten was added after the spirit has been distilled.