Male hand pours vodka from the bottle into the glass.
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Vodka is an iconic spirit, but it’s also one that sometimes gets a bad rap. While vodka tends to be fairly neutral in taste, with little-to-no flavor, it’s also frequently referred to as tasting like alcohol. However, it’s still very popular.

Vodka is found everywhere, as a staple in classic cocktails, at bars, in restaurants and bottled on home bar carts. The ubiquitous spirit will take on the flavors of whatever ingredients it’s combined with. The versatility of vodka is further enhanced by its colorless, flavorless properties, making it mix well in many types of drinks without disturbing or neutralizing the flavors of additional ingredients.

How Vodka Is Made

Typically, vodka is created from grains such as barley, wheat and rye, potatoes, or corn. According to Connie Baker, head distiller at Marble Distilling Company in Carbondale, Colorado, vodka can be made from almost anything, including fruits such as grapes.

“Any type of starch you can convert to a sugar can make vodka,” says Baker. “There is a distillery making vodka out of old newspapers and another from salmon. While I am not sure either is any good, they are vodka.” Baker explains that the federal classification for vodka is a clear spirit distilled to 190 proof. Most vodka is then proofed back down with water.

Are There Health Benefits to Vodka?

“At Marble Distilling Company, our vodka is made from locally grown soft white wheat and malted barley. We use all natural, locally grown, herbicide- and pesticide- free grains. They are distilled in a copper pot still five times, then proofed down with Crystal River water and filtered over marble, which adds minerality,” says Baker. “So, your doctor might say you are getting your minerals from Marble Distilling Company vodka!”

Fans of vodka also believe that the spirit’s astringent properties are helpful in relieving toothaches. Vodka is also thought to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which may be helpful in disinfecting wounds, cuts or scrapes, or even as an effective cleaning agent.

Vodka is also free of carbohydrates and sugars, making it a low-calorie drink option when paired with seltzer or sparkling water or neat over ice.

Taste the Types: Grain, Corn and Potato Vodka

A grain vodka is any vodka produced from grains such as wheat, rye, barley and others. Some examples of vodka produced with grains are Grey Goose, Smirnoff, Stoli and Ketel One.

Baker believes corn vodka is “the most flavorless of the vodkas” and potato vodka “the most flavorful,” making it a very distinctive-tasting vodka.

“It depends on your taste. Tito’s and many other less expensive vodkas are made from corn. Ciroc is made from grapes, and there are some Eastern European vodkas made from grass,” adds the expert. “Potato vodkas include Boyd & Blair and Woody Creek. There are almost NO Russian potato vodkas. Most people think all Russian vodka is potato, but the ground is always frozen in Russia so it’s hard to grow potatoes there!”

The Evolution of Vodka

The word vodka is believed to have originated from the Slavic word “voda,” which means “water.” While the origins of vodka are debated, some link its initial production to 9th century Russia, while others trace vodka’s beginnings to 8th century Poland. It may originally have been used as a medicinal spirit, used to calm and treat skin concerns, wounds, cuts, scrapes and other health issues.

Versatile Vodka: Build a Better Drink

“Vodka is like a blank slate in a drink; it just adds the backbone to the flavors brought by juice, herbs or lower ABV cordials,” says Drew Breen, bar manager at Jianna Restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina.

Vodka can be used as the alcoholic spirit in a wide range of drinks, including the classic vodka soda, bloody Mary, martini, mule or simply sipped neat over ice.

Bloody Mary Recipe

Make the classic brunch cocktail any time for a refreshing, revitalizing drink with a zesty, spicy-sweet kick!

Total Time: 5 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1


  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces tomato juice
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of Tabasco sauce
  • Lemon wedge for garnish
  • Celery stalk for garnish


  1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker or tall glass.
  2. Roll the drink by pouring it back and forth between the two glasses.
  3. Strain over and onto fresh ice in a cocktail glass.
  4. Rim the glass with kosher salt or a specialty spice (optional).
  5. Garnish with a lemon wedge and celery stalk.
  6. Drink and enjoy!

Dirty Chai Latte With a Twist

Spike your caffeine fix with vodka for a unique take on the dirty chai that makes for an energizing and refreshing afternoon or evening drink.

Total Time: 5 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1


  • 4 ounces cold brew coffee
  • 1.5 ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1 ounce of organic chai latte concentrate
  • 1 ounce of fresh espresso


  1. Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. 
  2. Shake with ice for around 30 seconds.
  3. Strain the liquid into your glass of choice.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Strawberry Basil Mule

Sip on a strawberry-and-basil-infused take on the mule for a seasonal refresher that’s slightly sweet, zesty with a kick of ginger, and best served in a chilled copper mule mug.

Total Time: 5 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1


  • 8 strawberries
  • ½ lime
  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 3.5 ounces ginger beer
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil


  1. Muddle fresh strawberries, lime and 1 basil sprig in a copper mule mug.
  2. Top with ice, vodka and ginger beer.
  3. Garnish with a lime wedge and basil sprig.
  4. Sip, savor and enjoy!

Vodka Soda

The classic cocktail is as light and refreshing as it gets, making it a perfect drink for any season or palate.

Total Time: 5 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1


  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces soda, sparkling or seltzer water
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Ice


  1. Place ice in a chilled pint class
  2. Add vodka to glass.
  3. Pour soda, sparkling or seltzer water over the ice and vodka.
  4. Garnish with lime wedge and enjoy!

The versatile nature of vodka makes it a great choice for creating cocktails that will please you and your guests. If you’re following a special diet such as gluten-free, choose a corn- or potato-based vodka. Vodka can and does take on the taste of its companion ingredients in a drink, making the spirit an ideal base for building drinks. Get creative with the vodka cocktail; the options are endless!