As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
The Best Vodka Brands for Crafting a Martini
The Vodka Martini is a classic modern cocktail made with vodka, dry vermouth, and olives. It’s a contemporary staple in bar menus that can be adapted for a range of flavors from the dry, salty taste the original is based on.
While the gin martini cleaves to tradition, the vodka version offers variation and individuality in the vodka types used and the additional mixers.
The following article outlines the classic recipe and a few interesting variations before breaking down the best vodka for martini making. If you try these bottles out making cocktails from your home bar, I’m certain you’ll find a new favorite vodka.
The Classic Vodka Martini Recipe
There is more than one interpretation of this vodka cocktail, but it’s best to start with the simple version
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1/3 ounce vermouth
Garnish: Lemon peel, olives
Optional: Dill pickle
Equipment: cocktail shaker/mixing glass, chilled cocktail glass, lemon zester
Add vodka, vermouth, and ice to a tall mixing glass or cocktail shaker and stir or shake thoroughly. I’m not interested in the continuing arguments between the value of using a martini shaker or stirring alcohol only cocktails (it seems to get punchy), I’m just happy to drink them.
Strain liquid into a chilled martini glass. Zest with lemon peel and garnish with a lemon twist or olive before serving. Many people don’t like olives, so the optional dill pickle works a treat because it’s all about the salt!
Vodka Martini Variations
Even with a timelessly classic cocktail, some people like to get dirty in crafting the perfect martini. A dirty martini adds olive brine or olive juice to the vodka cocktail to give it an even saltier aspect.
A Gibson cocktail replaces the olive garnish for a cocktail onion, which tastes earthier. If you want to get hectic, a filthy martini recipe adds bleu cheese to the mix (I’m sorry, but that’s where I tap out). There’s also the option to make a chocolate martini that can juxtapose the sweet/bitter bite of cocoa (in the vodka or added) with the salty deliciousness of the olive brine.
Other people prefer to go in a slightly sweeter direction by adding bitters – a touch of orange or cranberry juice – or flavored vodka – grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry – to create a contemporary flavor variation to their glass. While not necessarily a Vodka martini, once you’ve had one of these in your cocktail shaker there’s unlikely to be much argument about pouring another.
The Best Vodka Brands for Making a Perfect Martini
1. Hangar 1 - Straight American Vodka
Hangar 1 is a beloved independent vodka that has changed its label and branding slightly over the last few years. Hangar 1 production methods remain fantastically craft style; the vodka is pot-distilled from a blend of wheat and viognier grapes.
It’s a smooth, yet lively vodka that’s slightly herbal and citrusy on the nose with a somewhat thick, oily mouthfeel that translates well when poured into a superbly chilled cocktail glass, emboldened slightly by a smattering of black pepper on the finish. When used alongside a simple orange bitters or in a classic dry martini, Hangar 1’s smoothness works well to underpin a stronger, more dominant taste (both sweet and savory).
2. Dingle Pot Still Vodka
Dingle is named for the Irish town where this rare vodka is distilled, which also happens to be the westernmost settlement in Europe. A true artisanal company, Dingle marries Ireland’s independent distillation methods with small batch, innovative production.
Dingle is a premium grain alcohol quintuple distilled before being charcoal filtered, cut with water from a well 240 feet below the distillery, and bottled by hand. The focus on purity and quality water for filtration creates just a touch of sweetness and creamy texture to the finished spirit.
Dingle is best poured chilled from the freezer with a zesty lemon twist but is equally at home forming the backbone of a premium dry martini or other vodka cocktails.
3. Square One Basil Vodka
Vodka has embraced distillation innovation much in the same way that gin has, using flavor and context to create more variety in a traditionally neutral spirit. Increased use of botanical infusions has helped add extra layers in flavor, particularly the saltiness of a dirty vodka martini.
One such option is Square One Basil vodka, which is loaded with four varieties of basil (Genovese, Thai, Lemon, and Sweet) in addition to coriander, honeysuckle and lemongrass. When deployed in a dirty martini the different lashings of basil and herbs work beautifully against the salty olive juice and the crispness of the alcohol.
4. Chase Potato Vodka
Chase is an English boutique potato vodka brand made from field to glass on a family farm. The company says it takes 250 Herefordshire potatoes to craft every bottle of Chase Potato Vodka.
The commitment to singular crafting has resulted in vodka that has an aroma of sliced potato, a luscious mouthfeel with a nice thick and oily texture, and earthy finish with little afterburn. Chase offers a tremendous base spirit for use in your dirty martini recipe, or you can drink freshly chilled straight out of the freezer in a vodka soda with orange bitters, lemon juice, or cranberry juice.
5. Absolut Elyx
Absolut Vodka Elyx is hard to go past if you’re looking to enjoy a premium wheat vodka crafted with commitment to quality and innovation. Elyx defines the luxury Swedish vodka brand, made from single estate winter wheat (this means the grain only comes from one specific source before distillation).
This Absolut expression is hand-produced in an antique 1921 copper column still and bottled at 84.6 proof, however, the silky smoothness of the wheat vodka is such that you can completely disregard the hike in alcohol content (provided you drink responsibly). Absolut Elyx delivers a beautifully smooth taste and almost completely non-existent bite, suitable for the novice or seasoned vodka lover alike.
6. Reyka Vodka
Reyka Vodka’s smooth taste is partly because it’s made from pure Icelandic resources. Reyka is handcrafted in small batches using Iceland’s arctic spring water during the multi-filtration process. From there it’s filtered through lava rocks then distilled in one of only six Copper Head Stills in the world at the company’s zero-emission geothermal distillery in Borgarnes, Iceland.
The distillation process is so unique that Reyka only produces 255 cases of vodka per batch. It’s a quality smooth vodka versatile for any situation but best served over ice.
7. Ciroc Snap Frost Vodka
In 2007 rapper/producer Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs bought into Ciroc. His involvement made this premium vodka brand one of the most popular across the United States. Ciroc is a French vodka crafted from eaux-de-vie, which is a clear, colorless fruit brandy produced by means of fermentation and double distillation. To create Snap Frost the eaux-de-vie is distilled five times, including a final spin at the historic Distillerie de Chevanceaux in the South of France.
This expression is a fantastic gluten-free vodka distilled from mauzac blanc and ugni blanc grapes for a smooth fresh flavor. It’s a clean, crisp vodka carrying citrus aromas on the nose. The palate is sweet and light with a natural grape character that translates well to a classic martini.
8. Russian Standard Original Vodka
Russian Standard Original Vodka is made with wheat grown from the Russian Black Steppes and uses the glacial water of Lake Ladoga in the north.
The vodka spirit is distilled multiple times, quadruple filtered through charcoal, and then relaxed for 48 hours before bottling. The result is a classically pure yet smooth and delicious vodka with little afterburn.
Russian Standard offers excellent versatility and value for money whether you’re a mixologist looking to start the party or entertaining a smaller group with a bleu cheese filthy martini from your home bar.
9. Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka
I’m firmly of the opinion you bring in a specialist for crafting a chocolate martini (although you can go with an original vodka). Given I’m also a huge fan of the one-eared artist, I was naturally drawn to trying this expression.
Dirkzwager Distilleries Master Distiller Tim Vos handcrafts Van Gogh Vodka in small batches using the finest grains – primarily a combination of wheat and a little corn and barley. The vodka is distilled twice in column stills and then a third time in a traditional pot still to produce a well refined spirit with very little ethanol bite, but just the right amount of cocoa bitterness.
Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka is helped tremendously by the infusion of rich chocolate and hints of honeycomb and caramel. If an after-dinner martini is what you’re after, there’s also strawberry, caramel, and two espresso varieties to suit a range of tastes.
10. Quarantine Vodka
Look, if there was ever a perfectly named vodka for the world right now, this has got to be it. The tagline on the bottle, “isolated in perfection”, is brilliant and launching in May of last year was great timing for the American brand.
Quarantine Vodka is made from corn, distilled six times and filtered with the purest water from San Diego. It offers the clean aroma of corn that effortlessly translates to a smoother, creamy mouthfeel than other vodkas. Quarantine Vodka was designed to be a premium mixing vodka that takes your cocktail making to another level.
Bonus: Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth
Almost an afterthought in many a gin martini or vodka cocktail, Noilly Prat is the first and most famous of all Vermouth expressions. It’s a dry, straw colored fortified wine created by French herbalist Joseph Noilly in 1813 and fundamental to many martinis.
If it’s not quite your style of mixer then there is a range of sweeter (or even drier) variations available to jazz up your cocktail mix.
Vodka Martini FAQs
The vodka martini is a contemporary cocktail made with vodka, dry vermouth, and olives (or a salty dill pickle if you’re feeling dangerous). It’s a straight alcohol mix that can be shaken or stirred in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker depending on your taste.
There’s only one difference between these contemporary classics. A Gibson cocktail replaces the olive garnish for a cocktail onion, which tastes earthier than the almost pure salt of the olive.
A dirty martini adds olive brine or olive juice into the vodka cocktail to give it an even saltier aspect, while a filthy martini recipe adds bleu cheese.
Other people prefer to go in a slightly sweeter direction by adding bitters, cranberry juice, or flavored vodka – to create a different flavor.
For an after-dinner cocktail, a caramel or chocolate martini can juxtapose the sweet/bitter bite of cocoa with the salty deliciousness of olive juice.