Vodka showdown, part 2

In our last vodka taste test, we compared Tito’s, Grey Goose, Stolichnaya and Ketel One. The results may have been predictable to some depending on your personal taste. We couldn’t wait to conduct part 2. Any guesses as to which brand won?

The brands. For this latest vodka taste test we included Absolut, Belvedere, Ciroc as well as unexpected contender Smirnoff. We don’t typically purchase Absolut or Smirnoff. However, Absolut is one of the most well known vodkas in the country and one of our Urban Upscale readers mentioned Smirnoff as her go-to so we thought that these two brands were worth including.

The process. We at Urban Upscale run a tight ship when it comes to drinking—I mean taste testing. Our process is completely blinded. We poured each vodka brand into a numbered cup, we covered the numbers and then randomly placed each cup in a holder with a letter. As we tested each brand we had no idea what we were drinking.

The results. We don’t typically drink vodka straight, so for us, a good vodka experience is a smooth vodka experience. We also judged the taste of the various brands, which–believe it or not–differed quite a bit. 

Without knowing it at the time we both ranked the brands in the same order from highest to lowest. We found Belvedere to be pretty good, fairly smooth and with a unique taste. This Polish vodka is made from rye and the flavor is almost lemony. For us, this landed in second place out of the four brands.

Best-selling Absolut offered no surprises. I can’t remember the last time I purchased Absolut, despite their always strong advertising campaign. I would describe it as “smooth-ish”, not too harsh but not overly impressive. Not much noticeable flavor but not offensive. Absolut may continue as one of the most popular brands, but for us it came in third.

To answer the Smirnoff question, we were skeptical. Not something we usually purchase but in addition to our reader’s comment, Smirnoff is the most popular vodka in America based on sales. But as we learned in high school, popularity is not the same as quality. As a vodka to drink straight, Smirnoff did not make the cut. It wasn’t very smooth and was definitely in need of some sort of chaser. We both ranked this brand last but acknowledged that since it has virtually no flavor it may work well in some sort of vodka punch recipe, when its rough edges would be smoothed out by sugary flavors and fruit.

So let’s talk about the winner, Ciroc. As noted in vodka show down part 1, we typically drink Ketel One or Tito’s, but we don’t usually shun too many quality vodka brands. Still, we haven’t made Ciroc a habit and we may want to rethink that. Ciroc is made from grapes (who knew such a thing was possible?), which creates a slightly fruity flavor. It’s not actually sweet but it’s distinctive taste suggests “Ciroc on ice” would work as your next drink order.

So there you have it. Our order of preference: Ciroc, Belvedere, Absolut, Smirnoff. And actually, if other brands had been included in the test taste they probably would have beaten Absolut and Smirnoff but Ciroc was a stand-out in this contest and will certainly be added to my list of favorites the next time I hop up on a bar seat.

The question is, how does it stack up against our first Vodka showdown’s winner, Ketel One? We’ll let you know.

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