10 Introductory Vodkas Every Budding Connoisseur Should Have

Whether you're outfitting a bar for the first time or expanding your collection, you're going to want vodka. And when it comes to stocking a well-rounded bar, it's important to have a variety on hand.

While all vodkas may look the same, there's actually quite a bit of diversity among brands and styles. The choice of ingredients, distillation process, and filtration methods employed by each distiller are what give every vodka a distinctive flavor and texture.

So how do you know which vodka brands to buy when there is such an incredible variety available? That's where we come in. This list focuses on affordable brands and varieties to suit an array of needs for budding connoisseurs. Some of these vodkas are better for mixing into cocktails while others are meant to be served neat, preferably in a small, chilled glass. A well-rounded selection of three to five different vodkas will enhance any bar collection.

1. Absolut

Absolut is one of the most recognizable, affordable brands of vodka in the world. It started gaining attention over 40 years ago through a combination of effective marketing strategies and a commitment to producing a high-quality product. In the 1980s, Absolut launched a groundbreaking advertising campaign. Instead of focusing solely on the vodka itself, the company embraced creative and artistic advertisements featuring its iconic bottle as a work of art. This caught the attention of consumers and helped popularize this easy-drinking spirit.

What keeps customers coming back is the quality Absolut represents for a modest price tag. Made in Sweden, Absolut uses locally grown winter wheat and pure well water to make its iconic vodka. It is column distilled in a carbon-neutral facility before it is filtered. Every 10,000 liters is taste-tested before bottling to help ensure the quality and consistency of the brand. The resulting product offers a remarkably smooth and straightforward flavor, making it great for mixing in drinks like a lemon drop or spicy bloody mary. One of the most affordable vodkas on this list, Absolut retails for around $16 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

2. Cîroc

Every good bar should be stocked with a vodka made from something other than grains. Cîroc vodka is made from grapes grown in France. After the grapes are harvested and fermented, the juice is distilled five times to create a distinctively clean and faintly fruity style. It should come as no surprise that the brand's founder, Jean-Sebastien Robicquet, has a degree in enology, (the study of wine), and is both a winemaker and distiller.

When it comes to value, Cîroc offers a good balance between quality and accessibility. While it may be slightly more expensive than some of the other popular vodka brands, its quality and taste justify the price. And because it's made from grapes, it's 100% gluten-free. Additionally, it's a versatile vodka, which helps make it a worthwhile investment for any home bar.

This grape vodka offers citrusy aromas and subtle sweetness on the tongue. Thanks to its big flavors and plush finish, it's one that can be served simply, over ice. But its flavors will also enhance fruity cocktails like a cosmopolitan. Cîroc retails for around $22 for a 750-milliliter bottle. 

3. Tito's

If you want to support an affordable, American vodka brand, look no further than Tito's Handmade Vodka. Made in small batches in Austin, Texas, it's a deliciously approachable vodka made from yellow corn, which gives it a hint of sweetness. The company calls its product "America's original craft vodka" because it is distilled six times using old-fashioned pot stills. Instead of filtration, its purity comes from careful distillation in small batches; every batch is taste-tested before bottling. And because it is made from corn, Tito's promotes itself as gluten-free. 

Tito's is a good vodka for blending simple cocktails that show off the brand's clean, approachable style, like a vodka soda. But the company also recommends mixing its spirit into a variety of cocktails including a vodka martini, bloody mary, and its version of a margarita, the Titorita. Tito's uses stock bottles to keep down costs, which allows it to pass along the savings to the consumer and offer competitive pricing. A 750-milliliter bottle retails for around $17. 

4. New Amsterdam

When you need a vodka for a party, New Amsterdam offers decent quality at one of the lowest prices around. Made in a light, simple style, this vodka offers faint menthol and pepper notes but is relatively easy to drink. Although its name and packaging in sky-scraper-shaped glass bottles may make you think of Manhattan, this value-priced vodka comes from Modesto, California, and is owned by wine industry giant E&J Gallo.

New Amsterdam is a grain-based vodka that's distilled five times and then filtered three times before bottling. The process goes a long way toward making this inexpensive brand neutral and smooth. Compared to other vodkas in its price range, it's remarkably mixable and works well in drinks, particularly in bold cocktails like sex on the beach. It's also a good choice for popular party batch cocktails like a vodka punch and vodka lemonade. Additionally, this is a good option to use when cooking, such as when whipping up a penne alla Vodka. A 750-milliliter bottle of New Amsterdam retails for about $13. 

5. Humboldt Organic

If you're looking to add an organic choice to your vodka collection, Humboldt Distillery offers a reasonably priced, small-batch organic variety with a nice body and flavor. It's crafted in Humboldt County in Northern California, a region known for its preserved natural beauty, and the brand attempts to echo that natural purity into this USDA-certified organic vodka.

Humboldt is made from American sugarcane, which makes it gluten-free. The distiller credits its water source with giving the spirit its clean character. The water used in Humboldt's distillation comes from a basin beneath an old-growth redwood forest. The vodka is free of additives and is non-GMO. In addition, the distillery promotes sustainable practices as well as supports the California Coastkeeper Alliance.

The vodka offers citrus aromas and very subtle flavors with a hint of wet stone. Unlike many affordable vodkas, this is one that can be enjoyed not only mixed into cocktails but also on its own. This is a spirit to keep in your refrigerator for impromptu toasts. A splurge-worthy investment, a 750-milliliter bottle of Humboldt Organic retails for approximately $23. 

6. Ketel One

When you're ready for an upgrade from Absolut, this well-recognized vodka offers a smooth and sophisticated flavor without breaking the bank. You will pay a little more for Ketel One, often referred to as Ketel, than some of the other choices on this list but what you'll get for your money is an elegant spirit with an ultra-smooth mouthfeel and long finish.

This Dutch vodka is made from high-quality wheat, which gives it almost imperceptible sweetness. It's distilled using an interesting combination of old-fashioned pot stills and more modern column stills. The distilled vodka goes through activated charcoal filtration multiple times to ensure the clarity and soft character that popularize the brand.

Because of its silky texture and subtle flavor, this is a crowd-pleasing vodka and one you can mix in cocktails or drink on its own. Use it to make sophisticated vodka martinis but also keep it handy for sipping, served either neat or on the rocks. A good value for the money, a 750-milliliter bottle of Ketel retails for around $21. 

7. Deep Eddy Original Vodka

If you want a vodka nobody will believe costs as little as $12, Deep Eddy Original is a bottle you need for your home bar. It retails between $11.99 and $17 for a 750-milliliter bottle depending on where you purchase it. But for that price, you'll get an award-winning, small-batch vodka with a slightly sweet flavor and surprisingly smooth finish.

This American vodka is made from corn, which means it's gluten-free. It is column distilled 10 times in 2,000-gallon batches, which is unusual for an inexpensive brand. It is then charcoal-filtered four times before being finished with pure water from a Texas aquifer. Deep Eddy is made in Buda, Texas.

The company promotes this spirit as a day-drinking vodka meant to be mixed into refreshing cocktails. Try it in classics like a vodka tonic with a wedge of lime, vodka gimlet, or a dry vodka martini. If you want to get more adventurous, use it in a Mule with ginger beer and mint.

8. Froggy B. Vodka

When you're looking for something that's as much fun as it is tasty, check out Froggy B. Vodka. A brand that does marketing as well as it does flavor, this French distiller believes vodka should not be taken too seriously. One look at the suave, suit-clad frog on the label and you'll get the Froggy B. vibe as well as exactly who is going to enjoy this spirit.

It is crafted from organically grown winter wheat that is sourced from France's Beauce region. The product is distilled six times in copper stills. The result is a slightly sweet flavor with hints of citrus. There's a bit of heat on the finish, so this is a spirit that's better as a mixer than served straight.

Although it isn't one of the least expensive bottles on this list, it is definitely one of the most unique. Froggy B. retails for around $17 for a 750-milliliter bottle. Serve it in a Sea Breeze or this easy Orange Crush cocktail.

9. Luksusowa Potato Vodka

When you want the flavor of a classic, Eastern European potato vodka, Luksusowa makes a good choice. Ironically, Luksusowa is Polish for luxury vodka, yet it is one of the most affordable potato vodkas on the market. (The potato is considered one of the more expensive base ingredients for vodka because it requires more prep and affords lower yields than base ingredients like grains.)

This vodka is distilled, diluted, and filtered, resulting in a fairly neutral flavor with a deliciously creamy texture. It retails for around $16 for 750 milliliters, which is not inexpensive but it is considered a good buy for potato vodka.

Serve this vodka in flavored shots like a lemon drop shooter or use it in recipes like this vodka gazpacho. Luksusowa also shines in a vodka martini.

10. Svedka Vodka

The best thing about Svedka, a Swedish vodka, is that you can find it at most liquor stores and many convenience stores. Although it typically retails for around $12 for a 750-milliliter bottle, you can sometimes score one on sale for under $10. Incidentally, if you're wondering where the name came from, the answer is simple: Svedka is just a combination of Swedish and vodka.

Svedka is made from winter wheat using continuous distillation. This simply means that there are no interruptions during the distillation process. It is then filtered five times and the resulting vodka is reasonably smooth with hints of citrus and pepper.

Svedka mixes well into cocktails and can be used for a variety of purposes from a simple vodka soda to easy, fruity drinks like a Cape Codder. It's also a good vodka to use in bold drinks like a White Russian, Harvey Wallbanger, or Mudslide.