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December 11, 2023

The Best Vodka for a Martini, Whether Dirty or With a Twist

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The martini—one of cocktail culture’s true classics, first gained popularity in the U.S. during the 1920s and 1930s, becoming a Jazz Age symbol of sophistication. Originally a gin drink before the vodka martini came into prominence, the cocktail’s glamorous image has only been bolstered over the past century by cultural influences like Prohibition and Hollywood, securing its spot as an icon of elegance and (few drinks are stiffer) alcohol tolerance.

Gaining popularity in the midcentury, vodka swiftly assumed its position as the new star of the martini—the neutral spirit being effectively marketed as smoother and less intensely flavored than gin. Once spy extraordinaire James Bond hit the screen with his famed preference for a vodka martini (“shaken, not stirred”), the deal was pretty much sealed. The neutrality of vodka also paved the way for creative riffs on the classic version. Over the next few decades, its first flavorful variations like the lemon drop, cosmopolitan, dirty martini, espresso martini, appletini, and so on would create a cocktail revolution unto itself.

Related: How to Master the Art of Going to a Bar Alone

Today, many bartenders and cocktail lovers give a respectful nod to gin martinis as being the original, but both gin and vodka make for a delicious martini—when done right, that is (see how to make a good one below). Vodka martinis tend to be milder and more neutral, allowing the vermouth and any garnishes to take center stage, while gin martinis have a more complex flavor profile with botanical and herbal notes contributed by the gin. At the end of the day, vodka or gin, it’s all a matter of personal preference.

The first step in crafting the ideal vodka martini at home is making sure you have the right ingredients in your arsenal—namely, an excellent bottle of vodka. Choosing the right vodka comes down to several factors, including your own taste preferences and what kind of martini you’re planning on creating. For the 2023 Men’s Journal Spirits Awards, we’ve tapped 13 outstanding vodka brands that are all perfectly equipped for making an excellent martini. Our best overall pick is , a vintage copper-distilled vodka offering optimal purity, balance, body, and versatility at the right price. Elyx was the most unanimously lauded vodka by our hospitality and spirits consultants (one of whom called it “criminally underrated”), but every vodka in this lineup will make a martini worthy of the name.

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Related: The 15 Best Scotch Whiskies of 2023

Why You Should Trust Us

As a spirits journalist, I’ve personally tried each one of the vodkas on this list, among numerous others, and also sought out recommendations from trusted sources in the hospitality and spirits industry. I considered factors such as tasting notes and mouthfeel, the mash bill, how the flavors of the vodka taste both neat and in martini format, and how a distillery’s own personal brand history or mission impacts the way it conducts business.

What We Look For When Choosing the Best Vodka for Martinis

Not all vodkas are made equal, and the best bottles on the market have some traits in common: smoothness, a clean and crisp profile, and purity. These attributes make a solid backdrop for the overall flavor, balance, and mouthfeel of the cocktail. On my hunt to select the best bottles of vodka for making a martini, I considered those traits as well as distillation methods. 

Best Overall Vodka for the Perfect Martini: Absolut Elyx Vodka

Absolut Elyx Vodka

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Absolut Vodka, a Swedish brand known for its top notch quality and iconic bottle design, has maintained an admirable popularity on the global spirits market since its introduction in 1979. Their vodka is distilled using locally sourced winter wheat and pristine water from the Åhus region. In particular, distinguishes itself through its unique copper distillation process—using a vintage copper column still from 1921. The slower distillation process provides greater control over the flavors, and the copper material also helps maintain a high level of purity.

“Absolut was one of the first premium vodkas to hit the states, and to this day it’s my favorite for a vodka martini,” says Josef Griz, bar manager at the Park Lane New York. “While most people define vodka as flavorless and odorless, Absolut is very much grain forward on the nose. You can actually smell the winter wheat and the aroma of freshly baked bread.” 

In additional to my own personal recommendation for Absolut Elyx as a great choice for an optimal martini, it also received the backing of several hospitality professionals—including Trevor Langer, head bartender at Jac’s on Bond in New York City, who says he has been a massive fan of the expression since it hit the market. “The velvety texture cascades down your tongue and makes an incredible martini no matter your preferred measurement,” he says. “Not only do I believe this vodka is criminally underrated, but it’s also widely available and doesn’t break the bank—and the branding is gorgeous. No question that for a classic vodka martini, Elyx is the way to go.”

Amir Babayoff, bar director at Ophelia Rooftop Lounge, says he found Elyx “pleasantly surprising” considering he isn’t a fan of vodka in general. “On the palate, it feels full body, smooth and silky, with nutty, bready, buttery notes. It finishes with a mellow spice note yet is clean and balanced. I still find it versatile and you can use it anywhere from a martini to a tiki drink.”

Best Luxury Vodka for a Martini: Chopin Family Reserve Vodka

Chopin Family Reserve Vodka

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Chopin Vodka, a renowned Polish vodka brand, takes its name from the iconic Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, emphasizing a commitment to excellence and artistry in vodka production. The luxury brand uses locally sourced potatoes for a distinct flavor profile and a smooth, velvety finish through small batch distillation.

Many industry professionals love Chopin’s Bartender’s Choice, another great option for a martini, but the brand’s stands as potentially one of their best, crafted from young potatoes from their 2016 growing season. Chopin’s Family Reserve also undergoes a unique aging process, resting in 50-year-old oak barrels to enhance its depth and complexity. The result is a vodka that maintains a delicately sweet earthy flavor, with a velvety texture and spice notes—perfect for a nuanced and flavorful martini.

$121 at Drizly

Best Vodka for a Dirty Martini: Grey Goose Vodka

Grey Goose Vodka

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Synonymous with luxury, Grey Goose is a premium French vodka created in the Cognac region, and distilled from local wheat and pure spring water. The vodka undergoes a meticulous five-step distillation process, ensuring a smooth and velvety texture.

“For martinis, I love Grey Goose—the winter wheat used in distillation yields a spirit with a light pepper note and a breath of anise seed,” says Claire Mallett, beverage director at Catch One in Los Angeles. “The minerality of Grey Goose lends itself perfectly to a dirty martini, which I make using a high-quality brine, like Dirty Sue, which was created by a bartender and formulated specifically for use in cocktails.”

$32 at drizly

Best Vodka for a Martini With a Touch of Sweetness: Barr Hill Vodka

Barr Hill Vodka

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Barr Hill, whose distillery can be found amongst the picturesque landscapes of Vermont, has garnered acclaim for its unique method of infusing raw, local honey directly into its spirits—creating a popular gin and vodka that both capture the region’s terroir. Barr Hill is not only dedicated to the art of distillation but also to the preservation of pollinators, playing a role in protecting the state’s bee population through initiatives like supporting local beekeepers and promoting sustainable farming practices.

Barr Hill Vodka is distilled entirely from raw honey—with every bottle using the equivalent of (not a typo) 3 lbs of it for its uniquely subtle honey undertone. This presents an exceptional choice for martini enthusiasts who appreciate faintly sweeter notes in their cocktails. The vodka boasts a smooth and velvety texture, offering a nice contrast to the traditional dryness of classic martinis. Infused with the distinct flavors of raw honey, Barr Hill vodka introduces notes of wildflower nectars and a floral nose.

$62 at

Best Affordable Vodka for a Martini: Reyka Vodka

Reyka Vodka

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Reyka Vodka, hailing from Iceland, boasts a location and distillation practice that intertwines with the country’s pristine natural environment. Crafted at the first-ever distillery in Iceland, situated in the small village of Borgarnes, the water for Reyka is sourced from an arctic spring that runs through a 4,000-year-old lava field, providing a crisp and clean foundation. Another aspect of what sets Reyka apart is its distillation process using a Carter-Head still, made of copper and steel, which allows for precise control over the distillation and ensures the elimination of impurities.

If you’re looking for bang-for-your-buck vodka, Reyka stands out as an excellent choice for crafting the perfect martini. Beyond its attractive price point, Reyka delivers a pure taste with subtle earthy and citrus notes. The crisp finish makes Reyka a top-tier option for those seeking a high-quality vodka without breaking the bank.

$24 at drizly

Best Flavored Vodka for a Martini: Hanson of Sonoma Vodka

Hanson of Sonoma Vodka

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Hanson of Sonoma, a dedicated vodka distillery in the heart of California wine country, was founded and is still operated by its namesake Hanson family. Their unique vodkas are distilled entirely from organic grapes, resulting in a premium product that captures the essence of the Sonoma region.

While most flavored vodkas tend to taste overly saccharine and hangover-inducing, the range of infused options at Hanson is impressive. Mandarin, Ginger, Cucumber and Habanero are some of the vodka flavors they offer—each actually infused with organic produce for a super-authentic and nuanced flavor.

The Mandarin-infused vodka, for instance, brings a zesty brightness to citrus-based martinis, while the Ginger variation adds a spicy kick for those seeking a bold and adventurous flavor profile. The Habanero-infused vodka introduces a touch of heat, and Cucumber creates a crisp and lightly flavored vodka martini.

$22 at total wine
$32 at

Best Potato Vodka for a Martini: Woody Creek Distillers Potato Vodka

Woody Creek Distillers Potato Vodka

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Woody Creek Distillers, nestled in the picturesque Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, has gained acclaim for its commitment to producing high-quality craft spirits— notably Woody Creek Distillers Potato Vodka (the brand also makes a fine whiskey). Crafted from locally sourced Rio Grande potatoes, the distillery prides itself on utilizing traditional farming methods and a hands-on approach to distillation.

“The ideal vodka martini is a beautiful libation that lets the underlying vodka’s purity shine,” says Lucinda Sterling, head bartender at Seaborne in Brooklyn, NY. “The first notable characteristic of Woody Creek Vodka is the smell of the potato skins, earth and a hint of salinity—probably from the fact that the spirit is unfiltered and brought to proof with pure Rocky Mountain water. This aroma and flavor lend themselves to a perfect vodka martini.”

$25 at drizly

Best Go-To Vodka for Your Classic Bar Martini: Ketel One Vodka

Ketel One Vodka

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Believe it or not, this renowned vodka can trace its origins all the way back to 1691, when the Nolet family established a distillery in Schiedam, Netherlands. Steeped in literal centuries of tradition, Ketel One has become synonymous with premium quality, perfecting its utilization of copper pot stills and a meticulous blending technique that sets it apart in the world of vodka.

“Ketel One is a manifest choice for vodka martinis, in my opinion. If you enjoy a wet martini with a twist like me, it offers a well-rounded finish that plays well with vermouth and offers up a rich mouthfeel with each sip. It can also take on brine with a breeze, for those who crave a little dirty, and pairs beautifully with the sweetness of a pearl onion, if Gibsons are your jam. Great versatility,” says Kate Boushel, beverage director of the Atwater Social Club.

As Boushel mentions, Ketel is an easy go-to. At nearly any bar across America—if your time to order comes up and you’re fighting indecision, you can never go wrong with a Ketel martini, thanks to a silky soft profile with subtle notes of cracked black pepper, citrus, and honey on the nose. Its smooth texture and absence of any harsh aftertaste make Ketel One ideal for a stiff beverage such as a martini.

$25 at total wine

Related: 16 Best Rye Whiskeys to Spice Up a Sazerac or Manhattan

More Vodkas That We Love for Martinis

Best Socially Conscious Vodka for a Martini: Supergay Vodka

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Supergay Spirits, based in Upstate New York, stands out as a small-but-mighty special player in the spirits industry. Founded by LGBTQI+ advocates and entrepreneurs, the company not only produces high-quality spirits but also champions inclusivity and diversity. Distilled in Yonkers, Supergay Spirits takes pride in its commitment to supporting the community, donating a percentage of profits from each bottle sold to LGBTQI+ organizations.

Besides their admirable philanthropy, Supergay also makes some great vodka. Made from 100 percent local and organic corn and distilled in small batches, it boasts a smooth and clean profile with a silky mouthfeel, making it the perfect choice for classic martinis. Filtered three times through activated coconut charcoal, its purity as well as its subtle sweetness from single-origin corn help to elevate any martini.

$31 at drizly

Best Japanese Vodka for a Martini: Haku Vodka

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Haku Vodka, by the House of Suntory, combines traditional Japanese craftsmanship with modern distillation techniques. Made from Japanese white rice, the vodka undergoes a unique seven-day fermentation process using koji mold, a traditional ingredient in Japanese sake production. This intricate method imparts a distinctively smooth and crisp character to the final product. The water used in the distillation process is sourced from the Japanese Southern Alps, further enhancing the vodka’s purity and clarity, and the final product is filtered through bamboo charcoal. A silky texture and notes of rice sweetness are unique, enticing attributes of this vodka, along with its hint of floral undertones. The palate is nuanced, both crisp and soft, making it an ideal choice for crafting the perfect martini. 

$23 at
$25 at drizly

Best Vodka for a Martini With a Bite: Kástra Elión Vodka

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A dirty vodka martini might hit the spot for your olive cravings, but what about a vodka that doesn’t even need the brine? Kástra Elión is produced by a family-owned distillery in Greece, and crafted from hand-picked Greek olives and wheat. Its olives are sourced from the Nafpaktos region, whose ancient castle which stands near the olive groves provided inspiration for the brand name.

Perfect for crafting a martini with a bright, peppery kick, Kástra Elión Vodka brings a unique flavor profile that elevates the classic cocktail. With its smooth, almost buttery texture, the vodka serves as an ideal base, allowing the other ingredients to shine while imparting a subtle richness. Tasting notes reveal delicate flavors of ripe olive and spicy black pepper, complemented by a subtle earthiness that adds depth to each sip.

Best Vodka for an Apple Martini: Upstate Vodka

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Upstate Vodka, crafted by Master Distiller Ken Wortz, pays homage to New York’s orchard bounty, as each bottle is the result of pressing 70 to 80 apples sourced exclusively from local farms. Wortz’s process involves fermenting the pressed liquid with Kosher yeast and subjecting it to a double distillation in 16- and 18-plate two-column stills, known for producing a purer distillate compared to the pot still commonly associated with flavored spirits.

The result is a vodka that is particularly well-suited for crafting the perfect apple martini. Its subtle fruity sweetness complements the natural taste of the spirit, creating a nuanced cocktail. The vodka’s crisp mouthfeel further enhances the martini experience, providing a refreshing and clean foundation for the vibrant apple notes.

$30 at drizly

Best Vodka for a Martini in the Faroe Islands: North Atlantic Subsea Vodka

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This tiny, remote distillery on the Faroe Islands is creating some of the most unique takes on classic spirits right now, standing as a testament to the intersection of tradition and innovation. The Faer Isles Distillery team draws inspiration from local ingredients and traditional distillation methods, creating spirits that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.

Their North Atlantic Subsea Vodka is distilled using fresh water that was discovered from a thousand-year-old underground source, creating a vodka with a delicious, distinct taste. What also sets it apart is the innovative addition of distilled seaweed, imparting a nuanced depth to its taste and a silky-smooth mouthfeel that lingers delicately on the palate. Right now, you can only get Faer Isles through a trip to the rugged islands, or by delivery if you happen to live in a select number of European countries. All the more reason to book a trip there now.

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Tips for Making a Great Vodka Martini

Choose the Right Vodka

A good vodka martini is characterized by a delicate balance of flavors, smoothness, and a clean finish. The choice of a high-quality vodka is crucial, as it should provide a neutral base that plays well with the sparse other elements of the cocktail. The vodka used should be well-distilled and filtered to ensure purity. Ultimately, the best vodka martini is a matter of personal taste, but attention to the quality of ingredients and the art of preparation are key in creating your ideal martini.

Get It Cold, Cold, Cold

Once you’ve selected your vodka and vermouth, the next most important factor in crafting a fantastic martini is temperature. It doesn’t matter how good your vodka is—if you do not correctly chill your martini before serving, it simply will not taste the best it could.

The perfect vodka martini should taste impossibly crisp, which can be achieved by chilling both your vodka and martini glasses in the freezer for at least a few hours prior to serve. Elect for high quality ice, and the larger the better, to slow down the dilution of your beverage.

Experiment With Ratios

Another extremely important factor in creating the perfect martini for you is some old fashioned trial and error. Just because your martini doesn’t taste exactly how you’d like it to, doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily made any mistakes along the way. 

“Some believe a martini has to be a specific measurement even to be considered as such, but in my opinion, to make the absolute best martini is to find out your preferred ratio of vermouth to spirit and then simultaneously chill, dilute, and integrate the ingredients,” says Langer.

Considering the simplicity of a vodka martini recipe, try playing with your vodka-to-vermouth ratio each time you decide to shake or stir one up, adjusting next time around based on your own tasting notes. 

If the martini is tasting too sweet or cloying, it might mean you need to dial down the vermouth. Some professionals, like Nathan McCarley-O’Neil, Head of Bars for Major Food Group, opt to simply rinse their glass with vermouth, which involves swirling a small amount of it around the inside of your chilled glass before discarding.

Don’t Minimize the Garnish

In our opinion, many of the best martinis also include a good garnish, which is also up to your own tastes and preferences. A simple lemon rind, expressed over the top of your beverage, can add a welcome citric tang, while a skewer of olives gives your martini a hint of brine. When it comes to added liqueurs or garnishes, make sure their quality reflects that of your chosen vodka, or risk diminishing the quality of your overall beverage. 

Standard Martini Recipe

While there’s no rule against playing around with martini measurements, here’s the gold standard. 


  • 2 1/2 oz chilled vodka of choice
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth of choice
  • 1 lemon twist or skewer of olives


  1. Chill your martini glasses in the freezer at least 30 minutes prior to serve.
  2. Add large cubes of ice to a mixer glass, then pour in your vodka and vermouth.
  3. Stir thoroughly with a cocktail spoon until chilled (20-30 seconds).
  4. Strain into a martini glass.
  5. Garnish with a lemon peel or olive skewer, to your taste.

Related: The Best Gin Brands to Drink in 2023


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