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Best Russian Vodka: Embrace the Real Thing

Every bar in the world stocks at least a few kinds of vodka due to how much of a staple it is. It’s a versatile and popular spirit that is neutral with no added flavors. Adding a bottle to your home bar or bringing one to your next house party is a surefire way to make a huge variety of cocktails. 

When deciding which vodka to invest in, you may not know where to begin. After all, if it’s a flavorless liquor, does it even matter which one you choose? Surprisingly, many subtle differences in quality can affect your drinking experience. Choosing a high-quality, traditional Russian vodka helps elevate your mixology game.

Many of the most popular vodkas on the market today are not, in fact, Russian. Many of these vodkas are great spirits, but if you’re looking to try authentic Russian vodkas, it can be a little tricky to know where to start.  In this guide, we’ll help you understand some of the basics and give you some of our favorite Russian vodkas to try.

What You Need to Know About Russian Vodka

In the part of the world we now know as Russia, this clear distilled spirit appeared in about the 14th century. The smooth and refreshing liquor is deeply rooted in the region’s culinary culture and almost always accompanied by hearty Russian cuisine.

Drinking culture in Russia still often involves enjoying a good meal along with numerous shots of vodka to help cleanse the palate and stimulate digestion. However, less traditional uses for vodka have risen worldwide, such as in many cocktails. Vodka is a great canvas to help other ingredients and flavors to shine.

While flavored vodkas have come into the market in the past couple of decades, most Russian vodkas prefer to leave the purity of the spirit alone, with a few notable exceptions. Many new flavored vodkas are coming onto the market that offer higher quality, coupled with natural botanical flavors.

Russian Vodka: An Overview

While many think of vodka as a potato-based liquor, most Russian vodka is wheat- or rye-based. It makes sense, considering that much of Russia has a shorter growing season due to the long, cold winters. It’s easier to grow an abundance of grain above ground than root vegetables that need soil thawed more deeply.

Vodka is a drink enjoyed in many different ways and across many different economic groups. Inexpensive vodka is commonly used in mixed drinks by students who don’t want to taste alcohol but would rather get tipsy on something that tastes like fruit juice.

Higher-quality vodka can carry with it a classy and even a snobbish reputation. Thanks to the very subtle nuances of the most expensive vodkas, some people like to show off a bit that they have a more refined palate that can detect these differences.

How to Choose the Best Russian Vodka

You don’t have to be a snob to enjoy a better quality of vodka than you may have imbibed in during college. Once you start tasting different vodkas, you will come to notice that despite the liquor not having any added flavors, there are many differences in taste and aroma.

We recommend trying a couple of different varieties of vodka straight up at a bar or distillery so that you can get a better handle on their qualities and find out what you personally prefer. You can also try a flavored vodka if you don't love the classic taste on its own.

Cheaper vodkas can often have a harshly alcoholic taste, but at just a slightly higher price point, you can find vodkas that are much smoother and nicer to drink on their own or mix. This is usually due to the quality of the grains and the distillation process used. 

What Does Russian Vodka Cost?

While the cheapest vodkas tend to have an unpleasant sharpness and aroma, you don’t have to spend a lot to find a better quality one. Many great Russian vodkas cost between $20-$35.

There are some higher-priced, more gourmet options, but for many people, spending more than $50 on a bottle of vodka isn’t going to give them a significantly better drinking experience. Unless you’re a connoisseur with a trained palate, you may not even be able to detect the difference.

Where Can You Buy Russian Vodka

While many bars and liquor stores stock a variety of Austrian, British, and American vodkas that tend to dominate the Western market, some will have Russian options. Developing a relationship with your local liquor store may also allow you to special order a particular vodka you’d like to try.

Russian and Eastern European restaurants in your community may also have some authentic Russian vodka available. Since the food and drinking cultures are so closely linked in Russia, they will often have it on the menu. If not, ask the proprietors where they go for their favorite tipple.

Authentic Russian vodka can be hard to find in many regions, but online services that deliver liquor right to your door have also grown in popularity recently. They often have a more unique selection compared to your neighborhood store.

The Best Russian Vodkas

If you’re getting started with Russian vodkas, here are a few of our favorites for you to try.  They each bring something unique to the table to help you expand your palate.

1. Beluga Noble

bottle of beluga vodka
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 MSRP: $30

Proof: 80

Tasting Notes: grains, honey, black pepper

Our Rating: 5/5

Beluga Noble is a true Siberian vodka distilled in Mariinsk and made with local grains and local water. After distillation, the vodka is rested, which is believed to make the taste more mellow. While it is not categorized as a flavored vodka, some natural additives get mixed into the vodka after distilling. 

Honey, oatmeal, and herbs are the main add-ins to create a more complex flavor. Some purists may not be a fan of this kind of flavoring. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options that don’t add any flavoring agents.

The name Beluga and the sturgeon artwork on the bottle are references to caviar. This clues you into what this vodka was designed to be paired with. It’s the perfect contrast to salty foods, such as caviar.

Beluga Noble is a delicious, nuanced vodka that’s fairly easy to find outside of Europe, and while it is not cheap, it won’t break the bank.


  • Complex and smooth flavor
  • Authentic Siberian ingredients
  • Accessible


  • Contains added flavor

2. Russian Standard

russian standard vodka
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MSRP: $24

Proof: 80

Tasting Notes: toasted wheat, pepper, alcohol

Our Rating: 5/5

Russian Standard is often considered, well, the standard of classic Russian vodka. Clear, crisp, and clean, the recipe is based on a traditional one dating back to the 19th century. The vodka is produced in St. Petersburg with a combination of winter wheat and glacier water.

Using glacier water reduces the number of minerals in the mix, giving this a very soft taste that many drinkers enjoy, but some may lack the minerality that gives many liquors their distinct regional taste. Having it over ice adds some minerality to your drinking experience.

The main notes come from the wheat, with a toasted grain flavor. Some peppery notes come in on the back, but this vodka has a slightly stronger alcoholic taste initially. If you like a little more zing, this is a great option. It mixes nicely but can stand on its own.

Russian Standard is one of the most widely available genuine Russian vodkas in America.


  • Clean taste
  • Traditional recipe
  • Mixes well
  • Can taste the grains


  • Lacks minerality
  • Stronger alcohol taste

3. Jewel of Russia

bottle of jewel of russia vodka
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MSRP: $50

Proof: 80

Tasting Notes: mineral, rye, wheat, pepper

Our Rating: 5/5

With a tagline like “The drink of the Czars,” Jewel of Russia sets expectations high, but thankfully, they meet them. An ultra-premium vodka, this is more expensive than the others on our list, but the ingredients boast non-GMO grains and natural spring water crafted with Russian traditions.

The vodka is pure, with a very clean nose, and it looks crystal clear in a glass. With no added flavors, it still has a distinct taste that is smooth and crisp with a pleasant minerality. Some may describe this vodka as understated– as many of the most sophisticated things in life are. 

Imperfections are removed from the vodka to maintain a clean and consistent flavor. The vodka is also allowed to rest before bottling, helping a smoother flavor develop.

Jewel of Russia has an ultra-smooth, creamy texture. It is a versatile option that can be enjoyed solo or mixed, but there are many good and more affordable options if this is beyond your budget.


  • Ultra-premium quality

  • Smooth minerality

  • Creamy mouth feel


  • Higher price tag

4. Moskovskaya Osobaya

bottle of moskovskaya vodka
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MSRP: $13

Proof: 80

Tasting Notes: herbs, licorice, mint

Our Rating: 4/5

Moskovskaya Distillery started its life in the communist era as a state-owned business but came under private ownership in the 90s. The liquor is still produced using traditional methods to craft a distinct taste. It’s one of the most affordable authentic Russian vodkas you can find in North America.

This vodka is notable for its fresh, sweet, and herbal taste. Spearmint and anise seed are detectable flavors, with a lingering sweetness in the aftertaste. The strong flavors may make it unsuitable for mixing in certain cocktails, but it’s great to sip over ice or in summery cocktails, thanks to its refreshing taste.

This vodka also has a slightly more viscous mouth feel, which some experience as creamy, but others can feel is a little grainy when drinking it straight.


  • Affordable
  • Unique herbal taste
  • Good to drink on the rocks


  • May be too strong for some cocktails
  • Thicker mouth feel

Get Your Russian Vodka From the Source

bottle of vodka in ice bucket with black background

If you’re serious about becoming a vodka connoisseur, you must try some of its homeland’s best options. Sadly, there are not many authentic Russian vodkas easily available on the American market. Stoli and Smirnoff may have Russian names but are not produced in Russia for the American market. 

Thankfully, though, some very high-quality Russian vodkas can be found in the US. On our list, we have shared some of our favorites that take into account a range of budgets and preferences. We’re confident that you’ll find one to be your new favorite. The world of vodka starts in Russia, but there are also many other countries producing excellent vodka for you to explore.

Happy sipping! And if you don't like vodka, give one of the best dark rums a try.

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