Ah, vodka. The coolest and steeliest of all the spirits. Somehow magically encompassing the ability to both chill and warm simultaneously, this beautiful beverage is lovely when sipped neat, or mixed with just about anything.
While the source of the name vodka is agreed upon — a diminutive of the Russian word voda, the liquor’s national origin is still under debate. Either in Poland or Russia, vodka cropped up in records as early as the 8th or 9th century. Vodka is made from fermented grains, such as corn, rice, rye, or wheat, and even fruits like grapes and sugar beets. It's potatoes, though, that started the party.
Potato vodka is known as the "healthiest" of vodkas because of its gluten- and sugar-free nature. The tuber might also remain the base that results in the best vodka served over ice and/or straight up. Here’s The Manual's guide to enjoying some of the world's best savory, versatile vodkas.
Grand Teton Potato Vodka
In the early 1800s, French trappers took one look at the shapely mountains bordering present-day Idaho and Wyoming and honored their feminine anatomical resemblance by dubbing them "Les Trois Tetons." Sitting in the shadows of these sightly mountains is the Idaho-based Grand Teton Distillery. In the midst of thousands of acres of famous Idaho potatoes, there was one thing to do (in addition to making tater tots): Make great vodka.
The spirit maker distills its clear potable vodka approximately 20 times, proofs it with pure mountain water, and polishes the final brew with charcoal and garnet crystal sand. Alpine water creates a smooth undercarriage for a flavorful, full-bodied alcohol. The double gold medal-winning result is earned only from a unanimous judging panel, and places Grand Teton among the finest vodkas in the world.
MurLarkey Divine Clarity Vodka
MurLarkey Divine Clarity Vodka is potato vodka hailing from former plantation land in Bristow, Virginia. Created in fertile, Southern soil, Divine Clarity is distilled 16 times before running through activated carbon and charcoal filters, forging a sweet smoothness.
“It’s almost like spring water with a hint of sweetness on the back end of it,” says MurLarkey head distiller Kevin Szady on the MurLarkey site.
Second-generation Irish-American cousins Tom Murray and Mike and Jim Larkin teamed their professional backgrounds, family, friends, and skill sets to distill high-quality, small-batch spirits. Divine Clarity is one of MurLarkey’s most decorated results. In 2018, it took home gold medals from both the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the American Distilling Institute Judging of Craft Spirits.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka
Between the northern Pittsburgh suburbs and the Allegheny National Forest, Boyd & Blair harvests 100% Glenshaw, Pennsylvania-grown potatoes to source its five gold medal-winning potato vodka.
F. Paul Pacult, Forbes’ foremost American spirits authority, described Boyd & Blair's taste as, “Fresh aromas of minerals and cotton are soft and elegant. The round and plush texture fills the mouth with a subtle earthy sweetness, as hints of lime zest shine through. Ultimately refined, it is a delight to sip on straight or mixed into any cocktail.”
Given 5 stars by F. Paul Pacult and taking home back-to-back Chairman’s Trophies, Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka ranked in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge Top 100 (world) Spirits list. Family owned and operated, Boyd & Blair does everything old-school, from taste-proofing each batch to signing and sealing every bottle by hand.
Chase Original Potato Vodka
Created on the off-continent British Isle, you’ll find this homegrown potato vodka on many "Best Of" lists. Chase Original Potato Vodka is creamy and smooth, mixing and standing on its own equally well.
Chase is a single estate potato vodka made in Herefordshire, England (southwest of Birmingham) by William Chase. Like underground wine vines, this British vodka is distilled on the very farm where the potatoes are grown. Each bottle is made from select Herefordshire potatoes and high-end varieties like Lady Claire and King Edward are among the 250 used for each batch.
From a down-home girl to a Grand Dame, Chopin’s Polish potato vodka is among the world’s best. Born from family recipes, Chopin claims itself as the world’s first ultra luxury vodka, bottled first for public consumption in 1992.
Born from local entrepreneurs in Krzesk, Poland, Chopin offers an unparalleled earthen creaminess. On the tongue are subtle vanilla hints upon potato bread with a fresh sour-appled nose. Chopin's single-ingredient craft vodkas remain produced at its family-owned and operated distillery, sourcing local, hand-selected ingredients and made with methods passed down through generations.
Woody Creek Potato Vodka
Just outside the Colorado Rockies lives Woody Creek Farms. The assortment of beautiful spirits the company creates includes its beautifully crisp potatovodka. This unique vodka is made from locally harvested Rio Grande potatoes, mashed fresh and distilled only once, giving this vodka a character all its own.
Woody Creek Potato Vodka flirts with earthy, woody notes, while still tasting refreshingly clean. Flavorful and smooth enough to enjoy on its own, but affordable enough to mix into an array of cocktails.
Cold River Vodka
When you think of Maine, you probably think of lobster, and that's fair. But Maine is also well known for its potato crop, so it stands to reason that there would be a high-quality potato vodka distilled in Maine. Freeport-based Cold River Distillery started out with gin, but quickly took advantage of the Maine potato to produce an award-winning vodka. The vodka is triple distilled in copper pots for smoothness and then bottled at the distillery in numbered bottles.
Cold River's vodka has won several awards, including a double gold medal for best domestic vodka from The Fifty Best, a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Sprits Competition, and was named one of the top 120 spirits in the world by the F. Paul Pacult Spirit Journal.
And, yes, it goes well with lobster.
We’ll finish up with a solid selection from the Austrian-brewed Monopolowa, which is Poland’s most popular vodka.
Smooth and dry, on ice or cold from the freezer, Monopolowa originates from an old secret family recipe that calls for triple distillation and exclusive local potato varieties. There’s a prototypical creamy potato finish with a lemon peel suggestion twisting with vanilla and buttercream.
Vodka Monopolowa’s ease on the palate has earned the spirit numerous awards and gold medals for taste and quality. Consistently rated "Exceptional," Monopolowa has gone toe to toe with some of the world’s best vodkas.
Vodka fits just as well sparkling cool on a warm summer as it does when the temps start to feel more like Poland and Russia. If you haven’t explored this vast spirit world yet, it’s worth dipping a toe and a tongue in.
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