Vodka: A clear winner?


The view from the bar is… complicated. Vodka makes tremendous commercial sense, but bear in mind that’s profits for the bar owner, not the bartenders, and the bartenders are the ones making the recommendations. Making good cocktails with vodka is one of the most difficult feats in mixology, so fleeting are the flavour profiles of vodkas that have any at all, and consequently few mixologists feel confident evangelising vodka.

The most highly rated vodkas by bartenders are the brands which make friends with the bartending community, and those which make the lives of bartenders easy. Here in Americaland, the ubiquitous call isn’t for ‘a vodka-soda’, its almost half the time ‘Tito’s-soda’. Bars carry Tito’s just to make their bartenders’ lives easier. Regarding bartender love, if you compare the bestselling vodka brands according to bartenders in the 2018 Drinks International Brands Report, the only ones that don’t appear in the Trending (ie bartender favourite) list as well as in the Bestselling list are Wyborowa and Russian Standard – coincidentally brands doing relatively little bartender outreach compared to the other brands on the list. They might sell but they aren’t bartenders’ darlings. Those two brands are replaced in Trending by Beluga, a brand that’s ramped up on-trade engagement by expanding its Signature Program bartender contest to eight countries this year – and by Tito’s because, well, Tito’s. Will Brooklyn vodka ever make it on to either list? Check back with me in 21 years…