Savvy Moms

Savvy Moms

Turn Cheap Vodka into the Good Stuff


There is a huge difference in price between top shelf vodka and “cheap” vodka. 

Is there anyway to turn cheap vodka into top shelf liquor without the additional cost?

Most vodkas are about 80 proof, or 40% alcohol. It’s known as a rectified spirit, which means that it is highly concentrated and has been passed through a still (distilled) several times. It’s then usually sent through a charcoal filter, which helps to get rid of any carbon-based impurities that could make the vodka taste bad. Some very high-end brands advertise that they filter through charcoal and then through precious metals like silver, gold, and platinum for extra effect.

While vodka may not have its own taste per se, you can tell good or great vodka by how cleanly it goes down. Bad vodka will feel painful in your mouth and throat, while the good stuff takes a decidedly smoother journey into your stomach. Quality ingredients, including the type of grain and water source the vodka was made with, have a huge effect on the end product.

So How Do I Make Crappy Vodka Taste Less Crappy?

The same way big-time vodka makers do—send it through a charcoal filter. Charcoal, with its miniscule porous openings, is a whiz at filtering out microscopic impurities that affect taste and purity.

Now, keep in mind that this is not going to make your bottle of Popov suddenly taste like a Russian oligarch’s private stash that he sips while dining on caviar. Your homemade filters can improve the taste quite a bit, but they can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.¹

Vodka is not a complicated alcohol, and government standards on what constitutes vodka ensures that from the absolute bottom-shelf swill to the top-shelf ultra-premium bottles, what you end up with is, well, vodka. Marketing tactics and slick advertising aside, the real difference between the bottom and top shelf is the amount of filtration and refinement the vodka undergoes. ²

One thing to keep in mind with this process is that you’re essentially transferring the cost of filtration from the company to yourself. If you find that a $10 bottle of vodka drinks like a $50 bottle of vodka after a few trips through a $5 charcoal filter, then it’s well worth the addition of your time and money to bother with it. On the other hand, if after all your effort the bottle you’re filtering only ends up tasting like a $20 bottle, you might as well buy the $20 bottle next time.³

The best moderately priced vodka I’ve found is triple distilled Smirnoff vodka. The smoothness and taste of Grey Goose (almost) without the cost.

So, pickup a charcoal water filter from Amazon, Target, or Walmart and give it a try. Let me know if you notice a difference. 

Brita Everyday Water Filter Pitcher, 10 Cup

Hey, if it doesn’t work, you’ll still have a water filter for tap water. Win win!

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