Vodka has been around for roughly 1,200 years, give or take a century, and for most of that time it’s producers have been decidedly not American— mainly Russians, Pols and Swedes. Given that vodka is the most oft-quaffed spirit in the U.S., it was only a matter of time before some industrious stateside distillers decided to muscle in on the colorless/odorless/flavorless liquor action. I mean, Sweden? Seriously? C’mon! America’s not taking a backseat to the same people who make SAABs! And Poland? If it takes four Polish guys just to screw in a lightbulb, imagine how many are needed to produce a bottle of vodka. (According to Siri, it takes half a Polish guy).
Over the past decade, the success enjoyed by U.S.-based vodka brands such as SKYY, Tito’s and Hangar 1 set the stage for what is now a full-blown vod-splosion in this country. Chances are you haven’t sampled the wares of many small batch producers. Oh, but I have. I’ve sampled artisinal vodka all over this country my friends. Because the only thing I love more than my country, is getting blotto in my country. So America, this buzz is for you.
I know what you’re thinking—Medoyeff sounds vaguely...foreign. But Medoyeff is made in Portland, Oregon (or so they say—I’ve yet to see any official documentation) by the Bull Run Distilling Company. It’s grain-based and trickle filtrated, which sounds a lot more fun than it probably is. The water used during distillation comes from Bull Run Lake and is said to be the purest in America. That flawless H2o is the key to Medoyeff’s rich mouthfeel and crisp minerality. SRP: $28. bullrundistillery.com
Hanson of Sonoma Original Organic Vodka
Speaking of water, Sonoma Valley Artesian well water is no joke either, but if it were, “half a Polish guy” would make for a great punchline, wouldn’t it? In addition to the well water, this vodka is made with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and French Colombard grapes. Each bottle is hand stamped, numbered, signed and approved by a member of the Hanson family (this is a different alcohol producing Hanson family). It’s certified organic, gluten-free and non-GMO verified. In other words, it’s every Park Slope vodka lover’s wet dream. SRP: $35. hansonofsonoma.com
It takes 10 pounds of raw sweet potatoes to produce one bottle of this estate-grown vodka from California’s San Joaquin Valley (not to be confused with California’s San Joaquin Phoenix, who was made from 170 pounds of ham). What’s that? You’ve never heard of vodka distilled from sweet potatoes. Well that’s because there wasn’t one until Corbin blazed the trail. Tastes like figs and cinnamon and hot buttered popcorn soaked in booze. SRP: $38. sweetpotatospirits.com
St. Augustine Florida Cane Vodka
Distilled from pure Sunshine State sugar cane, this exceptionally smooth, floral vodka is handmade in the nation’s oldest city. If you can make it down there, the distillery is a thing of beauty; designed and built under the watchful eye of former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell. Two ounces of St. Augustine stirred with half an ounce of Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth will yield a damn fine vodka martini. Don't forget the olives. SRP: $30. staugustinedistillery.com
They’ve been growing apples at Beak & Skiff Orchards in LaFayette, NY for 104 years. And it only took about a century for someone there to go, hey, let’s turn this delicious fruit into booze. They started with hard cider, then came hard liquor. There are all sorts of wonderful flavors at play in this vodka—like pepper, coffee bean, caramel and banana. It’s eminently mixable, ideal for Sea Breezes and Harvey Wallbangers (the official cocktails of Summer 2015). Sold all over New York State, on cruise ships and in duty-free shops at most major airports. SRP: $32. 1911spirits.com
You like to get freaky? Like, vodka-made-from-strawberries freaky? Of course you do. You’re a footloose bon vivant. Everybody knows that. And you, my friend, are precisely the free spirit that James, Anthony, Henry and Andrew had in mind when they launched the Ventura Spirits Company in 2011. Who are James, Anthony, Henry and Andrew? Guys that make vodka out of strawberries, that’s who. SRP: $30 venturaspirits.com
Bootlegger 21 New York Vodka
This boutique brand from the Catskills wins more awards than Meryl Streep and with good reason. Made from 100% corn. Charcoal filtered. Gluten-free and Certified Kosher. Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy. Sipped straight or in a cocktail, Bootlegger 21 will not disappoint. SRP: $25. prohibitiondistillery.com
Other small batch vodkas worthy of a discerning vodka drinker’s attention include Expedition (Santa Fe, New Mexico), Diablo’s Shadow (Northern California), Phantom Fly (Oregon), and Shakespeare (Nevada).