This Blind Vodka Taste-Test Changed The Way I Drink — & Saved Me So Much $$$

Photographed by Roxana Azar.
This story was originally published on March 27, 2017.
When you think of top shelf alcohol, what comes to mind? For me, it's price. The higher the price, the higher quality the alcohol. But I've spent much of my adult life (and okay, sorry mom, maybe even a bit of those teen years) happily sipping low to moderately priced spirits. Those special times when the higher end stuff graced my lips? I never really noticed a difference – aside from the gaping hole in my wallet. But now that I'm no longer in college, making trash can punches for hallway dorm parties, opting for the pricier options has just seemed like the more appropriate, "adult," thing to do. So these days, when I head out to happy hours, dinners with friends, or even Saturday night bar hopping, I always order up what I feel is an appropriately mid- to high-range spirit option (none of that cheap college crap). I do this, not because I know it tastes better, but because the price tells me it must taste better. Makes sense, right?
That is until a few of my team members and I participated in a blind vodka taste-testing extravaganza. Last Friday (cheers to the freaking weekend) a bartender and a vodka expert from Smirnoff came to our office and we all gathered in a conference room where the table was adorned with A,B, and C-labeled, shot glasses, a spit cup (no official tasting is complete without a spit cup), and a score-ranking card for detailing taste, odor, smoothness, and price. In the middle of the table stood the three bottles of mix-ranged vodkas: Smirnoff, Titos, and Grey Goose. Grey Goose (the priciest) was a vodka that I'd only recently had a fair amount of exposure to, Titos (the mid-range) was the brand that I was most comfortable with (and apt to order out or pickup for cocktail parties), and Smirnoff (the lowest priced) felt like an OG college classic — RIP to power hours and pre-gaming.
The taste-test began and the responses were nearly unanimous around the table:
Vodka A
Taste: Very citrusy
Odor: Slightly citrusy
Smoothness: Not smooth at all with an intense after-burn that lingers on the tongue
Price: Voted the least expensive
Vodka B
Taste: Essentially tasteless
Odor: Odorless
Smoothness: Very smooth
Price: Voted most expensive
Vodka C
Taste: Similarly tasteless to vodka B, with a creamier hint (not as clean)
Odor: Similarly odorless to vodka B
Smoothness: Very smooth nearly to the point of feeling warm and milky (which turned a lot of the tasters off)
Price: Voted mid-range
The results? Vodka A, voted the cheapest, turned out to be Grey Goose. Vodka C was Titos (spot on for a mid-range guess). And — drumroll, please — Vodka B, voted the most expensive, was Smirnoff. I was shocked. (Full disclosure: Smirnoff did set up the tasting, but we had no idea which alcohol was which until after the fact.) The cheaper vodka option I had loved in my youth actually tasted better than the "high-quality" pricier bottles that I now turned to time and time again. So contrary to popular belief, price does not directly correlate to quality or taste. We, in turn, can (and should) decide for ourselves which taste and price point we feel comfortable selecting.
Empower yourselves and test out a few of your alcohols of choice at home before ordering them out. Find out which brands you actually prefer the taste of — and not just what you think you should be drinking. I know I will!
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