Vodka is a hard liquor traditionally created from fermenting potatoes, wheat or fruit. There are several varieties of vodka available to the consumer at different price ranges, and choosing the best one depends to a large degree on the intended use. Cheaper vodkas may be used for various kinds of mixed drinks or for cooking. Higher-end vodkas are more appropriate for drinking straight or for serving in cocktails in which the flavor of the vodka will stand out. Flavored vodkas can be served alone or with other ingredients in a specialty drink.
Budget-conscious consumers may wish to look for lower-end vodkas to keep in their household bar or serve at a party. Inexpensive vodkas can be mixed with soda or fruit juices for quick mixed drinks. They also can be used to make gelatin-based shots and other kinds of drinks for parties. Bars may offer cheaper varieties of vodka in their least expensive "well" drinks. This kind of vodka also can be used in cooking recipes that call for the liquor to be used to deglaze a pan or as part of a reduction.
In general, mid-range vodkas are good enough to be served alone or as an ingredient in cocktails that rely on the liquor for much of its flavoring. These types of vodka are served in bars in "call" drinks. Mid-ranged vodkas generally represent well-known brands and are appropriate to serve to most guests or give as a gift to friends or family who enjoy cocktails.
Premium vodkas can be expensive but may offer a unique experience for many discerning cocktail drinkers. These vodkas are best enjoyed alone or over ice. They also can be served in mixed drinks such as martinis. The high cost of "top shelf" vodka and the subtle flavor of the liquor mean consumers who are on a budget may wish to save these varieties for special occasions.
Flavored vodkas are produced by infusing the clear liquor with fruit or other ingredients. While infusing helps impart a distinct flavoring to the vodka, the additional taste can make these brands inappropriate for general use. Buyers should remember that many cocktail recipes will taste odd when mixed with the wrong kind of flavored liquor. In general, these vodkas should be served alone or used in cocktails that have been developed with the infusion in mind. Flavored vodkas often are used to create a specialty drink for a bar or restaurant and can help make a party or event stand out.