American journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken once said, “Martinis are the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.” Whether your sensory inclinations tend toward sound or taste, it’s hard to disagree. One of the most sophisticated cocktails of all time, the martini has the distinct honor of being both one of the oldest—and trendiest—cocktails. While a strong case has historically been made for the gin martini, the emergence of organic, artisanal vodkas has captured the attention of top mixologists and cocktail lovers alike.
With a liquor-forward composition, a martini is only as good as the vodka it’s based on, so choose with care. Read on for five of the best vodkas for martinis.
This ultra-premium, certified-organic vodka isn’t just pure, it’s borderline otherworldly. Distilled in a copper and gold still inside a 13th-century castle, its profile is remarkably complex and infinitely smooth. Distilled 34 times, Purity absolutely lives up to its name, and pairs well with either olives or a twist.
With a portfolio that includes gin, absinthe, and even single malt whiskey, St. George is something of an artisan jack-of-all-trades. This much loved San Francisco-based distillery shines with one of the absolute best vodkas for martinis. It’s elegant and down-to-earth, featuring the best fresh ingredients and a West Coast sensibility.
Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill
On the opposite coast from St. George, Caledonia Spirits has rigged up a Vermont-derived vodka that lends its own unique taste to the vodka martini. Unlike most competitors, with recipes that contain either potatoes or grains, Caledonia relies on the local beekeeping tradition to craft its vodka from raw, local honey, making this the perfect choice for those who like a bit of sweetness in their martini.
Square One Cucumber
Crisp, fresh, organic, and about as healthy as one could hope, Square One continues to craft some of the best vodkas for martinis. One of our favorite variations is its cucumber vodka, which pairs expertly with a few drops of artisan Lo-Fi dry vermouth and two to three slices of muddled organic cucumber.
The bright, citrus taste of Reyka vodka is ideal for drinking on its own as well as being incredibly versatile. It’s a perfect choice for classic martinis, and, according to bartender Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch in NYC, “has a nice mouthfeel, neat or on the rocks.” To shake (or stir) things up, make it a No. 3 Martini with a few dashes of orange bitters.
Now that you know the best vodkas for martinis, keep reading for our beginner’s guide to setting up a bar at home.