Bartenders Pick Their Essential Vodkas

Cold vodka in shot glasses on a black background

If you could stock just a few vodkas, which would you select? These experts offer their picks to cover all the bases, from vodka-sodas to classic and signature cocktails. Not surprisingly, Tito’s is on just about everyone’s list.

Mike Wyatt, beverage director for the Boston-based, multiunit operator All Day Hospitality Group, offers a concise list: Absolut Elyx, Absolut Citron and Tito’s. 

Tito’s also makes Brock Schulte’s backbar musts at Citroen The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City. The bar director would also include Ketel One and Ketel One Citroen.


“If I could only choose three vodkas for my back bar, it would be a priority for me to cover three different styles: corn, grape, and wheat-based vodkas,” says Jay Giordano, beverage director at Six\West in Boston. “These different bases work better than others when mixing with certain ingredients.”

When it comes to flavor pairing and creating cocktails, Giordano says, “grape-based vodkas work well with other grape-based liqueurs and with citrus. Wheat-based vodkas are the most neutral of all and can work better in determining the taste of the cocktail. Lastly, I can’t leave out corn base, because after all, it’s a Tito’s world we are all living in.” Giordano notes that he’s leaving out a very important vodka category, rye, “but I could only choose three.”

Vince Landi, bar manager at Miller Union in Atlanta, has some interesting choices: Vodka from Woody Creek Distillers in Colorado; Wheatley Vodka crafted by Buffalo Trace Distillery; and Cutwater Spirits’ Fugu Vodka from California. “The distillates are potato, wheat and corn, respectively. The most-called-for brands are made from these distillates.”

Tyler Alford, vice president of operations for Asheville, NC-based Tupelo Honey Cafes, heads up his list with Tito’s—because you can’t fight the hype. He would add Absolut Citron. “I keep a bottle in my freezer.” And a less-expensive well brand to keep costs down on Happy Hour drinks.

“I would have two small-batch craft vodkas with varying mash bills from different regions,” says Corey Thomas, bar lead at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant in San Diego. “And Tito’s. Because everyone and their mom orders Tito’s.”