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Does filtered low-grade vodka really taste like top shelf?


Does filtering cheap vodka really work?

Most people have heard of the urban legend that filtering cheap vodka through a water filter will make it taste better, but is it just a tale? We all know the cheap vodka we’re talking about here. It comes in a plastic jug and is usually drowned in juice to cover the rubbing alcohol taste - and is usually found at a college party. Somewhere the story was born that you can filter this jug vodka to get the taste of the high-end vodkas.

Vodka is made from fermented and distilled grain like corn, rye, or wheat. Typically, vodka is distilled three times or more and then passed through a charcoal filter. Vodka is the universal mixer in that it does not have a distinct taste and blends well with almost any juice, soda, etc. Without a more distinct flavor, you can tell the difference in quality of vodka by how easily it goes down. Top shelf vodkas go down smooth, while the lower level ones burn. This is because high quality vodka is distilled for more time and is filtered more thoroughly.

Water filters, like a Brita that you would find in most homes, use activated carbon to remove zinc, copper, and other impurities from tap water. The idea is that putting lower grade vodka through the water filter, it replicates the additional filtering that high-end vodka receives. However, in execution, it’s not quite the same.

Taste testers that tried vodka shots and cocktails made with low-end vodka, filtered low-end vodka, and top shelf vodka all agreed that filtering does not make the cheap vodka taste like the good stuff. The taste difference was most evident doing a shot, with top shelf vodka being the clear winner. This also applies to minimalist drinks like martinis. However, taste testers said that filtered low-end vodka wasn’t that bad when used in flavorful cocktails like the Bloody Mary or Moscow Mule.

Give a shot with this great pitcher Bloody Mary recipe:


3 cups tomato juice

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

3 Tbsp. lime juice

1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish

1 1⁄2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1⁄4 tsp. garlic powder

3⁄4 tsp. Tabasco

3⁄4 tsp. celery salt

1⁄2 tsp. coarse black pepper

1⁄3 cup pickle juice

1 oz. vodka, per drink

Garnish ideas:


Pickled okra

Pickled green bean


Sausage slice


1. Combine the tomato juice, lemon and lime juices, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, pickle juice, and hot sauce in a blender and mix until smooth.

2. Add celery salt and black pepper to taste, and put in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight.

3. To serve, fill glasses with ice and add 1 oz. of vodka to it. Top off the glass with the Bloody Mary mix. Stir well in the glass and garnish. 


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