Cheap Vodka: Which Brand Is The Least Rubbish?

Right. Let's not pretend we're classy ladies. Here's the best vodkas for the least money.

Cheap Vodka: Which Brand Is The Least Rubbish?

by Anna Samson |
Published on

It always surprises me that people claim to like the taste of vodka. I don’t deny its greatness – knock yourself out, pour it into fruit juice, into a hip flask or over your Cornflakes, depending on what kind of day you’re having. But let’s remember that it is, at the end of the day, a drink made from fermented potatos.

To me, most vodkas taste the same, whether it’s a half bottle of good old Smirnoff swigged to keep warm in the club queue, or the one that comes in a skull shaped bottle and boasts that it was ‘filtered through 500-million year old crystals/the official drink of twats around the globe’.

But how about the cheapest of cheap voddies – the kind you proudly lined up on the windowsill of your first student flat. Would you really be better off drinking bleach or are they, like Collection 2000 make-up and Subway Meatball Marianas, simply the undeserving victims of society’s boorish snobbery?

And either way, how best should we consume them, drinking away our problems since it’s the end of the month and I-don’t-know-about-you-but-are-you-fucking-broke-too? Well, I spent five evenings trying five godawful vodkas, carefully making notes in my Moleskin as I went. My mother is so proud I moved to London to become a journalist.

Day One: Sainsburys Basics Vodka


Basics vodka for a basic girl. The label claims in orange Comic Sans that it’s ‘Great shaken or stirred!’, which I infer means ‘Tastes like shit until you mask the flavour!’ Undeterred, I decide to mix it into a White Russian, which is my preferred method of tanking vodka (and no, I haven’t seen the Big Lebowski, so hold off on the quotes yeah?).

This is a really cheap option, because once you have some Kahlua or Tia Maria for the flat – think of it as an investment, if not for your health for your sanity – then all you need to worry about paying for is a pint of milk. The vodka is undetectable, and the calcium boost is a nice perk too. No rickets for you!

Day Two: Glen’s Vodka

As a Scottish lass, I was raised on this stuff – usually mixed with Fanta Fruit Twist and served in a ‘Number One Mum’ mug while the host’s parents watched Brookside on a portable telly upstairs. But even the heady promise of reliving my youth can’t bring me to face the neon horror of Fanta Fruit Twist again (just me or does it feel like that stuff coats your teeth in fur?).

I recommend settling for a classic Screwdriver instead – that’s cocktail wanker speak for ‘vodka orange’. A good OJ will polish up a particularly turdy vodka – hell, go Waitrose if you really want to pull out all the stops.

Day Three: Co-Operative Imperial Vodka

This vodka has a lot to answer for. I enlist some help – willing lab rats at a friend’s birthday party – and we decide to see how this regally named vodka holds up when mixed into whatever we were already drinking. Turns out, it goes great with pretty much anything, including rum and coke, gin and tonic and Bulmers Blood Orange Cider.

It has a clean taste that adds a boozey kick, but doesn’t quite taste like paint stripper. Cut to three hours later, and my mate Scott* is being escorted out of a club for sleeping upright against a pillar. The bouncer had been alerted by the flash of cameras as a group of lads on holiday from Dublin took turns to thumbs-up next to him. Poor Scott is probably a meme somewhere now.

*name changed, because he is rightfully crippled with shame.

Day Four: Vladivar

I’ll present to you a convoluted metaphor – this vodka reminded me of the kid who would strut up on the first day of term bragging about their cool new schoolbag and holiday to Disneyland Florida (not Paris, god), only to be caught five minutes later with their fingers up their nose digging for treasure. Gross.

Still with me? So the packaging is the slickest of the five, that I can’t deny, but the way it goes on about how great it is, its heritage and ‘master blender’ does suggest it would be a little less rank. While doing some research for what to pair it with, I came across the BLT cocktail, which is exactly what it sounds like, pureed.

But since nothing good has ever come from shoving bacon in a blender, I decide to kick it old school and drink my Vladivar with Coke. It’s very much alright, but I wouldn’t recommend breathing in the fumes too deeply.

Day Five: Tesco Everyday Value

Everyday Value is a fine name to use for describing cheap own brand ‘Wheat Bisks’, or mild cheddar, but takes on a worrying significance when applied to vodka. That said, it is day five of Vodkagate, and who am I to judge?

During a nostalgic moment in the fruit juice aisle, I end up buying everyone’s favourite childhood juice: Um Bongo. Ignoring the undertones of colonialism on the packaging, this turns out to be a surprisingly genius move for 79p. The vodka itself tasted unremarkable, but when mixed with UB, it makes a sweet-but-sour concoction that is worryingly drinkable. If it was served in a jam jar with a stripey paper straw, you wouldn’t think twice about handing over the guts of a tenner. I think I’m on to something here.

The Verdict: Well yes, cheap shit vodka is cheap and shit, but that probably won’t stop you drinking it. Stick to Um Bongo and White Russians until the day you can upgrade to the giddy heights of flavoured Absolut.

Budget Vodka

Thought you’d swapped the days of Sainsburys Basics for the high life of an Absolut drinker when you graduated? Think again. Even though it tastes like paint-stripper on its own, cheap vodka is actually great to use as a base for drinks because it kind of goes with everything.

Personally, I’m a big fan of running to the corner shop and picking up as many 55p cartons of Rubicon as I can carry, then using them to mix with my Glens in a martini glass. Vodka and lychee? SO fucking sophisticated.

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Follow Anna on Twitter @AnnaVictoriaSam

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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