Potato Vodka vs Grain Vodka – Difference and Comparison

Teddy Francisco
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by Teddy Francisco

Russian Vodka is one of the world’s most popular spirits, known for its versatility and mixability in cocktails.

While vodka has traditionally been thought of as nearly flavorless alcohol, there are subtle differences depending on the original source material: potatoes or grains.

Potato vodka and grain vodkas may look the same in the glass, but the distillation process and raw ingredients shape the aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and more.

For spirit aficionados choosing premium vodka or even amateur bartenders stocking their home bar, it is helpful to consider the contrasts between potato-based and grain-based vodka.

What Is the Difference Between Potato and Grain Vodka

This guide will explore the ingredients, flavor profiles, alcohol percentages, and distillation methods and how these attributes impact the suitability for crafting cocktails.

What Is Potato Vodka?

Potato Vodka

Potato vodka is a premium clear spirit distilled primarily from potatoes. It stands out for its smooth texture and often embodies a fuller body than vodkas made from grains.

The distillation process for potato vodka is meticulous, as it starts with mashing the potatoes to release sugars, which are then fermented.

These steps are crucial to achieve a high-quality spirit. Once distilled, potato vodka may present a distinctive taste profile characterized by a subtly earthy and sometimes sweet undertone.

Those who prefer a vodka that maintains a presence on the palate appreciate its slightly oily consistency.

Potato vodkas are also widely recognized as gluten-free alternatives, making them a suitable choice for individuals with specific dietary considerations. Among potato vodka brands, Woody Creek stands out for its attention to quality and flavor.

What Is Grain Vodka?

Grain Vodka

Grain vodka is a popular type of vodka that is made from fermented grains such as wheat, rye, corn, or barley. This versatile alcohol is celebrated for its clean and neutral taste profile, which makes it a favorite base for a myriad of cocktail recipes.

The grains are first converted into fermentable sugar before being subjected to the distillation process. While each type of grain can contribute its own subtle hints of flavor, the goal is often to produce a spirit that is as smooth and neutral as possible.

Popular grain vodkas, like Grey Goose and Russian Standard Vodka, are especially favored in settings where the spirit’s flavor is meant to complement rather than dominate the drink.

They are also typically gluten-free after distillation despite being grain-based, catering to health-conscious consumers.

Grain and Potato Vodka: The Comparison

Here’s how grain and potato vodkas differ:

Primary Ingredients and Sugar Content

The source ingredients impact the flavor and characteristics of the final vodka product tremendously.

Potato vodka is made by fermenting and distilling simple starches found in potatoes. Often, the potatoes used are a special variety high in starch content, like russet or Yukon gold.

The potatoes are crushed, cooked, and macerated to convert the starches into fermentable sugars before the fermentation process begins.

Meanwhile, grain vodka relies on cooking down cereal crops like sorghum, wheat, rye, or corn to focus the starch content. The grains are usually dried and further processed into substances like malt before fermenting.

So while both start from starches, potato and grain vodkas utilize different base ingredients to create the distilled spirit.


The raw materials affect the residual sugar levels. Potato starches convert into glucose and fructose during maceration.

This leaves more fermentable sugars in the distiller’s beer before distilling transpires. As a result, more residual sugars make it through distillation, giving potato vodka a perceptible sweetness.

On the other hand, grain vodkas are more thoroughly fermented, leaving less residual sugar. They tend to taste cleaner on the palate without sweet undertones.

Alcohol Content

Despite the flavor variations, potato and grain vodkas tend to have a similar alcohol content.

Most commercially-made unflavored vodkas will be 80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). However, the styles provide varying intensities of flavor for the same ethanol level.

Distillation Process

The ingredients dictate optimal distillation approaches. Potato mash requires slower batch distilling in pot stills rather than continuous column stills.

The spirit is distilled out at lower proofs to retain heat-sensitive flavors. Multiple distillations may render the vodka too smooth and lacking in character.

However, grain vodka can utilize a faster, continuous process with water and ethanol repeatedly distilled off at over 95% ABV and then cut back to consumable levels. The highly rectified spirit has fewer impurities, lending to a cleaner taste.

In the end, while the ethanol may be chemically identical, the choice between a potato or grain vodka depends on one’s personal flavor preference — richly sweet or cleanly neutral.

Suitability for Cocktails

The flavor profile of the vodka style impacts which cocktails it suits best. The sweeter, more assertive flavor of potato vodka pairs well with complex, flavorful cocktails containing ingredients like fruit juices or chocolate. The potato nuances shine against the backdrop of richness.

Meanwhile, grain vodka’s clean profile lets other ingredients take center stage. Its neutrality provides a canvas for delicate flavors in cocktails like the Cosmopolitan, Moscow Mule, or Vodka Martini. The smoothness also facilitates vodka’s purpose in mixed shots or shooters.

So, while potent, potato vodka energizes fruit and dessert cocktails, grain vodka smoothly catalyzes citrus or spice flavor combinations. Ultimately, preferences dictate usage — either can enliven a crafted vodka cocktail.

Final Words

In the end, both potato and grain vodka utilize agricultural starches as the raw material for fermentation and distillation into a high-proof spirit. However, potato vodka retains more sugars and flavor compounds from its eponymous source.

This lends a sweet, earthy profile to the rich liquors with a smooth, oily texture.

Grain vodkas achieve their quintessential neutrality by distilling only the hearts of the distillate, removing impurities for a clean canvas spirit.

While the alcohol percentage clocks in equally, the differing aromas, tastes, and feels cater to personal preferences.

In mixed drinks, potato vodka pairs well with sweet, fruited cocktails, and whole-grain vodka adds a subtle backbone to citrusy libations.

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Teddy Francisco
Teddy Francisco
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