Vodka soda has long been widely considered the drink of choice for the unimaginative calorie-watcher, thanks to its flavourless profile. While this might have been so about a decade ago – when the spirit’s goal was to be as neutral and “pure” as possible – it’s not the case these days. With spirits like whisky, gin and rum having enjoyed renaissances, vodka is due for a comeback soon.
Producers are already increasingly creating vodkas with more character, teasing out textures and flavour while experimenting with base ingredients beyond classic wheat or potato. Add to that a new wave of savvy drinkers focused on quality and details and you get a different type of vodka soda with nothing to hide behind. For this taste test, we’re going as neutral as possible to really suss out the minutiae: unflavoured vodkas and sodas, tasted separately, then together.
On the tasting panel: Chris Marshall, renowned barfly and founder of spirits distributor Distilled LLP, Giovanni Graziadei, principal bartender at Jigger & Pony, June Lee, wine editor and occasional cocktail competition judge, and Tom Hogan, general manager of regional Asia at Proof & Company.
We picked four sodas: two popular Thai brands – Chang and Singha – and the upmarket East Imperial and Double Dutch. These were judged by how impactful their bubbles were and how long they lasted. While East Imperial emerged a clear winner with its persistent, fine bubbles, Chang proved a value option with a powerful, biting fizz that dissipated a fair bit faster.
Five craft vodkas were tasted blind at room temperature before we selected two favourites to test with the soda brands. They were judged for mouthfeel, nose and flavour, and scored out of 10 for each category to a total of 30. Average scores were rounded off to the nearest half-point.
How to make a great vodka soda
- Keep everything as cold as possible – chill your glass, soda, and vodka. This not only keeps your drink cool longer, but helps retain bubbles.
- Use good ice. It’s stating the obvious but ice tastes like the water it’s made from – any off flavours in your ice will be immediately obvious in something like a vodka soda.
- The shape of your ice matters. Multiple ice cubes will create more nucleation points for the carbon dioxide in your drink – creating more fizziness in your first few sips, but causing the gas in your drink to escape faster. A single, large piece of ice, meanwhile, will keep your drink fresh longer.
Amass available from Dyspatchr
Black Cow and Old Young’s No. 1 available from Distilled
St. George All Purpose and Tried & True available from EC Proof
Photography Veronica Tay
Art Direction Fazlie Hashim