What is Vodka Made From?

what is vodka made from

Any source that has sugar is the right ingredient to make Vodka. Yes, you heard that right? The only requirement is that the base ingredient must have enough fermentable sugars. When these two requirements align, Vodka can be made!

When talking about the base ingredient here, it’s crucial because that defines the exact character of Vodka and also the taste. So, if you want one answer to “What is Vodka made from,” there’s none. It’s because the list of what is and can be made starts from potato and can go on. So, let’s understand that in detail. 

3 Facts About Vodka!

  • Vodka’s name is derived from the Russian word for water Voda. 
  • Like any other spirit in the world, Vodka was also used as a medicine originally.
  • In the US, Vodka got recognition and popularity only after World War II.

Types of Vodka

In the entire process of understanding what Vodka is made from, it’s also crucial that you understand what are the different types of Vodka. It will help you further understand the taste and mouthfeel of Vodka that matters. 

Plain Vodka

As the name says, plain vodka has a very clean and smooth taste. It’s a mix of ethanol and water. You can enjoy it either neat or with plain water. The best part is that plain vodka can be used to make endless cocktail recipes that taste great. There are also so many other factors that add to the subtleness of the taste of plain vodka.

Flavored Vodka

The idea and concept of flavored Vodka came up in the 1980s and there’s been no looking back since then. It became very popular. In fact, as per the Distilled Spirits Council, 21% out of 100% bottles sold of Vodka are that of a flavor. There are endless options available for you to choose from in terms of flavor from creamy, light, fruity, chocolate, caramel, and more. 

Infused Vodka

Another name for this type of vodka is botanical, and it is flavored by distillers adding fruits, flowers, spices, and herbs. When the spirit is being distilled, these components are heated into it. 

Ingredients Used to Make Vodka

Let’s get into all the ingredients used to Make Vodka globally. It’s one spirit in the world that’s not ingredient-biased. 

  1. Potatoes 

To begin with, Potatoes are the most common ingredients taken into use to make Vodka. In fact, Russians and Poles commonly use Potatoes to make Vodka originally. One of the main reasons for this was that potatoes are an inexpensive ingredient that can be grown anywhere, easily. 

This ingredient’s high starch content poses the only risk while producing vodka, as it may make the distillers’ job more challenging. Potato vodka is the greatest, regardless of the method. So, Potato Vodkas are good to go. 

  1. Quinoa 

It’s the newest grain used to make vodka and provides the spirit a peppery, yet smooth, flavor. A US-based distiller introduced the first-ever quinoa vodka in 2019 because quinoa is the oldest grain and has been consumed by humans for over 5000 years. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about it, and other people are also attempting to manufacture vodka from quinoa.

  1. Grains

Grains like wheat, rye, and barley are some of the common base ingredients used to make Vodka all over the world. Such Vodka needs to be distilled using sugar. When the taste profile of Grains Vodka is compared with that of Potato or Corn, grains Vodka provides a very mild taste and it’s very easy to produce too. 

  1. Corn

For Vodka lovers who prefer a very buttery, soft, and sweet flavor, Corn as the base ingredient is the best to go with. It gives a very mild palette to the spirit that’s versatile enough to be used in a cocktail. 

  1. Apple

Originally a grain vodka with apple tastes added, this drink is widely recognized throughout the globe. Still, this distiller in New York made vodka solely from the juice of their apples cultivated in an orchard, producing a smooth spirit with a sense of crisp orchard freshness. This versatility in flavors makes you choose the one that’s best for your taste.

  1. Honey & Maple Sap

These two ingredients are becoming very popular in making vodka because of the taste profile they provide to the drink. These ingredients add a good flavor to the vodka that can be added to your flavored vodka shelf. 

  1. Grapes

Vodkas made with grapes have a very smooth, floral, and fruity taste, which is more on the softer side of the spirit’s taste profile. When compared with grain Vodka, grape Vodka has a more grounded profile.  

A vodka’s flavor, texture, and general attractiveness are greatly influenced by its base ingredient. Each category has a different star, such as the gentle fruitiness of grape, the distinct crispness of sugarcane, the deep and earthy tones of potato, and the smooth and sweet taste of wheat and maize. There is a variety of flavors just waiting to be discovered, regardless of your choice for classic grain vodkas or the unique tastes of grape and sugarcane.

Also Read: How is Vodka Made? Inside The Process! 

Vodka’s Ingredients Influence the Taste Profile

Does Vodka’s ingredients influence its taste profile? Yes! 

The choice made amongst starch-based ingredients or sugar-based ingredients highly decides what the taste and mouthfeel of the spirit is going to be like. When talking about starch-based Vodka like wheat, corn & potato, the taste profile goes towards a nuanced and fuller flavor. The wheat can give a hint of sweetness to the spirit and the potato adds a creamy and dense texture. That’s how the taste profile changes when the base ingredient is not the same. 

Now, when the base products are like sugarcane or grapes, the taste profile goes on the lighter side. It’s clean and light. These are sugar-based products that give a subtle mouthfeel of Vodka with a hint of fruitiness sometimes. 

That’s where the real difference lies. The difference between starch or sugar-based base ingredients of Vodka. Now just by going through the ingredients on the bottle, one can make a judgment of the same and choose what’s preferred.  

D/B Starch-Based and Sugar-Based Ingredients

The components used to make vodka can have a great impact on its final product. Multiple ingredients like wheat, corn, potatoes, sugarcane, or grapes can be used to make vodka. When ingredients change, some things might go here and there. 

The procedure is somewhat more difficult for Vodka made from wheat, corn, or potatoes. These substances must first be converted from starch to sugar. The two processes involved are saccharification and liquefaction. Special enzymes called liquefaction convert starch into a sugar that dissolves in water. During saccharification, other enzymes disassemble this sugar into smaller sugar molecules.

On the other hand, sugarcane and grapes are simpler ingredients to work with because they already contain sugar. Sugar is already present in the starch, therefore there’s no need to convert it. Thus, these substances’ fermentation process is easy because no extra steps are required. 

Therefore, the primary distinction is in the first processing of the base components to provide the sugars required for fermentation. In comparison to sugarcane or grapes, it is more complex for products based on starch.

Effect of Vodka Ingredients Beyond its Taste

If you think the base ingredient’s only job is to impart a taste to the spirit, you are highly mistaken. It extends much beyond just the taste. See how. 


The ingredient chosen to make Vodka highly brings a difference to what the mouthfeel and texture of the spirit is going to be like. If the base ingredient is potato, the mouthfeel will be creamy, dense, subtle, and nutty. Now if the base ingredient is corn, the mouthfeel will be somewhat sweeter and buttery. That’s how the ingredient can be the game changer for the mouthfeel. 

Shelf Life

This one is to break a myth. Many believe that the ingredients used to make Vodka can impact its shelf life. The reality is, No. But, if the spirit has some added flavors, it can now have an impact on the shelf life beyond taste. 

Gluten Content

If the intent of making Vodka is to also make it gluten-free, base ingredients like wheat, barley, or rye aren’t used. In that case, ingredients like corn, grapes, or potatoes are used. 

Flavor & Infusion

The base component has an effect on the process of making infused or flavored vodka. For instance, flavored liquors are frequently made by infusing fruits, herbs, or spices into distilled spirits. How these flavors are extracted and presented in the finished product can vary depending on the base that is selected.

Production Process

Depending on the base material, there can be subtle variations in the process of producing vodka. Grain-based alcohols need extra procedures such as fermentation. These differences may have an impact on the spirit’s overall character, suppressing certain bacterial growths or adding particular flavors.


The components that go into making vodka have a big impact on how it tastes, feels in the mouth and functions overall. Every component gives the spirit a different taste and texture, regardless of whether it comes from sugar- or starch-based sources like sugarcane or grapes, or from starch-based sources like wheat, maize or potatoes. Ingredients are crucial to the creation of vodka since, in addition to taste, they affect things like shelf life, gluten content, and production methods.