Does Premium Vodka's Taste Live Up to Its Price Tag?

Klemm instructed the testers to "sniff through them first to sort of calibrate your nose a little bit."

The taste test included five super-premium vodkas (Ketel One, Belvedere, Hangar One, Stoli Elit and Grey Goose) and one economy brand (Smirnoff).

Most of the testers thought they would be able to recognize their favorite brands, which didn't surprise Klemm. "Everyone's a snob about their brands," he said. "I mean, they've built their whole nightlife identity on which brands they are -- whether they're a 'Belvedere man' or a 'Grey Goose woman.'"

The first test involved tasting the vodkas "neat," which means straight and at room temperature.

Kay thought vodka No. 1 tasted "very spicy. It burns the tongue." Gurock said vodka No. 2 "was very light, it went down beautifully." Gliksman thought vodka No. 3 "has a really nice aroma." And Glenn McGinness said, "I'm guessing that five is the Grey Goose."

After a half hour of sniffing and sipping, five of the six testers agreed on one thing: They all hated vodka No. 1.

Freeland described it as "kind of thick and not smooth at all. Something I would never ever buy." Kay called it her "least favorite one, for sure."

The Surprising Results

Finally, the moment of truth. Klemm revealed that vodka No. 1 -- the group's least favorite -- was Grey Goose. Everyone was flabbergasted.

"No way!!!" said Freeland.

"I can't believe that!" exclaimed Kay. "I mean I'm really very loyal to it. And I just totally dismissed it."

"I'm shocked," said Gliksman. "I really am shocked, because it was bad."

"I guess that says something about the marketing then, doesn't it?" said DeGroff. "They're not relying heavily on their taste buds. They're relying more heavily on the perceived value, or the status."

There wasn't a hands-down favorite vodka for the testers, but two did stand out: Hangar One at $35 a bottle and Belvedere at $32 a bottle.

Mixing It Up

What would happen if we added a mixer to the vodka test? What percentage of people prefer vodka as a mixed drink, rather than straight?

According to DeGroff, everybody drinks it mixed. "How many people do you know that drinks straight vodka? Very, very few," he said.

So we did a second test mixing the same six vodkas into cosmopolitans: 3 parts vodka; 1 part triple sec, lime juice, and cranberry juice.

Klemm told the testers, "I want you all to see whether you can pick out nuances."

It turns out that the testers had a tough time distinguishing between cosmos made with the $62 Stoli Elit and cosmos made with the $13 Smirnoff.

McGinness said that he "found them very similar," and wasn't able to pick out his beloved Grey Goose.

"The distinctions are not as … definitive," said Freeland. "They're not as obvious."

So will these test subjects change their drink of choice?

Kay said, "I'm going to be experimenting a lot at the bar next time I go, because I came in having one favorite, I chose a different one for the neat, and I chose another one for the cosmopolitan. So … I guess that means I'm not going to be as loyal to the brand as I used to be."

So, if you're looking to save some money the next time you saunter up to the bar, save a few bucks and order the house vodka instead of your favorite super-premium.

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