Tequila and Vodka are some special spirits. Just ask seemingly every celebrity that has ever existed because they all seem to have their own brand of Tequila or Vodka. Of course, this is an exaggeration but not by much.
It’s almost like actors are more motivated to have their own Vodka brand than to win an Oscar. Musicians are unconcerned about a Grammy, they want that prestigious Tequila brand. It’s become a right of passage. Just ask The Rock, Dan Akroyd, Michael Jordan, George Clooney, and Kate Hudson.
Let’s dig into just what makes these two clear alcohols so exceptional.
Tequila or Vodka
Vodka vs Tequila is a battle of the two heavyweights in the clear spirit division. There are other clear alcohols like Gin and Moonshine but neither have the popularity or intrigue of the Tequila vs Vodka matchup.
If this discussion were taking place a few years back everything would tilt in favor of Vodka. It’s the one that has worn the clear liquor crown for a while. Tequila is making a real run and it’s going to be a pleasure experiencing the ride.
Vodka is a clear distilled spirit made from a variety of ingredients and it’s been around a long time. Some reports have Vodka being made in the 8th century but it was certainly around by the 14th century in the Vodka belt.
The Vodka belt is the region where Vodka was introduced and where the majority of Vodka is still produced.
The belt includes Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, Russia, Finland, and others. Vodka’s power and popularity revolve around its versatility. Vodka has a flavor but it is not extreme which lends itself to being a key component in a fine cocktail or in a flavored Vodka.
Somehow Tequila is the new kid on the block even though Tequila has been around since the 1500s in Mexico. Unlike Vodka which can be made from an array of different ingredients, Tequila by definition needs to be made with one particular ingredient.
To be considered Tequila this spirit especial also needs to be from specific states in Mexico most notably in Jalisco. Tequila like Vodka is also very versatile.
In Mexico, it is traditionally served neat and it’s served up by the shot next to a lime wedge and salt all around the world. All that being said, Tequila’s superpower is that you need it to make the super popular Margarita.
How Are They Made?
Tequila has a proven six-step process to go from plant to Tequila. The first step is to harvest the magical plant known as the blue agave.
The leaves are cut off of the plant and the core (piña bulb) is baked in a steel or brick oven to draw out the sugars. Next, the baked core is shredded to extricate the sweet sugar called mosto.
The mosto is integrated with water and yeast to ferment. After fermentation, the mixture is distilled and aged. Tequila is aged for 14 days minimum and multiple years in some cases.
Vodka shares some production elements with Tequila but the process is all its own. The preferred ingredient(s) are combined with water and yeast.
The concoction is heated which will allow for fermentation. Fermentation is the process where yeast eats sugar to create alcohol.
Once fermented the liquid is distilled to purify the alcohol. After distillation, the Vodka is filtered. Depending on the Vodka brand it will be filtered one to three times all the way up to ten times. After filtered to the desired level the Vodka is diluted and put into bottles.
What Are They Made Of?
Vodka has the reputation of being made from potatoes which is not incorrect but Vodka can be made from so many other things like wheat, corn, rice, beets, and rye.
Vodka is also often flavored after distillation with fruits, spices, and crazy flavors like birthday cake.
Tequila is made from the blue agave plant. The agave plant is native to Mexico and it thrives in that ecosystem. The plant loves to grow in high altitudes in sandy soil.
The other factor that can add flavor and depth to Tequila is the type of receptacle it’s aged in – often oak barrels.
How Are They Similar?
Both liquors are usually clear in color, high proof, and work great as a refreshing mixer with soda water. They are also the base of many spectacular cocktails.
An advantage they share over many other spirits is that they are relatively quick to produce. Many Whiskies are aged for many years whereas Vodka isn’t really aged at all and though some Tequila has a long aging period silver Tequila has a short turnaround.
Price, Size, Color, Alcohol Percentage Comparison
Most Vodka brands these days offer a line of Non-flavoured Vodka and a line of Flavoured Vodka. With very few exceptions the Vodka is typically still clear in color even with flavor additions.
Popular flavors for Vodka are spices (like peppers), fruits, and sweet treats (like whipped cream).
There are four main types of Tequila that are based on aging. Blanco Tequila (also referred to as silver or white Tequila) is the least aged and also the most common Tequila. Blanco is clear and is aged for less than a few months in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks.
Reposado Tequila is aged for between two months and one year in any size oak barrel. Reposado is mostly clear with faint gold color. Añejo Tequila is aged for at least one year and less than three in small capacity oak barrels.
Finally, Extra Añejo Tequila is aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. Añejo has a more pronounced golden color and Extra Añejo is an even more rich yellow or dark amber.
Like many other liquors, Vodka and Tequila are available in a range of sizes from very small 50 ml bottles to comically large bottles. The average consumer will tend to purchase one of the three most common bottle sizes which are 375 ml, 750 ml, and 1.75 L.
If we’re talking price it’s an overwhelmingly positive discussion. Sure there are some outliers for each spirit that are very expensive (like Billionaire Vodka which actually costs millions of dollars) but on the whole, you can get some great products for affordable prices.
The prices will tend to go up based on things like the size of the batch, rarity, and length of aging. On the low end, there are 750 ml bottles of Smirnoff Vodka, Pinnacle Vodka, and Jose Cuervo Tequila for around $15.
In the $30 to $50 range, it’s easy to nab Casamigos Blanco Tequila, Crystal Head Vodka, 818 Reposado Tequila, or CÎROC Ultra-Premium Vodka.
Both Tequila and Vodka are strong spirits. Your average bottle will be 80 Proof (40% alcohol by volume) with some going up into the 100 to 110 Proof range. Flavoured-Vodka is often lower in strength (between 60 and 80 Proof) due to being diluted with flavors.
How to Drink?
Tequila is enjoyed straight up, as a shot, or mixed in a beautiful cocktail like a Paloma or Margarita.
Vodka is commonly imbibed straight, mixed with soda, or as the base of a wide range of cocktails like a White Russian, Skrewdriver, or a Vodka Martini.
- 1 ½ oz Silver Tequila
- 1 oz Orange Liqueur (Cointreau or Triple Sec)
- ¾ oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
- Agave Nectar or Simple Syrup (optional)
- Lime Wedge & Salt
Run a lime wedge along the rim of a margarita glass and dip the rim in salt. Add the liquid ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, shake well, and add sweetener if needed. Strain into the glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
Perfect Cosmopolitan Cocktail
- 2 oz Vodka
- ½ oz Triple Sec
- ¾ oz Cranberry Juice Cocktail
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Orange Peel (for Garnish)
Combine liquid ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake for 30 seconds, strain into a Martini glass, and garnish with the orange peel.
As touched upon the strength of Vodka and Tequila is their adaptability. When looking for an alternative you need an equally flexible and neutral spirit. The top options are White Rum, Gin, and Mezcal.
Be careful to select a Rum that’s not too sweet, a Gin that’s not too botanical, and a Mezcal that’s not too smoky.
Tequila vs Vodka FAQs
Which came first?
Both spirits are very old but Vodka is the winner in the longevity battle.
Which is more popular?
Vodka has been the most popular for going on 50 years (and still is) but Tequila has been creeping up on them.
Which is stronger?
Both are strong liquors that range from 80 Proof to 110 Proof for the standard and 60 – 80 Proof for flavored versions.