All Vodka Is the Same. So Why Is Some More Expensive Than Others?

It’s about what people are really paying for.


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


All vodka is the same. Really, it is. Don’t believe me?

Then listen to Alex Goldmark and Dan Pashman’s entertaining Planet Money podcast, where they prove it. The two journalists sent out three samples of vodka — an expensive Grey Goose, a homemade version and a bottom-shelf cheap kind — to an independent lab, and the lab came back saying that the taste of all three was pretty much equal. Actually, because one of the samples had slightly more of a compound that could cause allergies, a rep from the lab said that the cheapest vodka — and not the expensive Grey Goose — was actually better.

Related: How Food and Beverage Brands Can Stand Out to Retail Buyers

Why is this?

“Title 27, Section 5.22 of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm code says that vodka must be distilled and treated until it is ‘without distinctive character taste, aroma color,'” Pashman reported. “By law you have to make an industrial grade pure alcohol first, and then all you do is add water and you have vodka.”

All vodka is the same! It’s, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, a “neutral spirit” that is “so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”

So if it’s all the same, how come a bottle of Grey Goose costs about $35 while Sobieski Vodka is only $12? That’s almost three times the price! Vodka aficionados will tell you that the costlier brands are “distilled more” or use “higher quality ingredients” (uh, water?) or won’t cause vicious hangovers come the morning. Maybe they’re right about that. But there’s really just another reason: People pay based on perception.

Related: 5 Brand Marketing Tips Every Brand Can Learn From the NBA

It’s cool to drink Grey Goose, or Absolut or “Stoli,” aka Stolichnaya. You look hip to your friends — or that date you’re trying to impress — and you feel cool doing it. It’s the same reason why people pay more for a BMW or drop $70 for a steak at Morton’s when you can get a perfectly good steak at Outback for half the price. It’s about image. It’s about impression. It’s about feeling good.

My little tech firm charges $175 per hour for our services. That’s expensive. People can hire techs for less than half the price. But do they have the “knowledge” that we have? Do they have the “comfort” of knowing that we’re so “experienced?” Don’t they want to tell their employees and investors that they’re using “the best”? And doesn’t “the best” always cost more? I admit that other, less costly, techs may be able to do the same kind of job we do. But, after 25 years in the business, there’s a certain intangible allure about our firm that appeals to certain kinds of clients. Yeah, pizza is just pizza, but gourmet pizza is definitely worth it, right?

Related: These Women Entrepreneurs Have Created a Multimillion-Dollar Business by Reinventing Sorbet

Science shows that all vodka is essentially the same. The ingredients that go into a bottle of Grey Goose — just like the materials and labor hours you put into a job — really don’t matter in the end. What matters is how the customer feels when they order a Grey Goose on the rocks… or hires your company to do a job.

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Small Business Week Is Here, So Turn Your Idea Into Reality With This Starter Kit

Don’t wait, start today.


2 min read


With Small Business Week 2019 upon us, now is as good a time as any to begin making that idea you can’t stop thinking about a reality. As of last year, there were 30.2 million small businesses in the United States — and you could join their ranks.

Don’t let a fear of failure hold you back. If it doesn’t work out like you think, learning from those mistakes will only help pave the way to something great. It’s important to remember that there is no one right way to succeed, but you won’t get anywhere unless you start.

Read on for some insights to help you take those first steps.

How to Finance Taking Your Startup to the Big Time

4 Practical Tips for Building Up Your Savings to Launch Your Small Business

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Seeking Startup Capital

4 Ways to Finance Your Business

9 Steps to Launching a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

20 Leadership Quotes From the World’s Most Influential Leaders

22 Successful Entrepreneurs Share What Inspires Them to Keep Going

10 Inspirational and Motivational YouTube Channels You Should Watch

7 Proven Ways to Redirect Stress Into a Powerful Success Motivator

5 Ways to Keep Yourself Inspired to Achieve Your Goals

The Complete Guide to Building ‘Buzz’ and Getting Press for You and Your Business

How to Make Your Small Business Website Really, Really Effective

3 Tips for Getting Emails Noticed, Opened and Read (60-Second Video)

5 Ways to Build Your Brand That Aren’t Social Media Marketing

Are You Doing These 3 Things to Foster Brand Community?

Use These Steps to Hire the Best Team Every Time

The 10 Unique Soft Skills Employers Desire in New Hires

As Your Company Scales, These Are the 8 Keys to Hiring the Right Team Members

How to Make Your Startup Team More Diverse

Forget Cultural Fit and Look for Cultural Impact

7 Steps to a Perfectly Written Business Plan

Turn Your Business Plan Into Money!

Business Plans: A Step-by-Step Guide

Writing a Business Plan May Not Be Your Idea of Fun, But It Forces You to Build These 4 Crucial Habits

3 Crucial Questions to ‘Fail Proof’ Your New Business Idea

Starting a Franchise But Need Financing? Here’s What to Do.

23 Questions to Ask a Franchisor When You Meet Face to Face

24 Top-Ranked, Affordable Franchises You Can Buy for $25,000 or Less

20 Franchises You Can Launch for Less Than $75,000

The Top-Ranked Franchise 500 Companies Available in All 50 States

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