Real talk: were you someone who once complained about vodka? Where’s the flavor? Why isn’t it more like bourbon? It’s okay, we hear you, but the thing is, it’s those benefits of vodka that make it secretly (or not) shine. It’s great for cocktails because of the fact that it is a neutral spirit means you can put it in anything you damn well please and have yourself an alcoholic beverage. (If you add vodka to more vodka it’s called a 2020.)
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The problem that arises, then, is the sheer glut of options. When you can use anything, how do you narrow it down? Do you go savory? Sweet? Do you go off the wall and surprise your friends? Don’t worry — we got you. Below, you’ll find the best vodka mixers for nice, simple vodka cocktails. In each of the cases below, we recommend a two (or three)-to-one ratio of mixer to vodka, but you do you. If you feel like classing your Vodka Club up a little, add a twist of lime or lemon and you’ll be cruising to booze town in no time.
Whether it’s called carbonated water, sparkling water, seltzer, or soda water, the liquid is all the same and it’s a perfect mixer for vodka. The water helps cut the spirit’s strength without diluting flavor while the effervescence adds just a little extra to a cocktail. Grab a flavored seltzer and it kicks things up a notch, all without adding calories. La Croix, anyone? We’ve even found the best sparkling waters for you already.
One of the quintessential mixers, no bar is complete without it. Tonic water can be used with nearly any spirit, but is most notable for its starring roles in drinks like the Vodka Tonic (and, of course, a gin and tonic. Its bitterness comes from quinine, a medicine first used to help fend off malaria. The one thing to remember is that tonics can be high in sugar, so make sure to look at the label before you purchase.
In a pinch, cranberry juice and vodka are all that you need for a simple yet effective drink. Depending on the amount, the cranberry can be a light accompaniment or it can completely mask the cheap vodka. Just be aware that college flashbacks are likely to occur.
For a little more sweetness (or for when soda water and lime just won’t cut it), turn to lemon-lime soda. There are hordes of option on the market, all with their own unique tastes, so the flavorful addition can be customized to a drinker’s palate and preference.
Lemon Juice or Lime Juice
Using something as simple as a little bit of citrus juice will liven your vodka right up. If you can freshly squeeze your juices, all the better. To take it a step further, add a little sugar and some soda water and you’ll have yourself a vodka gimlet (with lime juice) or a lemon drop (sans the soda water).
Vodka isn’t often associated with tropical cocktails since most are left to rum or tequila, but a pour of tropical fruit with a splash of vodka is as cool as an ocean breeze. For pineapple juice, start with the two-to-one mixer-to-vodka ratio and adjust from there, especially if you actually like tasting the vodka when you drink it. Other tropical fruit flavors (guava, mango, or coconut, for example) also pair really well.
Lemonade and Iced Tea
You could go with one or the other, or you can shake things up (literally) and make a John Daly. Use an ounce or two of vodka and equal parts lemonade and iced tea for a perfect porch sipper. The refreshing nature of the tea, the sweet and citrusy lemonade, the punch of a nice helping of vodka — there is little better when it’s 100 degrees and you have to be outside.
Tomato Juice or Bloody Mary Mix
Yes, you’ll need a few more flavoring agents to really make it a truly tasty beverage, but at its base, a Bloody Mary is essentially just tomato juice and vodka. This savory delight works best when you’re hungover or when you are out at a bottomless brunch. If you want to make one at home with full flavor, we suggest having plenty of one of these Bloody Mary mixes on hand.
We’ve got a full rundown on which ginger beers you should be using, but if you’ve never had a Moscow mule, there is no better time than the present to try one. The sharp, spicy flavor of ginger beer does not get masked by the vodka, giving you a zesty drink that’ll perk you up. Just make sure you have a copper mug on hand.
Caffeine and alcohol? Why not, right? Sometimes, when you’re getting ready to go out for the night, you need a little pick-me-up while still working on your base buzz (heaven forbid you arrive at the bar completely sober). The combination of the light and fizzy Red Bull with vodka does just that — you are awake and energetic and yet still feel loose and ready to tackle whatever the night may have in store for you.
Yeah, we said it, though we weren’t the first. Mixing beef broth and vodka (with a few other ingredients) results in a Bull Shot, which was meant to act as a savory cocktail for those who don’t like Bloody Marys. Check out how to make one here (where we use St. George Green Chili Vodka, the Best Flavored Vodka from The Manual Spirit Awards.
Article originally published August 28, 2017. Last updated February 2020.
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