Skip to main content

The classic vodka cocktails you need to know how to make

Here are some simple recipes that require vodka as the star ingredient

Vodka gimlet
5PH / Shutterstock

Vodka may never wear the royal crown when it comes to celebrated spirits. But that’s just fine, as the relatively neutral spirit tends to do better as a mixer than a standalone drink. Granted, there are some remarkable top-shelf vodkas out there, but by and large, this spirit wants to jump in the glass with some other ingredients and play around.

Want some more reasons to appreciate vodka? Let’s start with price point, as it tends to be one of the most inexpensive spirits out there. Next, let’s chat about its versatility. That mild flavor can do well with just about anything (yup, even a good vodka pasta sauce). Lastly, it’s a fun drink with lots of history and folklore. This is the stuff of ice bars, caviar chasers, and, in some cases, putting potatoes to work.

See, vodka drinks are fun and deserving of your affection. So cheers to vodka, and read on for classic vodka cocktails you can make at home with ease.

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary cocktail with lime
Artem Shadrin / Adobe Stock

A good Bloody Mary can set your day off right. The complete breakfast of cocktails; it’s complex and engineered around vodka’s incredible ability to tie flavors neatly together.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 5 ounces tomato juice
  • 5 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 3 dashes hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 lime wedges
  • Lemon wedge
  • Celery salt
  • Black pepper
  • Celery stalk for garnish

Method

  1. In a shaker, squeeze lemon and one lime wedge over ice.
  2. Add the other ingredients and shake well.
  3. Pour over ice in a tall glass and garnish with a celery stalk and a lime wedge.
  4. For extra flavor, float a few extra dashes of hot sauce on top.

Vodka martini

Vodka martini
Getty Images

They don’t come more classic than the martini. While there are countless versions, the most iconic is vodka-centric, like the one below. We suggest a great sipping vodka, such as OYO from Middle West Spirits. You can’t go wrong with a good vodka martini — just ask James Bond, the super spy who has become synonymous with the vodka martini over the decades (just be sure 007’s martini is shaken, not stirred).

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Lemon peel

Method

  1. Stir together with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
  2. Garnish with a lemon twist.
  3. To make it dirty, add a splash of olive brine and garnish with a green olive.

Screwdriver

Screwdriver cocktail
Larry / Flickr

Orange and vodka go together like Daniel Day-Lewis and Oscar nominations. This age-old recipe blends the two flavors perfectly for a classic summer-ready cocktail and even goes a step further by adding salt to the cocktail to help enhance the flavors. If you like the interplay of sweet and salty, add more of the latter (and play around with some tasty specialty salts for best results).

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 5 ounces orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ounce club soda

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients in a cocktail glass and give it a slight stir.
  2. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Moscow Mule

moscow mule cocktail lime mint copper mug
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Is there a more refreshing cocktail than the Moscow Mule? Probably not. It’s a summer-beater cocktail, thanks to its perfect balance of spice and sweetness and its way of cleaning the palate. It even comes in a cold-to-the-touch copper mug that will help keep you cool on the hottest days (if you don’t have one, get one).

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces ginger beer
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1 lime wheel

Method

  1. Add crushed ice to a copper mug, followed by vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice.
  2. Stir and garnish with a lime wheel.

Vodka gimlet

Gimlet cocktails in coupe glasses
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Sometimes, simple is best. Sure, you could have a gin gimlet, but we’re talking about vodka here. The addition of lime subtly alters the hue of this lovely cocktail, making it look and taste like a key lime pie crust. Be warned, these go down easy, so remember to pace yourself. If you want to impress people at your next cocktail party, tell them the gimlet originated in the 19th century as a way to preserve lime juice for British sailors who needed the citrus to prevent scurvy.

Ingredients

  • Ice

Method

  1. Shake and strain into a martini, coupe, or old-fashioned glass.

White Russian

White Russian cocktail
Dan Baker / The Manual

Get your Lebowski on with the White Russian, a classic coffee cocktail that’s at once both an upper and downer. We like them after a meal as a boozy dessert, but the nature of this drink makes it agreeable any time of day. While the White Russian has been around since the middle of the 20th century, it saw an uptick in popularity after the release of the movie The Big Lebowski, where it was the favorite cocktail of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski.

Ingredients

  • 5 parts vodka
  • 2 parts coffee liqueur
  • 3 parts cream

Method

  1. In an Old Fashioned glass, pour vodka and coffee liqueur over a large cube or ball of ice.
  2. Float cream on top and stir slowly.

Cosmopolitan

Pouring Cosmopolitans into martini glasses
Glowimages / Getty Images

There was a time a few decades ago when the Cosmo was written off as a drink for those who don’t really like cocktails. Now, we know that is not the case, especially if you use fresh ingredients and a quality spirit. If you like the fruity kick, experiment a bit with juices like pomegranate or passion fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Lime peel or lime wedge (for garnish)

Method

  1. Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  2. Garnish with a lime peel.

Black Russian

Black Russian cocktail
Wikimedia

We like to think of the Black Russian as the black coffee version of its sibling cocktail, above. Spared the cream, it offers a little more bitterness and can be made all the more interesting with a float of something like Fernet. The Black Russian came into existence at about the same time as the White Russian. It was invented in Brussels, Belgium, to honor the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. It gets its name from the vodka and the blackness of the coffee liqueur.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Combine vodka and coffee liqueur in an old-fashioned glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well.

Long Island iced tea

Two Long Island iced tea cocktails
Sunny Forest / Shutterstock

While the canned RTD cocktail arena is turning out more of this classic cocktail, we still prefer mixing it up ourselves. With so many spirits at play, it’s best to get the ratios right, and tinkering at home will allow that. Once again, it’s the vodka that plays the role of hero and binds all the flavors together expertly.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour the vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, and lemon juice into the shaker.
  3. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill.
  4. Pour the mixture, ice and all, into two glasses, and top off with the cola.
  5. Garnish with lemon or lime wedges.

Sex on the Beach

Sex on the Beach cocktail
Benjamin Nussbaum / Flickr

Another drink once made a villain for its sweet, tourist-friendly demeanor, a Sex on the Beach can be something special. Keep fresh with just-squeezed juice, and, if the addition of the schnapps is too cloying, balance it out with a pinch of salt or some club soda.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce peach schnapps
  • 2 oranges, juiced, plus 2 slices to garnish
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • Ice

Method

  1. Fill two tall glasses with ice cubes.
  2. Pour the vodka, peach schnapps, and fruit juices into a large jug and stir.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two glasses and stir gently to combine.

Cape Codder

Cape Codder cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sure, you can call this classic vodka cocktail a vodka and cranberry, but where’s the fun in that? This incredibly simple drink is named after Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is known for its cranberry bogs. The Ocean Spray company (which is based on Cape Cod) came up with the drink in the 1940s, but it was called the “Red Devil” at the time. In the 1960s, the drink was renamed the Cape Codder, and this classic tart and refreshing cocktail has been stirring up visions of ocean-side fun ever since. This recipe is from Ocean Spray.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces chilled cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Method

  1. Pour the vodka, cranberry juice, and lemon juice into a tall glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir and serve with a lime wedge.
Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
There’s a reason you can find good, affordable white wine more easily than red
A splurge that doesn't have to break the bank
White wine in glass swirling

For many occasions, be it an anniversary, birthday, work promotion, or just any old Thursday, we love to splurge on a truly great bottle of wine. To be sure, there are many options to choose from when it comes to prestigious bottles, and selecting just the right one is often part of the fun. But when looking for that splurge-worthy bottle, have you ever noticed that white wines are more often far less expensive than red wines? No, it isn't just in your imagination. The truth is, white wines - even the extraordinary, award-winning, impeccable bottles - are generally far less expensive than red wines of the same caliber. But why?

There is a simple reason white wines are generally cheaper than red. The production of white wine is a far less arduous and labor-intensive process than that of red wine. The white winemaking steps are shorter and less involved and, therefore, more cost-effective at the top, which trickles down onto the wine's price tag. Red winemaking has many labor-intensive steps that white winemaking doesn't (as often) entail, such as barrel aging and cellar storage. And, of course, the costlier the production process, the more expensive the product will be. Simply put, white wine is easier to make and, therefore, cheaper.
Don't judge the price tag

Read more
Coffee cocktails beyond the espresso martini
Alternative ways to get a cocktail buzz on
An espresso martini at Club Trocadero Bonaire in Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands.

It's sweet, it's rich, and it's full of caffeine -- everyone loves an espresso martini. Though this cocktail peaked in popularity a few years ago, it's still a favorite drink for many thanks to its delicious, easy-drinking qualities. But if you feel like branching out, then there are more coffee cocktails in the world for you to consider. Of course there's the Irish Coffee (made with hot coffee and whiskey, and topped with whipped cream), but there are also some more interesting options for you to try to recreate a cup of joe in your glass.
Mezcal Espresso Martini
Small variations can make a big difference, and one way to up your espresso martini game is to swap out the spirits for something different. Rather than vodka, I like to use rum in my espresso martinis, but another option suggested by mezcal brand Mezculum is to drop some mezcal in there instead, to create something more smokey and savory.

“Replacing vodka with Mezcalum helps balance the sweetness with a more savory note," says Erin Lichy, Co-Founder of Mezcalum. "Add some mole bitters for a little extra flair!”
Cognac coffee cocktail
A lesser known but delicious cocktail doesn't actually contain coffee, but is traditionally known as a Coffee Cocktail because it looks like a coffee once you've made it. If you like the heartiness of a latte and you love the foam on top of your coffee, then this cocktail could scratch that itch for you.

Read more
The best new non-alcoholic drinks for a happy hour without the hangover
NA drinks are better than ever
Wilderton Aperitivo and citrus.

Within the vast realm of drinks, the most evolved as of late is arguably the non-alcoholic category. While we've seen exciting new cocktail trends and useful new beer hop varieties, it's the NA world that's made the biggest strides in the last couple of years. That means we no longer have to shutter when seeing things like zero proof on labels, as the options now are better than ever.

Why the upswing? A perfect storm, really. Wellness trends continue while tech continues to evolve, making the creation of such drinks all the easier. The non-alcoholic drinks sector has proven itself to be a major player in the marketplace, and the producers have responded accordingly, giving these beverages the TLC they deserve.

Read more