Entertaining
20 Best Vodka Cocktails

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Vodka cocktails get a bad rap, largely thanks to the cocktail dark ages of the '80s and '90s when the neutral spirit was paired primarily with pre-fab mixers and sugary liqueurs. But those saccharine days filled with too many flavored options are behind us now. Celebrate vodka’s return to cocktail glory with these top vodka cocktail recipes that range from fruity to savory to spicy. Just be sure to use high quality modifiers and fresh juice whenever possible.

A simple mix of grapefruit juice and liquor with a citrus twist, the first prototype of what would become the Greyhound was a gin and grapefruit cocktail published in 1930 in the Savoy Cocktail Book. People were likely mixing up grapefruit juice and liquor long before that, but that was the first time it was written into cocktail history. It was Harper’s that swapped in vodka in 1945 and gave the drink its title, and the drink has stayed that way ever since. Foolproof in construction and ultra-refreshing, it’s a perfect, often overlooked brunch cocktail.

The Essentials

Vodka
Grapefruit Juice
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
As great as a Greyhound is, there’s one big improvement that takes the vodka-grapefruit drink’s deliciousness up to 11: salt. Made with vodka, fresh grapefruit juice and a salted rim, the Salty Dog is at once sweet, sour, bitter and briny. Almost like boozy Gatorade, this sour powerhouse will reinvigorate you after a long day.

The Essentials

grapefruit juice
Vodka
Salt
The Sea Breeze was originally marketed to drinkers in the 1950s. The Cranberry Growers Association was looking to sell more juice, and one of the opportunities they saw was to link cranberries to cocktails. While the campaign was a flop, the drink itself was, eventually, a success. Some 20 years after the initial push, the Sea Breeze become one of the most popular cocktails of the ‘70s thanks to the tasty mix of tart grapefruit juice, tangy cranberry and vodka.

The Essentials

Vodka
Grapefruit Juice
Cranberry Juice
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
There isn’t a more perfect expression of vodka than the Vodka Martini. Swapping vodka for gin in Martinis rose in popularity in the ‘50s and ‘60s, partly driven by Ian Fleming’s 1956 James Bond novel Diamonds are Forever and vodka-loving celebrities like Joan Crawford. Like its gin-based cousin, the quality of the vodka-based variation depends entirely on the quality of its components. That means choosing good vodka and a vermouth with a complementary flavor goes a long way.

The Essentials

Vodka
Dry vermouth
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Like the French Martini, the Espresso Martini may initially seem like a misguided deviation from the two-ingredient classic. But give this caffeinated variation a chance, and you’ll quickly find out why it’s worth your time. High-grade coffee liqueur and fresh espresso work wonders with white crème de cacao for a silky cocktail that will give you pep and party all in one bittersweet treat.

The Essentials

Vodka
Coffee Liqueur
Espresso
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Another classic dessert-tail, the Chocolate Martini is the best vodka drink for chocolate fanatics and those with a sweet tooth. A mixture of vodka, chocolate liqueur, and half and half, this after dinner drink is the perfect capstone to a decadent meal. For the best results, opt for a richer, creamier chocolate liqueur like Godiva. You won’t even need to order another, non-boozy dessert.

The Essentials

Chocolate Liqueur
vodka
Half and Half
Only The Dude could make heavy cream cool. While it was originally invented in the 1950s, this mixture of vodka, cream and Kahlúa became synonymous with the Coen brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski in 1998 thanks to Jeff Bridges’s beloved, be-robed character who was never far from a White Russian. The Dude abides, and so does vodka.

The Essentials

Vodka
Coffee Liqueur
Heavy Cream
If there’s one spirit that can give rum a run for best tropical fruit pairing, it’s vodka. This take on a Piña Colada swaps in vodka for rum, but leaves the Puerto Rican classic otherwise intact, letting the fruit shine through. The ease of vodka meets the ease of the blender in this bright, fruity drink.

The Essentials

vodka
coconut cream
pineapple juice
This 1980s drink is an essential vodka cocktail with a somewhat embarrassing name. According to legend, the name was coined by a Florida bartender named Ted who listed two reasons teenagers came to Florida for Spring Break: the beach and sex. The good news is, you don’t have to say it out loud if you’re making one for yourself at home. And it is certainly worth making. It’s fruity, vibrant and just boozy enough thanks to ever reliable vodka. Opt for fresh orange and cranberry juices, and use good quality peach schnapps to avoid slurping a syrupy mess.

The Essentials

Vodka
Peach Schnapps
Orange Juice
Before Sex and the City fame transformed the Cosmo into a ubiquitous, syrupy, sugar-rimmed disaster, it was actually a really great drink. In fact, it’s part of the reason the cocktail revolution near the end of the ‘90s happened at all. Invented at The Odeon in New York in 1987, the Cosmopolitan’s mix of vodka, Cointreau and fresh cranberry juice is balanced and refreshing. As it grew in popularity, cheaper and sweeter ingredients were subbed in. If you make it the right way, though, you’ll understand why the Cosmopolitan rocketed to popularity.

The Essentials

Citrus Vodka
Cointreau
Cranberry Juice
The unapologetically fun Midori Sour delivers booze in a party-ready, neon-green package. It’s sweet, sour and full of whimsy. There’s really nothing more you could ask for, except maybe another.

The Essentials

Midori
Vodka
Fresh Lemon Juice
This long, spicy glass of vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire and Tabasco is a brunchtime favorite. It’s endlessly customizable (and some people take that too far), but at it’s best, it’s a perfectly delightful cocktail. The Bloody Mary’s bold flavors jolt you awake and open your sinuses, helping you greet the light of day—or maybe just get you through that omelet.

The Essentials

Vodka
Tomato Juice
Worcestershire Sauce
The Bloody Mary’s seafaring neighbor from the North swaps out plain old tomato juice for Clamato juice, a mixture of tomato and clam broth. Invented in Canada, the Clamato brings an oddly satisfying sea funk to the whole equation. Canadians celebrate the unofficial national drink on National Caesar Day every May.

The Essentials

vodka
clamato juice
worcestershire sauce
Part of the alt-Martini wave of the 1980s, the French Martini is a fruity, black raspberry-flavored take on the classic dry cocktail. It’s a delightful drink with less alcohol than a true Martini, and the ‘tini variation of choice for day drinking. Plus, its red hue adds a splash of color to any party.

The Essentials

Vodka
Pineapple Juice
Chambord
The Moscow Mule is proof that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. The spicy, spritzy cocktail was born out of a glut of both vodka and ginger beer during World War II. With the addition of a little bit of lime juice and a nifty copper mug, a great libation was born. While the copper vessel isn’t absolutely necessary when it comes to mixing up the cocktail, it definitely makes the simple drink more fun.

The Essentials

Vodka
Lime Juice
Ginger Beer
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
If you find your vodka lacks a little flavor or your orange juice lacks a lot of anything to make it worth drinking, then join the ranks of lazy drinkers everywhere and combine them into the simple yet satisfying Screwdriver. One origin story claims oil rig workers first mixed the drink with literal screwdrivers. We wouldn’t suggest any such bare-bones methodology, but this easy combination will no doubt make your breakfast even better.

The Essentials

orange juice
vodka
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Similar to the Screwdriver, the Harvey Wallbanger mixes orange juice with vodka. But, unlike its citrusy cousin, the drink also includes Galliano, a vanilla liqueur spiced with anise. The ultimate ‘70s cocktail, this orangey banger of a drink is groovier than the black light poster in your dad’s old shaggin’ wagon. To make the cocktail more pleasing to the modern palate, use fresh orange juice rather than juice from concentrate. The cocktail is bright with tangy vanilla notes, just like an orange creamsicle.

The Essentials

vodka
orange juice
Galliano
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
There is no vodka cocktail more iconic or well known than this quintessential Highball. With just two ingredients, this refreshing libation is easy for anyone to make, no matter how inexperienced they are behind the bar. And, like the Bloody Mary, the drink can be garnished with an infinite amount of ingredients. Two of our favorite unexpected garnishes are fresh sage leaves—which add a savory butteriness to the clean vodka—and cucumbers, which add more and more flavor to the cocktail the longer they sit.

The Essentials

Vodka
soda
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Lychee, that crazy looking Asian fruit that tastes like Riesling, makes this Martini extraordinary. Often found at Asian fusion restaurants, this fruity Martini variation is the perfect accompaniment to spicy, thirst-inducing food. Bright, tropical and floral, the Lychee Martini is one of the best fruit-forward Martini variations.

The Essentials

Vodka
Lychee syrup
Vermouth
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
If a White Russian was even more of a dessert, it would be a Mudslide. With vodka, chocolate syrup, vanilla ice cream and Irish cream (in lieu of straight cream), the Mudslide is the quintessential boozy milkshake.

The Essentials

vodka
Kahlua
vanilla ice cream

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