Vodka and vodka drinkers get a bad rap. The spirit often gets slammed for its lack of flavor and complexity, and cocktails made with vodka are often deemed too sweet. None of these claims are actually true. There are more flavorful, high-quality vodkas available than ever before. And when given the same love and attention as any other cocktail, drinks made with the clear spirit are just as delectable. From the fruity Bay Breeze to a stiff Vodka Martini, here are seven underrated vodka cocktails that deserve more attention (and credit) than they get. Mix one up and see what you’ve been missing all this time.
Underrated Vodka Cocktails That Deserve Some Love
Made with both cranberry and pineapple juices, the Bay Breeze is a tropical twist on the classic Breeze (a family of cocktails created by the Cranberry Growers Association that also includes the Sea Breeze). If made with fresh ingredients, this underrated gem becomes vibrantly tart and fruity. It’s the perfect libation for sun-drenched beach days or lazy afternoons lounging on a yacht.
Like its gin-based sibling, this tart cocktail is essentially a Daiquiri for non-rum drinkers. But unlike the Gin Gimlet, the vodka version isn’t herbaceous or piney. Instead, the vodka at the base lends a clean softness that allows the bright citrus notes to really shine. This lively sour is the perfect cocktail to awaken your palate before a meal or quench your thirst on a balmy summer day.
Although most people think of the Lemon Drop Martini as a super-saccharine mess, the drink is actually quite delicious if made correctly. Instead of using a cheap vodka and sour mix, opt for a clean, minimal spirit like Ketel One and fresh citrus juice. And if you really want to take the drink to another level, use an oleo-saccharum syrup in lieu of a traditional simple syrup. The lemon oils in the syrup give the drink layers of complexity and lemony-goodness, resulting in a drink that’s a far cry from the candy that inspired the cocktail.
While this classic is neither French nor a Martini, it’s a 100-percent crushable and totally underrated summer libation. Made with vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord—a French liqueur made from black raspberries, honey, vanilla bean and herbs—the French Martini is as tiki as vodka gets.
A total relic of the ’70s, this strange libation mixes vodka with Galliano—an anise-flavored vanilla liqueur—and orange juice. While the cocktail is quite lackluster when made with heavily processed orange juice (anything from concentrate will make this drink taste like anisette and Tang), freshly squeezed juice yields an incredibly complex, creamy, froth-a-licious Highball that tastes like a boozy Orange Julius.
Always in the shadow of the Gin and Tonic, the Vodka and Tonic is for bitter-loving quinine heads that want to taste tonic without the herbaceous flavors of gin in the way. It’s a cleaner, lighter version of the traditional G&T that benefits immensely from any fresh ingredients used for garnish. Try mixing the drink in a goblet with a fat stick of black licorice root—its flavors will melt into your drink the longer it sits in the liquid.
Although a Martini should technically always be made with gin, the Vodka Martini is an admirable, elegant cocktail that actually rivals its more herbal cousin in deliciousness. When made correctly (no shaking here) with high-quality vodka and vermouth, the Vodka Martini has an unparalleled dryness, silky weight and lip-smacking drinkability that could either awaken your appetite or help you digest a meal. It’s the perfect drink for both before and after dinner.