Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Vodka Cocktails

20 Vodka Cocktails to Try Right Now

Even vodka skeptics will find something to love on this list.

Cajun Martini cocktail with pickle garnish / Tim Nusog

The first half of this list is “bartender’s choice” cocktails, contemporary creations that come straight from the cocktail shakers of today’s top bartenders. The second half is classics, both pre-Prohibition standards and more modern ones that have achieved worldwide acclaim. You’re sure to find something for every palate among these 20 drinks.

Vodka sometimes gets a bad rap among cocktail connaisseurs for its neutral flavor, considered a “why bother?” spirit compared with gin and its herbaceous botanicals or mezcal’s vegetal smokiness. But we like to view it as a blank canvas, helping to enhance the flavors of the ingredients it’s used alongside. This quality lets it work in a variety of cocktails, from the sweet-tart Lemon Drop to the savory Bloody Mary. Try one of these 20 vodka cocktails and see for yourself. The spirit’s versatility may surprise and impress you. 

  • Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini

    Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini / Tim Nusog

    Bartending legend Dale DeGroff started making Smoky Martinis in the ’90s, replacing the classic’s dry vermouth with blended scotch. For this extra-smoky version, his protégé Audrey Saunders swaps in vodka for the gin to showcase the peatiness of a single-malt scotch whisky. A dash of the anise-flavored liqueur Pernod lends additional complexity. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Jubilee

    Jubilee cocktail / Tim Nusog

    True to its name, this red wine cocktail from New York City bartender Jeremy Oertel is cause for celebration: He combines vodka, dry red wine, spiced pear liqueur, lemon juice, maple syrup, and seltzer to produce a festive and refreshing drink.

    Get the recipe.

  • Anarchist’s Pop Shoppe

    Anarchist's Pop Shoppe cocktail

    Aleksandr Russell

    Though relatively new to the drinking scene, hard seltzers have skyrocketed in popularity, replacing the Vodka Soda as an easy go-to everywhere from the beach to the bar. Aleksandr Russell, a bartender at BlueBlood Steakhouse in Toronto, took inspiration from White Claw in this refined take that mimics the flavors and effervescence of the hard seltzer brand’s most popular flavor. But with vodka, Cherry Heering, Benedictine, lemon juice and soda water, it’s more sophisticated and certainly more delicious than the canned stuff.

    Get the recipe.

  • Miss Elena

    Miss Elena cocktail / Todd Coleman

    Your standard Espresso Martini deserves an upgrade, and this riff from Beau Bradley, the head bartender at Cote and Undercote in New York City, fits the bill perfectly. Instead of the standard Kahlúa and freshly brewed espresso, Bradley uses intense Mr Black cold-brew liqueur to infuse coffee flavor into vodka, a light and citrusy amaro, and a dessert-style sherry to create a cocktail that’s complex and elegant.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • Banker’s Lunch

    Banker's Lunch cocktail / Tim Nusog

    No need to be a banker or even a lunchtime drinker to enjoy this cocktail. It packs a fruity punch thanks to vodka, dry vermouth, orange liqueur, and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Created by bartending pro Eric Alperin, this drink showcases how grapefruit can help bring everything together. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Cabana Boy

    Cabana Boy cocktail
    Tara Orkofsky

    You don’t need a pool to have a Cabana Boy; just whip up a batch of these and sit in a patch of sunshine. Vodka’s versatility is highlighted in this recipe by Will Piquette, the principal bartender at Alcove in Boston. The drink is given a nutty depth with a bit of oloroso sherry, while rhum agricole and coconut-lemongrass syrup balance it with tropical grassiness. Round it out with freshly squeezed orange juice and you’ll have a drink worth your attention.

    Get the recipe.

  • West Side

    West Side cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This cocktail is the all-time best-seller at famed NYC bar Employees Only, according to its creator, Dushan Zaric. Essentially a vodka twist on a South Side, this drink employs Meyer-lemon-flavored vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and fresh mint leaves, topped with club soda, which all come together to produce a refreshing summer sipper.

    Get the recipe.

  • Ruby

    Ruby cocktail / Tim Nusog

    A number of citrusy flavors combine in this cocktail from Las Vegas bartender and drinks consultant Tony Abou-Ganim. He mixes vodka, Aperol, elderflower liqueur, and grapefruit and lemon juices, plus an egg white for texture and froth, recommending a potato-based vodka to soften the drink’s bitter and floral elements. 

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • Very Sexy Martini

    Very Sexy Martini cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Is it really a Martini? Not even close. But this drink from bar pro Kim Haasarud lives up to the first part of its name with flavors of citrus and berries plus festive rosé Champagne. To make it, muddle raspberries and mint leaves with simple syrup, then add in citrus-flavored vodka and lime juice and add the pink Champagne to top. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Cajun Martini

    Cajun Martini cocktail with pickle garnish / Tim Nusog

    This spicy mixture of jalapeño-infused vodka and dry vermouth was created at New Orleans’ now-shuttered K-Paul’s in the 1980s. Owners Paul and Kay Prudhomme intended to turn off rowdy patrons with the drink’s heat, but in fact it became so popular that they had to enforce a two-Martini limit. Blame its relatively modest level of spice: For this pre-batched recipe from cocktail historian David Wondrich, an entire bottle of vodka is infused with just one jalapeño pepper for eight hours, then combined with dry vermouth.

    Get the recipe.

  • Vodka Martini

    Vodka Martini / Tim Nusog

    Purists will say that a real Martini is made with gin and not vodka, but we’ll politely disagree. This simple classic is one of the most unadorned ways to enjoy the spirit, with only a splash of dry vermouth and a bit of orange bitters to enhance its flavor. Stirring, not shaking (sorry, 007), the ingredients with ice helps to preserve the liquid’s silky-smoothness. Serve it in a chilled glass and garnish with a simple lemon twist.

    Get the recipe.

  • Cosmopolitan

    Cosmopolitan cocktail / Tim Nusog

    “Sex and the City” fans—and, by now, pretty much everyone else—are familiar with this modern classic, which skyrocketed to stardom when its appearance on the HBO show coincided with a surge in flavored vodkas. The combination of citrusy vodka, Cointreau, and lime and cranberry juices creates a beautiful and delicious sweet-tart mix that’s once again the drink of the moment.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • White Russian

    White Russian / Tim Nusog

    It’s said this drink was invented sometime in the 1960s, when someone added a bit of cream to the Black Russian. However, it hit peak popularity in 1998, when “The Big Lebowski” featured the drink as a favorite of Jeff Bridges’ character, The Dude. Since then, the decadent mix of vodka, Kahlúa, and heavy cream has turned from midcentury concoction to sweet mainstay. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Porn Star Martini

    Porn Star Martini / Tim Nusog 

    Created at London’s Townhouse bar in the early 2000s, this mix of vanilla-flavored vodka, passion fruit liqueur and puree, lime juice and simple syrup, served with a chaser of sparkling wine, certainly is a luscious star.

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  • Harvey Wallbanger

    Harvey Wallbanger / Tim Nusog

    This disco drink was a staple on 1970s dance floors, even though it may have been created as early as the ’50s. Its blend of vodka, orange juice, and irresistibly herbaceous Galliano is enjoying a resurgence in current times on brunch and bar menus. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Espresso Martini

    Espresso Martini / Tim Nusog

    This modern classic was invented by bartender Dick Bradsell at a London club in the 1980s. Its combination of vodka, freshly brewed espresso, coffee liqueur, and simple syrup produces a two-pronged effect, getting its drinker caffeinated and tipsy simultaneously. 

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary / Tim Nusog

    Brunch’s favorite savory drink is thought to have been invented in the 1930s at King Cole Bar in the St. Regis hotel in New York City, where a bartender mixed together vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, celery salt, Tabasco and lemon juice, and changed the hangover game forever. To keep it modern, don’t forget to pile on the garnishes.

    Get the recipe.

  • Lemon Drop

    Lemon Drop / Tim Nusog

    First invented in the 1970s by San Francisco Vietnam vet turned bar owner Norman Jay Hobday, the cocktail has been a refreshing hit for half a century, spurred on through the 2000s thanks to Oprah serving one to Rachael Ray on her show. For best results, make sure you use freshly squeezed lemon juice alongside the vodka, triple sec, and simple syrup.

    Get the recipe.

  • Moscow Mule

    Moscow Mule / Tim Nusog

    This three-ingredient cocktail, best known for the copper mug in which it’s traditionally served, couldn’t be easier to make. The drink, originally conceived by a vodka brand as a marketing ploy, entered the scene in 1941 and became an instant hit. Its combination of vodka, lime juice, and spicy ginger beer renders it a favorite in any season.

    Get the recipe.

  • Sea Breeze

    Sea Breeze / Tim Nusog

    This cocktail, which rose to prominence in the 1980s, was in fact the result of a marketing push in the 1960s by a cranberry growers’ collective and has its roots in a drink included in Harry Craddock’s 1930s cocktail tome, “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” To make it, simply combine vodka with cranberry and grapefruit juices in a highball glass and enjoy the refreshing sensation that follows, whether you’re near the sea or not.

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