20 Essential and Popular Vodka Cocktails

Vodka is the most mixable and useful liquor in the bar. Vodka's clear, clean taste pairs well with any flavor, from sweet to savory and dry to spicy. It is used in thousands of cocktail recipes that vary greatly in flavor, ingredients, and style, so there really is a vodka cocktail for everyone.

Within that extensive list of vodka drinks, there are some standouts that are considered essential. These are the most popular of those recipes and the drinks that everyone should taste at least once.

  • 01 of 20

    Vodka Martini

    Vodka martini

    The Spruce

     

    Vodka-based martinis fill modern cocktail menus and there is certainly not a shortage of recipes to mix up. Yet, there is only one true vodka martini and it is unbelievably simple.

    All you need for this drink is vodka, dry vermouth, and bitters. It is, essentially, the classic gin martini with a vodka base. It is crisp, clean, and the best way to show off those top-shelf vodkas in your bar.

  • 02 of 20

    Cosmopolitan

    Cosmopolitan cocktail

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    Vodka is an ideal base for light fruit flavors and no cocktail plays this up as well as the cosmopolitan. It is that pretty-in-pink, fruity cocktail made with vodka, cranberry and lime juices, and a high-end orange liqueur.

    Affectionately called the "cosmo," you can make this cocktail to suit your own taste. Some people prefer it sweet and pour more cranberry, while others prefer just a splash for color. It's fantastic either way.

  • 03 of 20

    Apple Martini

    Apple Martini

    The Spruce

    One of the most popular fruit martinis, it's hard to resist the taste of a well-made apple martini. While you may be familiar with the bright green version, there are many variations on this fun cocktail.

    The recipes range from those that use green apple schnapps to ones with a drier profile, preferring an apple liqueur or brandy and dry vermouth. As the autumn winds blow, you can also opt for a rather seasonal apple cider martini.

  • 04 of 20

    Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary

    The Spruce

    Sunday mornings would not be complete without a great bloody Mary. This vodka and tomato juice highball is a favorite for brunch and it can be customized to fit your exact taste.

    People love this drink and many have their own secret recipe. It is also known for its hangover-fighting properties, so this savory drink is useful as well. If you prefer clamato juice over tomato, you have a bloody Caesar.

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  • 05 of 20

    Black Russian

    Easy and Popular Black Russian Vodka Cocktail Recipe
    S&C Design Studios

    When you find yourself looking for a refreshing and short vodka drink, the black Russian is a perfect candidate. It requires just two ingredients and mixes up in minutes, and you have to love that.

    Kahlua is often the coffee liqueur of choice, though you do have other options. Also, don't worry about splurging on the vodka, a decent and budget-friendly bottle will do just fine.

    Better yet, with an extra ingredient or two, you can mix up a whole host of equally popular variations. The white Russian adds cream, the mudslide prefers Irish cream, the Colorado bulldog gives it a cola fizz, and the Smith & Wesson brings creme de cacao into the mix.

  • 06 of 20

    Vodka Tonic

    Vodka Tonic

    The Spruce 

    If you are in the mood for a vodka drink that is the ultimate in refreshment, it's time to try a simple soda highball. The vodka tonic takes top honors as the best-of-the-best in this category.

    Unlike other sodas, tonic water is not sweet and it will not leave your taste buds craving more sugar. It also makes a perfect dinner companion because it cleanses your palate.

    If tonic is not your thing, opt for club soda and mix up a vodka Collins.

  • 07 of 20

    Moscow Mule

    Moscow mule
    Mike/flickr/CC By 2.0

    The Moscow mule is a simple drink that was originally designed to introduce Americans to vodka in the mid-20th century. It has had a recent brush with fame as a new generation is discovering the appeal of this snappy cocktail.

    Though many people choose to pour ginger ale, a true Moscow mule features the spicier ginger beer. If your bartender has been serving you a mule with the softer ale, it's time that you get a taste of the real thing. Bonus points if it's served in a copper mug.

  • 08 of 20

    Screwdriver

    Vodka screwdriver

    The Spruce

     

    Many vodka cocktails go heavy on the fruit. Highballs like the screwdriver can be thought of as spiked fruit juice because that is all they are: vodka and juice.

    The screwdriver is the most popular and it is great throughout the day, from brunch to happy hour. Of course, fresh-squeezed orange juice is preferred and creates a better screwdriver though it's not a requirement.

    For a quick twist, try the bocce ball, which adds amaretto and soda water to the mix. You can also trade in your orange juice for grapefruit and mix up a greyhound.

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  • 09 of 20

    Cape Codder

    cape codder

    Claire Cohen

    You might know it better as a vodka cranberry, but this very popular mixed drink is traditionally called the cape codder. It's satisfying and refreshing mix that is ideal for a quick happy hour.

    The recipe is quite simple and the mix of your favorite vodka and cranberry juice is sure to please. You can easily give it a twist  by pouring a flavored vodka or adding a splash of soda.

  • 10 of 20

    Madras

    Madras Cocktail

    The Spruce

    Building on the simple duos of the screwdriver and cape codder, the madras and similar drinks mix not one, but two fruit juices with vodka. These are known as trios and they're quite tasty.

    The madras is a very easy drink that combines orange and cranberry juices with your favorite vodka. If you want to enhance it with a third fruit, pour a flavored vodka instead. Citrus, raspberry, and cucumber are all good choices.

    Along the same lines, you can add and subtract juices to create a brand new drink. The sea breeze, for instance, combines cranberry and grapefruit while the Hawaiian sea breeze prefers pineapple.

  • 11 of 20

    Lemon Drop Martini

    Lemon Drop Martini

    Claire Cohen

    Vodka is the perfect spirit for creating sweet martinis and the lemon drop martini is one of the best. It is easy and has a semi-sweet, semi-tart flavor that is sure to wake up your taste buds.

    The keys to making a great lemon drop martini is to use fresh ingredients and find a perfect balance between sweet and sour. Everyone will have a slightly different idea of what that is, so you'll want to adjust the lemon juice and simple syrup to taste.

  • 12 of 20

    Chocolate Martini

    Easy and Delicious Chocolate Martini Recipe
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    When your sweet tooth really needs a fix, few drinks will satisfy like a chocolate martini. There are many ways to mix one up and even the basic recipe can be adapted to your perfect level of sweetness.

    While it's traditional to mix a large shot of vodka with one of crème de cacao, that will not create the richest martini. If you really want a yummy mix, be sure to choose a creamy chocolate liqueur like Godiva or Dorda.

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  • 13 of 20

    Sex on the Beach

    Sex on the Beach Recipe

    The Spruce

    One of the best cocktails for summer, the sex on the beach is always a hit. This drink is a ton of fun and has remained a favorite for nearly three decades.

    There's a lot of fruity flavors to love in this recipe. You'll combine the bright flavors of orange juice and peach schnapps with the darker fruits of cranberry juice and crème de cassis (black currant). With a vodka base, it's simply wonderful.

  • 14 of 20

    Hairy Navel

    Fuzzy Navel Cocktail
    S&C Design Studios

    If you're in the mood for a very peachy vodka cocktail, the hairy navel is a great choice. Don't let the name fool you, the "navel" actually refers to the peach and the vodka does make it a little "hairier" than its tamer cousin, the fuzzy navel.

    Essentially, to make this drink, you'll simple add a shot of peach schnapps to your screwdriver. Though it is a basic mix, you can improve the taste by starting with fresh-squeezed orange juice or pouring a fruity vodka.

  • 15 of 20

    Harvey Wallbanger

    Popular Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail Recipe
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    Another of the mixed drinks with a rather weird name, it's hard to pass up the Harvey Wallbanger. It is also a variation on the screwdriver, but this recipe makes use of a very unique liqueur.

    The recipe is one of the few that features Galliano L'Autentico, that towering bottle of golden vanilla-spiced liqueur that looks like an oddball in any bar. It's used as a float on top of the vodka-orange juice blend and it's quite fun to mix up.

  • 16 of 20

    Pearl Harbor

    The Popular Pearl Harbor Cocktail
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    The Pearl Harbor is a delicious fruity highball with a great mix of flavors. It's been popular for many years, not only because of its taste, but also because it's stunning to look at.

    This vodka drink mixes pineapple juice with a brilliant green melon liqueur such as Midori. You can mix the two or layer the ingredients to get an eye-catching green and yellow stripe in your glass.

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  • 17 of 20

    Kamikaze

    Kamikaze Cocktail
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    Simple, refreshing, and oh-so-fine, the kamikaze is a very fun vodka martini. It's a bit like vodka's answer to the margarita and daiquiri and it's incredibly easy to shake up.

    In this recipe, you'll combine a premium vodka with fresh-squeezed orange juice and a high-end triple sec. It's a fancy little drink, but if you're in mood for more a party, there's also a kamikaze shooter recipe you'll want to try.

  • 18 of 20

    Godmother

    The Godmother Cocktail
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    For a slow sipping vodka cocktail, you'll want to mix up the godmother. It's perfect when you want something sweeter than whiskey on the rocks and a satisfying nightcap.

    You'll love the combination of vodka and amaretto in this recipe. If you want something just a little more luscious, add coffee liqueur and cream and you have a roasted toasted almond.

  • 19 of 20

    Espresso Martini

    Espresso martini

    The Spruce

     

    The ultimate after dinner drink, the espresso martini is an absolute delight. While there are a few recipes available, you'll enjoy the double hit of coffee flavor in this one.

    This martini is not one-dimensional. It mixes vodka with a coffee liqueur like Kahlua and a shot of cold espresso. A white crème de cacao adds just a touch of chocolate that is a very nice complement.

  • 20 of 20

    Campari Cocktail

    Classic Campari Cocktail Recipe
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    Vodka is so versatile that it even works in a bitter cocktail.  The Campari cocktail is a fantastic cocktail that you can enjoy before any meal.

    Campari is a well-known bitter aperitif that takes some getting used to. This cocktail is very transparent and allows that bitterness to take center stage. While there is no guarantee that everyone will love this drink, it's essential because it is an experience that may just grow on you.