20 Essential and Popular Vodka Cocktails

The Drink Recipes Every Vodka Drinker Needs

Madras Cocktail

The Spruce

Vodka is the most mixable and useful liquor in the bar. The spirit's clear, clean taste pairs well with any flavor, from sweet to savory and dry to spicy. Featured in thousands of cocktail recipes that vary in character, ingredients, and style, there is a vodka cocktail for every drinker and occasion.

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

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  • 01 of 20

    Vodka Martini

    Vodka Martini

    The Spruce Eats

    Vodka-based martinis fill cocktail menus, and there is no 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, making it nothing more than the classic gin martini with a vodka base. It is crisp, clean, and the best way to show off the top-shelf vodkas in your bar.

  • 02 of 20

    Cosmopolitan

    Cosmopolitan Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats

    Vodka is an ideal base for light fruit flavors. 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 adapt it to suit your taste. Some prefer it sweet and pour more cranberry, while others like just a splash for color. It's fantastic either way.

  • 03 of 20

    Apple Martini

    Apple Martini

    The Spruce Eats

    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.

  • 04 of 20

    Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary

    The Spruce Eats

    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. It is also known for its hangover-fighting properties, so this savory drink is useful as well.

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  • 05 of 20

    Black Russian

    Black Russian Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats 

    When you find yourself looking for a refreshing and short vodka drink, the black Russian is a perfect candidate. It requires just two ingredients—vodka and coffee liqueur—and mixes up in minutes. Don't worry about splurging on the vodka; a decent and budget-friendly bottle will do just fine.

  • 06 of 20

    Vodka Tonic

    Vodka Tonic

    The Spruce Eats

    A simple soda highball offers the ultimate refreshment. The vodka tonic takes top honors in this category. Unlike other sodas, tonic water is not sweet, and it won't leave your taste buds craving more sugar. It also makes a perfect dinner companion because it cleanses the palate between bites.

  • 07 of 20

    Moscow Mule

    Moscow Mule

    The Spruce Eats

    The Moscow mule is a simple drink initially 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. While many people choose to pour ginger ale, an authentic Moscow mule features the spicier ginger beer.

  • 08 of 20

    Screwdriver

    Screwdriver Vodka Drink Recipe

     The Spruce Eats

    Many vodka cocktails are heavy on the fruit, and highballs like the screwdriver are nothing more than spiked fruit juice. From brunch to happy hour, it's great throughout the day. Of course, fresh-squeezed orange juice is preferred and creates a better screwdriver, though it's not a requirement.

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  • 09 of 20

    Cape Codder

    Cape Codder

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    You might know it better as a vodka cranberry, but this trendy mixed drink is traditionally called the cape codder. It's a satisfying and refreshing mix that is ideal for a quick happy hour. The recipe is quite simple, and the combination of vodka and cranberry juice is sure to please.

  • 10 of 20

    Madras

    Madras Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats

    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. In the madras, you'll pair orange and cranberry juices with vodka. If you want to enhance it with a third fruit, pour a flavored vodka instead; Citrus, raspberry, and cucumber are all excellent choices.

  • 11 of 20

    Lemon Drop Martini

    Lemon Drop Martini

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    Vodka is the perfect spirit for sweet martinis, and the lemon drop martini is one of the best. It is easy and has a sweet-tart flavor that is sure to wake up your taste buds. The keys to this drink are to use fresh ingredients and find a 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

    Chocolate Martini

    The Spruce Eats

    When your sweet tooth 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 ideal level of sweetness. Go the traditional route with crème de cacao or, for the richest martini, choose a creamy chocolate liqueur.

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  • 13 of 20

    Sex on the Beach

    Sex on the Beach Recipe

    The Spruce Eats

    One of the best cocktails for summer, the sex on the beach is always a hit. 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

    Hairy Navel Cocktail
    The Picture Pantry / Getty Images

    If you're in the mood for a peachy cocktail, the hairy navel is a great choice. Don't let the name throw you off, the "navel" refers to the peach and the vodka makes it a little "hairier" than its tamer cousin, the fuzzy navel. To make this drink, you'll simply add a shot of peach schnapps to your screwdriver. It's a simple but brilliant upgrade.

  • 15 of 20

    Harvey Wallbanger

    Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail Recipe

     The Spruce Eats

    Another mixed drink with a rather weird name, it's hard to pass up the Harvey Wallbanger. Also a variation on the screwdriver, this recipe makes use of Galliano L'Autentico. It's that towering bottle of golden vanilla-spiced liqueur that looks like an oddball in any bar. In this cocktail, it floats on top of the vodka-orange juice blend to create a tasty libation.

  • 16 of 20

    Pearl Harbor

    Pearl Harbor Cocktail Recipe

     The Spruce Eats

    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 looks stunning. 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

    The Spruce Eats

    Simple, refreshing, and oh-so-fine, the kamikaze is a fantastic 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 lime juice and a high-end triple sec. It's a fancy little drink, but if you're in the mood for more a party, there's also a kamikaze shooter.

  • 18 of 20

    Godmother

    The Godmother Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

    For a slow sipping vodka cocktail, mix up the godmother. You'll love the combination of vodka and amaretto. It's perfect when you want a satisfying nightcap that's sweeter than whiskey on the rocks but not overindulgent.

  • 19 of 20

    Espresso Martini

    Espresso Martini

    The Spruce Eats

    An ideal 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. It mixes vodka with a coffee liqueur like Kahlua and a shot of cold espresso. White crème de cacao adds just a touch of chocolate that gives it a little more dimension.

  • 20 of 20

    Campari Cocktail

    Classic Campari Cocktail Recipe

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

    Vodka is so versatile that it even works in a bitter cocktail. The Campari cocktail is a fantastic choice that you can enjoy before any meal. Campari is a well-known bitter aperitif, and this cocktail is very transparent, allowing that bitterness to take center stage. While there is no guarantee that everyone will love it, the experience may grow on you.