The 5 Best Vodka Cocktails
Tired of gin and tonic? Here are 5 simple but delicious vodka long drinks to mix at home, which you should definitely try out.Party & Drinking Games
Vodka is one of the best-known varieties of alcohol, one of the classic spirits for preparing tasty cocktails and as much part of the Russian cliché like lederhosen for Alpine folk. Whether it originally comes from Russia, Poland or elsewhere in Eastern Europe is still a matter of debate - yet it is evident that the clear spirit has a centuries-old tradition.
While vodka has been less in demand in recent years (especially in comparison to gin, which has been experiencing a boom), vodka is apparently on the verge of a big comeback. Quite rightly, as we think! Because vodka is a great and versatile drink that can be put to great use at the bar or at home - we are sure that after reading this article, you will agree with us. No matter if you’re planning for a chilled-out get-together or a hot party night, vodka will help you to turn up! .
In this article, we want to present you 5 great recipes for vodka cocktails, far beyond boring old vodka with Red Bull or vodka soda. For each cocktail, we’ll recommend to you a specific type of vodka, mainly international brands that you surely know or at least have heard of.
However, as for our first recommendation, we’ll give you an insider tip - an Austrian (!) vodka, you just got to try! What this is all about and why this vodka goes so well with the first cocktail, the Vodka Sour, you’ll find out below! Enjoy your read!
1. Vodka Sour
History of Vodka Sour
Sours are one of the oldest families of cocktails. Their origins can be traced (by written sources) back to the 19th century USA. Some even argue that “sours” are much older and origin with rum rations issued to English sailors, which were mixed with lemon juice to prevent scurvy.
The basic principle is the same for all sours: a spirit (e.g., vodka, gin, whiskey, etc.) is combined with citrus juice (usually lemon or lime juice) and a sweetener. Originally, sweetening was generally done by simply adding sugar. Today sours are usually sweetened with sugar syrup or even sweet liqueurs.
Ingredients for Vodka Sour
To begin with, it must be emphasized that the taste of a good vodka sour has not much in common with that of a vodka orange or vodka lemon (as the ratio of spirit to acidity and sweetness is quite different).
A classic mixing ratio is 5 parts vodka, 3 parts juice, and 2 parts sweetener. As usual, there’s no accounting for tastes, yet we recommend using lemon juice instead of lime juice in this case, as it goes better with vodka. If possible, prepare fresh juice yourself, it’ll add to the overall taste! When it comes to syrup, varieties such as hazelnut or macadamia nut syrup are particularly suitable as sweeteners.
Alternatively, you can also use a syrup that you may have in your house anyway - maple syrup! Its often somewhat smoky aroma can add the finishing touch to your cocktail! The result is a sour drink with a shot of sweetness and spice!
Preparation and Taste of Vodka Sour
So how is it prepared? Pour vodka, juice, and sweetener with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously - make sure to get it right cold! Strain through a sieve into a tumbler glass (preferably cooled beforehand).
Originally, sours were drunk “neat” (which means without ice in the glass). But if you like your drink to stay cool for a longer time or if you don’t mind a little dilution by melting ice, you can, of course, enjoy it “on the rocks” (i.e., on ice). To garnish your cocktail, you may add, e.g., lemon slices, cocktail cherries, or lemon peels.
Now, what kind of vodka should you use? To answer that question, it’s worth taking another look at history.
In the 19th century, vodka was virtually unknown in the USA; the most popular sour was apparently prepared with whiskey and thus had a much stronger taste. Now, one should note that the most famous American whiskey is Bourbon whiskey, which is mainly made from corn. This raw material gives it its very unique taste bouquet. Following this principle, we recommend choosing a vodka that has a strong character and taste of its own (and thus doesn’t taste overly neutral). Corn vodka or vodka with a strong natural (!) character without added flavors is rare.
Yet in Austria in the heart of Europe, there is a small but delicate vodka brand that combines precisely these characteristics.
Entbrannt Mais Wodka draws on old Eastern European vodka recipes and combines them with Austria’s tradition of producing spirits rich with taste from fruit (so-called “Edelbrand”, hence the name). Both “old school” Russian vodka from before the end of the 19th century and Austria’s Edelbrand aim to retain the aroma of the raw material in the distillate and not to filter them. In combination with the unusual raw material corn, Entbrannt Wodka is an extraordinary vodka that you should certainly try - and which for us goes perfectly like no other into an excellent vodka sour!
- 5 parts vodka
- 3 parts lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- 2 parts sugar syrup
- Tumbler glass
- Slice of lemon or lemon peel (and/or cocktail cherry)
- Pour vodka, lemon juice, syrup and ice in the shaker
- Strain through a sieve into the tumbler glass
History of the Cosmopolitan
A first forerunner of the “Cosmo” (even with the same name already) existed in the 1930s; at that time, it was still made with gin, though. In the second half of the 20th century, the Cosmopolitan emerged in its present form, with vodka as its base. As is the case with many cocktails, it is disputed who the actual inventor of the exact recipe is. What is certain is that the “official” recipe (which is recognized by the International Bartenders Association “IBA”) has been in existence since the late 1980s.
It became internationally known at the end of the 1990s, particularly through its feature in the TV series “Sex and the City”, which was particularly popular with women - but that shouldn’t stop any man from enjoying this refreshing drink!
Ingredients for Cosmopolitan
When preparing a Cosmo, the first question you must ask yourself is whether to use a flavored vodka (i.e., a vodka with lemon flavor) as the IBA prescribes or a “normal”, unflavored vodka. Follow your heart on this, here we stick to the official IBA recipe. We need 4 parts lemon vodka, 1.5 parts Cointreau (a lemon liqueur, also called “Triple Sec”), 1.5 parts fresh lime juice, and 3 parts cranberry juice. If cranberry juice is not available, lingonberry or pomegranate juice will do, just as Cointreau can be replaced with another Triple Sec if necessary.
Preparation and Taste
To make a cosmopolitan, you start by first shaking all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. The mixture is then strained through a sieve into a martini glass. For many, this shape of the glass is the epitome of a cocktail in general. For a real Cosmo, the use of this glass form is indispensable, since cocktails are not only about taste itself but also about how it is presented.
Cosmopolitan is also always drunk “neat”, i.e., the cocktail goes in a glass without ice. It is typically garnished with a slice of lime; fresh flavors characterize the drink.
If we stay true to tradition, only one vodka is suitable for the Cosmo - since the “modern” Cosmopolitan was first created with Absolut Citron! Vodka with added flavor has a long tradition in Scandinavia, yet before the term vodka became popular, strong spirits used to be just called “burnt wine” ( “brännvin” in Swedish). Absolut has been producing high-proof spirits from wheat in the south of Sweden for over 140 years. The distillate was originally called “Absolut Renat Brännvin (Absolut Pure Brandy) to emphasize the differences in quality compared to brandies with a high content of harmful alcohol, from which the present name is derived.
Absolut is one of the biggest players in the vodka business, and its many variants are available worldwide. Anyone who feels that the Cosmo made according to the IBA recipe is a bit too “citrusy” after all can, of course, opt for a more neutral vodka instead of the flavored ones. Here the premium line from Absolut, named the “Elyx”, is a good choice. According to Absolut, all the ingredients are sourced from farmlands close to the distillery and processed in an original copper kettle dating from 1929. A classy way to enjoy your Cosmo!
- 4 parts lemon vodka
- 1.5 parts Cointreau (or other Triple Sec)
- 1.5 parts lime juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- 3 parts cranberry juice (or lingonberry or pomegranate juice)
- Martini glass
- Slice of lime
- Pour vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, cranberry juice and ice in the shaker
- Strain through a sieve into the martini glass
3. Moscow Mule
History of Moscow Mule
Moscow Mule belongs to the group of highball cocktails, which are characterized by adding a larger quantity of non-alcoholic mixed drinks, the so-called “filler”, to the spirit. Fillers are mostly carbonated, common are e.g., soda, ginger beer or ginger ale (see below for the difference between these two). Moscow Mule is one of the cocktails that brought vodka to fame in the USA after the Second World War. Today’s world-famous vodka brand Smirnoff - then almost completely unknown in the USA - was responsible for the invention of the cocktail.
In order to increase the popularity of vodka in general, the company joined forces with the producer of a ginger beer variety and sent representatives on a journey through the country to promote the new drink. These also brought along the famous copper cup for cocktail demonstrations - the rest is history!
Ingredients for Moscow Mule
As with the Cosmo, there is an IBA recipe for the Moscow Mule. However, we want to deviate slightly from it for easier mixing. Take 5 parts vodka, 1 part lime juice (not lemon juice!), and 12 parts ginger beer. Ginger Beer is usually much “spicier” than Ginger Ale (although both are ginger-flavored lemonades, not beer or ale as the name would suggest). Ginger Beer is to be preferred over ale if you can get it. Otherwise, the cocktail can be spiced up by adding fresh ginger.
Preparation and Taste
Highballs are usually served in tall glasses - not so the Moscow Mule, which should be served in the above-mentioned copper cup (but of course you can also use a tall glass if necessary). The copper cup is filled with ice. First, the vodka is poured in and topped off with ginger beer, then lime juice is added. After stirring, the drink is garnished with a slice of lime; if you like, you can also add a slice of cucumber. When the copper cup is covered with condensed water, the Moscow Mule is ready for you to enjoy, fresh and spicy! By the way, the Moscow Mule is the one cocktail on this list that does not require to be shaken but rather stirred (sorry, Mr. Bond!).
Which vodka should you turn to in order to mix a Moscow Mule? As mentioned above, there is a very famous vodka brand behind the cocktail - Smirnoff. Originally a Russian company, the distillery “Smirnoff” (old spelling), founded in Moscow at the end of the 19th century, was the first to use charcoal to filter the distillate. With the communist revolution, the distillery was confiscated by the state, and the Smirnov family was forced to emigrate. Ultimately, the company, now called Smirnoff, had to be sold to the USA.
The new owner invented the Moscow Mule and traveled personally throughout the United States to promote it. For this purpose, he took a photo of the bartender with the Smirnoff bottle and the Moscow Mule mug in every bar where he presented the drink. This constantly growing photo album was then used in other bars to prove that the whole country was already in on the Moscow Mule craze. Russian distillation traditions, paired with American brute force entrepreneurship! To honor this story, we recommend using the rather neutral Smirnoff vodka for the original Moscow Mule taste experience!
- 5 parts vodka
- 1 part lime juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- 12 parts of ginger beer (or ginger ale)
- Copper cup
- Slice of lime (optionally a slice of cucumber)
- Put ice in the copper cup and add vodka
- Top off with Ginger Beer
- Add lime juice
4. Espresso Martini
History of the Espresso Martini
Espresso Martini and the classical martini variants don’t share much except for the name and the class in which they are served. Especially, the Espresso Martini doesn’t contain Vermouth. Espresso Martini can perhaps best be described as a Red Bull vodka for adults, at least according to the anecdote about its origin: It took place in the late 1980s in a back then very exclusive London club.
A young lady who would later make a great career in modeling is said to have demanded a drink from the bartender. The cocktail only had to fulfill two conditions of the damsel: “wake me up, and then fuck me up!”. The criterion is to be fulfilled by the espresso, and the second criterion is the vodka’s duty - simple, isn’t it?
Ingredients for Espresso Martini
So far, so good. However, the question of the ratio between vodka, coffee, and possibly other ingredients is a matter of dispute. We can probably assume that if a model’s order was really the reason for the creation, then simply vodka and espresso without any other additives was certainly the sensible choice in terms of calories. However, you can also easily enrich and build up the cocktail by adding sugar, liqueurs, etc. in such a way that it becomes a full-fledged dessert - including the corresponding calorific value.
We don’t want to go that far here, so we’ll stick close to the IBA recipe - yet with a little twist. We’ll need 4 parts vodka, 4 parts espresso (cooled down), 3 parts coffee liqueur (the classic ingredient would be Kahlúa here) and - instead of sugar syrup, as the IBA recipe prescribes- 1 part Baileys. This makes for a creamier and more rounded taste of the coffee drink!
Preparation and Taste
Put all ingredients in a shaker together with ice - the espresso should already be cool. Otherwise, too much ice will melt and water down the drink. Alternatively, cold brew coffee can also be used. Shake vigorously!
The mixture is then strained into a - of course! - martini glass. A typical garnish is to place (three) coffee beans on top of the delicate foam that should form on the surface. The result is a drink with a dominant coffee aroma, a light sweetness, and an enormous party but also hang-over potential.
For the generally sweet Espresso Martini, vodka varieties with an aroma tending towards vanilla or similar tastes are suitable, such as the “Imperia” line from Russian Standard. Russian Standard is a comparatively young, internationally known, vodka brand; it was established in Russia at the end of the 1990s. By the way, the founder also owns banks and insurance companies under this name. “We’re 100% Russian” - this is the concept of Russian Standard; all raw materials come from Russia and are processed there to create the finished product.
This was even emphasized by Russian Standard in a public beef with Stolychnaya, as “Stoli” was bottled in Latvia, among other places. Fun fact: Russian Standard is partly produced in the distillery formerly belonging to the Smirnov family, which we heard about above. Within a few years, Russian Standard has succeeded in becoming a leading brand in the Russian vodka sector, especially with its premium products, which we can definitely recommend!
- 4 parts vodka
- 4 parts cold espresso (or cold brew)
- 3 parts Kahlúa (or other coffee liqueur)
- 1 part Baileys
- Martini glass
- Coffee beans
- Pour vodka, Espresso, Kahlúa, Baileys and ice in the shaker
- Strain through a sieve into the martini glass
5. Russian Spring Punch
History of the Russian Spring Punch
Another cocktail from England, and born of necessity. Here’s the story, according to the inventor: A couple of his friends wanted to throw a sizeable cocktail party, but couldn’t raise the necessary money for the whole affair. So they let themselves be inspired by the BYOB (bring your own booze) concept. Guests were asked to bring a bottle of sparkling wine for themselves to the party.
The quality, be it champagne or cheap sparkling wine, was up to each guest himself. At the party, each guest was given a glass (or as many glasses as they wanted) with the remaining cocktail ingredients already prepared. These were now only to be topped off with the sparkling wine. Again, the guests could decide for themselves how much they wanted to dilute each glass. Voila, the Russian Spring Punch was born, the costs were shared, and the financial health of all those involved secured.
Ingredients for the Russian Spring Punch
So, what was in the glasses that the guests could top with the “fizzy water” they had brought along? The Russian Spring Punch has now been codified as an official IBA recipe, which we will be followed here. To make mixing easier, the ratios are rounded: 3 parts vodka, 3 parts lemon juice, 2 parts Crème de assis (a currant liqueur), 1 part sugar syrup (of course, a fruit syrup such as raspberry syrup is best). Also, we need sparkling wine - you shouldn’t be cheap here and (if not champagne) use at least a decent, dry sparkling wine.
Preparation and Taste
All ingredients - except the sparkling wine - are mixed in a shaker with ice cubes and shaken well. The result is poured into a tall tumbler glass filled with ice - this is supposed to be the glass that the guests were given at the party. Simply fill it to the brim with the sparkling wine; the result is a fruity, fresh, sparkling cocktail, ideal for the warm season, or to instill a little holiday feeling. The IBA recommends blackberries or a slice of lemon as a garnish.
A “fruity” vodka goes best with the fruity and fresh style of the cocktail. There is one brand in particular that comes to mind: Cîroc, another vodka with a rather unusual base material. This French distillate is crafted from grapes; no wonder, since the founder comes from a family that has been dedicated to winegrowing for over 400 years.
At the beginning of the 2000s, sales in the USA were not going well, so Cîroc got prominent help. Sean Combs is known to the older among the readers as “P. Diddy” (the truly ancient may remember times when he went by the name of “Puff Daddy”). Mr. Daddy became a brand ambassador and really got the business going. Since then, Cîroc has grown considerably in America and has launched a number of flavored varieties. Totally unnecessary as we think, the fruity grape vodka in its classical variant is a fine spirit that can be enjoyed pure or in cocktails like the Russian Spring Punch.
- 3 parts vodka
- 3 parts lemon juice (best freshly squeezed
- 2 parts Crème de Cassis
- 1 part sugar syrup
- Sparkling wine
- High tumbler glass
- Blackberries, possibly lemon slice
- Fill glass with ice
- Pour vodka, lemon juice, Crème de Cassis, sugar syrup and ice in the shaker
- Strain through a sieve into the tumbler glass
- Top off with sparkling wine
To conclude our little Adventure
As you can see, vodka is super versatile and can be made into a number of incredible drinks! Whether you decide to DIY at home or put your trust in the services of the bartender of your choice the next time you visit your favorite bar - try one or the other recipe from our list! And do try a vodka you haven’t tried before!
In any case, drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive! Cheers!
✍️ May 26, 2020