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The Best Vodka Drinks to Order at a Bar

Aidan ToborAuthor

Vodka is a clear, neutral spirit that has been the base for countless classic and contemporary cocktails over the years. From the Bloody Mary at brunch to the Cosmopolitan sipped on a night out, vodka drinks run the gamut from savory to sweet and pack a potent punch. Let's explore the history of these popular cocktails and look at some must-try vodka cocktail recipes.

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The Origins of Vodka

While the exact origins are debated, it is believed that vodka was first distilled in Russia and Poland as early as the 14th century, made from fermented cereal grains or potatoes. The name "vodka" comes from the Russian phrase "zhiznennaya voda" meaning "water of life." 

As vodka production techniques spread across Eastern and Northern Europe, flavored vodkas became popular along with the cocktails that could be made with them. Traditional vodka-producing regions like Russia, Poland, Sweden, and the Baltic states have given rise to many classic vodka cocktails that are still enjoyed today.

The colder climates of these Eastern European geographies no doubt contributed to the popularity of vodka as it made an excellent base for warming winter cocktails. Vodka's neutral taste also pairs well with the tart fruit juices like cranberry juice and grapefruit juice that are abundant in that part of the world.

10 Top Vodka Cocktails

Here are 10 of the most popular and beloved vodka cocktails, their ingredients, and a brief description of each:

  • Vodka Martini

    • Vodka

    • Dry Vermouth

    • Olive or lemon twist garnish

This classic cocktail is made by combining vodka and dry vermouth, garnished with olives or a lemon twist, served in a martini glass.

  • Cosmopolitan or Cosmo

    • Vodka

    • Triple sec

    • Cranberry juice

    • Lime juice

    • Lime wedge

A pretty pink cocktail made with vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice. Shake and strain into a martini glass.

  • Screwdriver

    • Vodka

    • Orange juice

One of the most refreshing vodka cocktails, it simply mixes vodka with orange juice. Build over ice in a highball glass.

  • Moscow Mule

    • Vodka

    • Ginger beer

    • Lime juice

    • Lime wedge

A cold copper mug filled with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice over ice.

  • Bloody Mary

    • Vodka

    • Tomato juice

    • Lemon juice

    • Worcestershire

    • Hot sauce

    • Celery salt

    • Pepper

    • Garnishes such as olives or celery

The ultimate brunch cocktail with a spicy tomato juice base, vodka, and savory garnishes. Shake and pour over ice in a highball glass.

  • Vodka Cranberry

    • Vodka

    • Cranberry juice

Tart and sweet with just vodka and cranberry juice over ice. Build over ice in a highball glass.  

  • Espresso Martini

    • Vodka

    • Coffee liqueur

    • Espresso

    • Coffee beans for garnish

The delicious combination of vodka, coffee liqueur like Kahlua, and espresso. Shake and strain into a martini glass.

  • White Russian

    • Vodka

    • Coffee liqueur

    • Heavy cream

A creamy vodka cocktail made with coffee liqueur and heavy cream. Build over ice in an old-fashioned glass.

  • Lemon Drop Martini

    • Vodka

    • Lemon juice

    • Simple syrup

    • Lemon

    • Sugar

A sweet and sour mix of vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup with a sugared rim. Serve in a martini glass.

  • Greyhound

    • Vodka

    • Grapefruit juice

The tart grapefruit version of a Screwdriver with vodka and grapefruit juice. Build over ice in a highball glass.

The Enduring Appeal of Vodka Cocktails

So what makes vodka cocktails so universally popular? A few key factors contribute to their enduring appeal:

First, vodka's neutral, clean taste makes it incredibly versatile and able to pair well with endless combinations of other ingredients from fruit juices to liqueurs to bitters and more. The possibilities for creating unique and delicious vodka cocktails are virtually endless.

Second, vodka drinks can range from super simple like the Vodka Soda to more complex recipes. This makes vodka cocktails appealing to everyone from beginners to experienced home mixologists. You can even buy vodka seltzers in a can!

Third, vodka's high alcohol content gives cocktails a potent punch in a concentrated form. Yet its neutral taste makes it easier to drink than some other spirits for many people.

Finally, vodka is economical and widely available, with options at every price point from premium to well vodka. This accessibility contributes to its popularity for classic cocktails as well as modern creations.  

Whether it's a refreshing summer drink like a Sea Breeze with vodka and grapefruit juice, or something creamy like a White Russian, vodka provides the perfect versatile base spirit. From fruity and fizzy to savory and boozy, there's a vodka cocktail out there for every taste and occasion!

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