The Vodka Soda is pretty much the un-cocktail. It’s a very simple mix of vodka and soda water (think club soda, sparkling water, etc.) However, this seemingly uninteresting or flavorless mixed drink can actually be a pretty great way to experiment with flavor!
Until recently, when I thought of a Vodka Soda, I thought of a drink invented to induce drunkenness with as few calories as possible. And that’s about it.
I dismissed it altogether for a very long time on my craft cocktail journey. But it was actually my aversion to it made me want to learn more, try some variations, and find out what the Vodka Soda is all about.
After trying a bunch of easy variations on the classic, I’m ready to stand behind the Vodka Soda as a really fun and delicious cocktail template. Read on for my four Vodka Soda upgrades plus recipe template and ideas!
Can a Vodka Soda be a craft cocktail?
Yes! And you can also keep things low(er) calorie without sacrificing flavor.
Vodka tends to get a bad rap among those who enjoy craft cocktails because of its tasteless, neutral character. But that neutrality is actually a really great asset when it comes to creating flavor infusions or layering flavors.
If you like simple mixed drinks with vodka, you might also enjoy a Salty Dog, a Gimlet, a Spa Day (with vodka, lemon and mint), or my Grapefruit & Pomegranate Vodka Sour. If you want to try the classic gin-based version of the Vodka Soda, try a refreshing Classic Gin Rickey!
The best vodkas for Vodka Soda
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to spirits, but there are definitely brands or bottles that are higher quality than others. Always go for quality when making simple cocktails where you’ll clearly taste the spirit.
Some of my top picks for vodkas when it comes to flavor are: Grey Goose, Belvedere, Absolut, Ketel One, Chopin, and Stolichnaya. While some of these bottles can be pricey, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a great vodka.
Grey Goose is a premium French vodka that was first introduced in 1997. It is made from high-quality French wheat and is distilled using a five-step process that includes using pure spring water from the Cognac region of France. The vodka is then filtered through activated carbon and polished with limestone, resulting in a smooth, clean taste.
Grey Goose is known for its smooth, clean taste and is often considered one of the best-tasting vodkas on the market. It has a neutral flavor with a slight sweetness and a hint of almond and citrus. The vodka has a silky texture and a long, clean finish.
Belvedere Vodka is a premium Polish vodka that was first introduced in 1993. It is made from 100% Dankowskie Gold Rye, a high-quality rye grain that is grown exclusively in Poland. The vodka is distilled using a four-step process that includes distillation in copper pot stills and charcoal filtration.
Belvedere Vodka has a smooth, creamy taste with a hint of vanilla and a slightly sweet finish. It has a medium body and a rich, velvety texture. The vodka has a clean finish with a subtle hint of black pepper.
Absolut Vodka is a Swedish vodka that was first introduced in 1979. It is made from winter wheat and pure water from a deep well in Åhus, Sweden. The vodka is distilled using a continuous distillation process and then blended with pure water to achieve its final ABV.
Absolut Vodka has a smooth, neutral taste with a slight sweetness and a hint of grain. It has a silky texture and a clean finish. The vodka is often described as having a slightly creamy mouthfeel and a subtle hint of vanilla.
Chopin Vodka is a premium vodka brand that was first introduced in 1992. It is made in Poland from locally sourced potatoes and is distilled using a single-distillation process, which is unusual for vodka production. The result is a vodka that has a distinct flavor profile and a smooth, creamy texture.
Chopin Vodka has a creamy, buttery taste with a hint of sweetness and a subtle earthiness. It has a smooth, velvety texture that is often described as luxurious. The vodka has a clean finish with a slight hint of black pepper.
Stolichnaya, also known as Stoli, is a Russian vodka that was first introduced in 1938. It is made from wheat and rye and is distilled using a traditional three-step process. The vodka is then filtered through quartz, sand, and activated charcoal to achieve its final ABV.
Stolichnaya vodka has a smooth, clean taste with a slight sweetness and a hint of citrus. It has a medium body and a creamy mouthfeel. The vodka has a clean finish with a subtle hint of black pepper and a slight burn.
Good vodka on a budget
There are many high quality brands, including ones that might be local to your area, that are perfect for making vodka sodas. Some brands I recommend for quality on a budget are Svedka, Skyy, and New Amsterdam.
How to upgrade your basic Vodka Soda
If you enjoy vodka, I’ll go through exactly how to make the perfect Vodka Soda. If you’re not so sure about vodka, here are four ways I like to upgrade this simple cocktail:
1. Infuse your vodka with fresh or dried botanicals
One of the best ways to upgrade your vodka soda is to simply infuse your vodka with a fruit, herb, or other botanical.
Some of my favorites are hibiscus, strawberry, chamomile, coconut – the list goes on! Fruits or herbs can take hours or days to infuse, but teas like hibiscus can take just minutes, meaning you don’t have to do a whole lot of planning ahead either.
I’ve included instructions below for creating a Strawberry Hibiscus vodka infusion, but if you leave out the strawberries, you can have infused hibiscus vodka in about 10-15 minutes!
Strawberry Hibiscus Vodka Soda
2. Muddle fresh fruit or herbs
The next way to add flavor to your vodka soda is to simply muddle some fresh fruit or herbs.
This is the quickest way to ramp up the flavor of your drink, and bonus: a few slices of cucumber or a couple of berries isn’t going to ruin your diet either.
I like to think of this kind of vodka soda as a way to incorporate your daily serving of fruits or veggies into happy hour.
One of my favorite ways to use muddled fruit in a vodka soda is to muddle some cucumber with a squeeze of lime juice and then garnish with fresh mint.
It’s cool, refreshing, and the perfect light cocktail to have when you want a drink but don’t want to feel weighed down. Tip: be gentle if you muddle mint, it can release an off-putting flavor if muddled too vigorously.
Cucumber Mint Vodka Soda
3. Rinse the glass with a strong flavored spirit or liqueur
Take your vodka soda to the next level with a rinse of absinthe, Campari, elderflower liqueur, or allspice dram!
Any potently flavored spirit or liqueur will add another level of flavor or a subtle nuance to your vodka soda.
Simply pour a small amount of the liquid into your desired glassware (1/4 oz or so), swirl to coat the inside of the glass, and then discard the fluid. Fill with ice and build the drink as usual.
I love to combine an absinthe rinse with muddled pineapple and a squeeze of lime juice. Incredible flavor without a lot of cals or carbs!
Pineapple Lime Vodka Soda with an absinthe rinse
4. Garnish, garnish, garnish
Garnish away! Botanicals floating in your drink are going to impart a more subtle flavor and aroma than if you infuse or muddled them, but this is for those of us looking for quick and easy.
It also has the bonus of turning your drink into a handy snack. Add some fresh berries or a sprig of mint for subtle flavor and aroma.
The subtle scent of fresh herbs can completely change how a drink tastes, and mint is especially great for adding a cool, fresh vibe.
Get creative and add a variety of fruit and your drink will taste better and better with each sip.
I like to make a very simple vodka soda with a squeeze of lemon, and then add pieces of fresh coconut meat and raspberries. Easy, tropical, and very tasty!
Raspberry Coconut Vodka Soda
The basic recipe:
1.5 oz vodka
4-6 oz sparkling water
A squeeze of lime (or lemon)
Instructions: Fill a tall glass with ice, add the vodka and citrus juice. Stir to chill. Top with chilled sparkling water.
Vodka Soda pro tips
While the recipe is simple, there are a few things you can do to make it taste its very best. Let’s dive into my top tips for making the perfect vodka soda:
Chill your soda
Have you ever made a drink at home that seemed to go flat instantly? You probably used a room temperature bubbly mixer. Always store your sparkling water, sodas, and tonic in the fridge so that they’re chilled and ready for serving.
Your drinks will be much more effervescent and also taste less watered down. Bonus points for chilling your vodka as well, although it’s not a dealbreaker.
Use a ton of ice
Everyone seems to have an opinion about ice (clear ice, large cubes, etc.) but the truth is this: the more you use, the better your drink will be. Somewhere along the line, we’re taught to not use very much ice in the hopes that using less will mean our drinks will be less watered-down, but that logic is incorrect.
The more ice in the glass, the more quickly the liquids are cooled down. The result is a drink that is colder quicker and with less dilution.
Always use fresh citrus
Freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice is mandatory. If you don’t have any fresh limes or lemons, substitute with grapefruit. If all else fails, skip the citrus and just use high quality vodka and high quality carbonated water, like Fever-Tree Club Soda.
Always use quality ingredients
It can’t be said enough, but with a drink this simple, quality really counts. You’re going to be tasting your vodka, so make sure it’s one you enjoy.
Next level Vodka Soda upgrades:
Infuse your vodka! Here’s how to make a Strawberry Hibiscus Vodka Infusion: In a mason jar, combine 4 hulled and chopped strawberries + 1 hibiscus tea bag per 6 oz of vodka. Let sit at least 24 hours, or until flavorful. Strain and store in a sealed container. Pour 1.5 oz of your strawberry hibiscus vodka over ice, add a squeeze of lime and top with sparkling water. Garnish with a strawberry and lime wheel.
Muddle small pieces of fresh fruit, veggies, or herbs! Try a Cucumber Mint Vodka Soda: Try muddling three slices of cucumber with the juice of half a lime. Fill the glass with ice, add vodka, and stir to chill. Top with sparkling water and garnish with cucumber and a sprig of mint. Tip: give the mint a little slap before garnishing to release aromatic oils.
Rinse your glass with strongly flavored spirits or liqueurs! Try a Pineapple Lime Vodka Soda with Absinthe Rinse: Pour a small amount of absinthe (about 1/4 oz) into a tall glass. Swirl to coat the glass and then discard the liquid. Add three chunks of pineapple and muddle. Fill the glass with ice. Add vodka and a squeeze of lime and stir to chill. Top with sparkling water and garnish with pineapple or a lime wheel.
Garnish abundantly with fresh botanicals! Try adding some fresh coconut meat and raspberries with a squeeze of lemon to your next vodka soda. Other fun garnish flavor combination are: blood orange and rosemary, strawberries and lavender, blackberries and mint, or pineapple and sage.
More classic vodka drinks
If you enjoy vodka cocktails, check out my Guide to Easy Vodka Cocktails for some great ideas for simple, fun vodka drinks. You might also enjoy a classic White Russian, Winter White Cosmopolitan, Winter Sea Breeze, or a Rosemary Gimlet.
Easy Vodka Soda Recipe (Plus 4 Ways to Make it Even Better!)
- 1 ½ oz vodka
- ½ oz fresh lime (or lemon) juice
- 4-6 oz club soda or other sparkling water
- Fill a tall glass with ice, add vodka and citrus juice.
- Stir gently to chill.
- Top with chilled sparkling water.