Vodka is one of the world’s most popular spirits because of its neutral flavor, crystal clear color, and versatility in cocktail recipes.
Vodka can be mixed with just about anything and make an ok drink, but let’s learn how to make the very best (and easiest) vodka drinks!
What is vodka?
Vodka is a clear distilled spirit typically made from fermented grains, fruit, or potatoes. Vodkas are defined as colorless liquors of neutral spirits distilled from a mash.
So it’s a fairly simple, broad spirits category. Once you start adding flavorings though, things get more complicated. For example, gin is sometimes classified as a type of flavored vodka (juniper flavored, that is). Read more about the differences between vodka and gin.
How much vodka is in a shot?
The amount of vodka per shot and the quantity of standard drinks you can make from one bottle of vodka are incredibly common questions. Let’s dive into the specs:
An American shot of liquor served at a bar is usually 1.5 ounces, although some are as much as 2 ounces. There’s no legal regulation determining what makes a shot, but the US standard is 1.5 oz. A typical shot glass holds 44 ml, to be exact.
Keep in mind that the average cocktail also contains between one and a half to two ounces of average proof (80 proof, 40% ABV) liquor. So if you’ve had four shots of vodka, you’ve likely had the equivalent of four mixed drinks.
The very best mixers for vodka
Some of the best mixers for vodka are:
- Ginger beer
- Tonic water
- Grapefruit juice
- Cranberry juice
- Flavored seltzer waters
Always choose high quality mixers from brands like Fever-Tree, Q Mixers, or Belvoir Farms for the best-tasting drinks.
You can also mix vodka with: ginger ale, cola, grapefruit soda, citrus flavored sodas, root beer, tomato or vegetable juice – the list is practically endless for a liquor with a neutral flavor profile!
Two ingredient vodka cocktails are ok, but I think every single one of these can be improved with one small addition: fresh citrus!
This is especially true if you’re mixing with a sweet soda or juice. A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice (about a half ounce or 1 tbsp) will cut through the sweetness and make the drink taste far more balanced and also more fresh.
Even a savory Bloody Mary needs a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to liven it up and tone down the bite of the alcohol.
How to make a quick 3-ingredient vodka cocktail
- Fill a tall glass with ice. Be sure it’s at least three quarters full so that your drink is well chilled and doesn’t taste watered down.
- Pour 1.5 – 2 ounces of vodka over the ice, then add about 1/2 ounce of fresh lemon or lime juice. Now fill the glass with your mixer of choice, give a gentle stir, and enjoy!
Now that you now how to upgrade your two ingredient vodka cocktails, let’s dive into some more advanced (but still easy) options.
15 best easy vodka cocktails
Moscow Mule: vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice
Fill a copper mule mug (or a highball glass) with ice. Pour 1.5 to 2 oz of vodka over the ice and fill the mug with quality ginger beer (like Fever-Tree, Q Mixers, or Reed’s).
Squeeze a lime wedge over the drink and garnish with a lime wedge or wheel. Add a sprig of fresh mint to make it even more refreshing!
Cosmopolitan: vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, lime juice
The Cosmopolitan is a slightly more advanced vodka cocktail. In addition to 2 oz vodka, 3/4 oz cranberry juice, and 3/4 oz lime juice, you’ll need 3/4 oz triple sec (an orange liqueur). I recommend Cointreau for the best tasting Cosmo.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill it three quarters with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist or a lime wheel.
White Russian: vodka, coffee liqueur, cream
This classic dessert cocktail is a real treat for vodka and coffee lovers alike. Combine 1.5 – 2 ounces of vodka with 1 ounce of coffee liqueur and 1/2 – 1 ounce of heavy cream. I offer a range of measurements here because some prefer a stronger, more vodka-forward drink, while others like it to taste more like coffee ice cream. Yum!
Personally, I enjoy a mix of 1 ounce of vodka, 1 ounce coffee liqueur, and 1/2 ounce of slightly whipped heavy cream. It’s perhaps more dessert than cocktail, but it’s the perfect after dinner sip during the holiday season. Read more about the White Russian.
Espresso Martini: vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur
The Espresso Martini is one of the great vodka cocktails to come out of the 1980s. Invented by famed bartender Dick Bradsell, some say he first shook one up for super model Kate Moss.
Combine 1.5 ounces of vodka with 1 ounce of freshly brewed espresso, 1 ounce coffee liqueur, and 1/4 – 1/2 ounce of simple syrup (optional, if you like it sweeter). Shake with plenty of ice, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a few floating coffee beans.
Bloody Mary: vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, seasonings
Although popular versions today are better known for their extravagance, the classic Bloody Mary is a simple two ingredient cocktail dating back to Paris in the 1920s. Vodka and tomato juice is an alright drink, but nearly everyone can agree that using a flavorful tomato-vegetable juice blend and adding some seasonings make the drink so much better.
Combine 2 ounces of vodka with 1/2 ounce of lemon juice and 4-6 ounces of tomato or vegetable juice. Season with salt, pepper, and other spices or sauces such as cayenne, worcestershire, hot sauce, horseradish, or even pickle juice. Garnish abundantly with a celery stalk, pickled vegetables, olives, and perhaps a fried chicken wing or two!
Vodka Gimlet: vodka, lime juice and simple syrup
A classic Gimlet is made with gin, but today, vodka gimlets are just as popular (if not more!) This easy citrusy cocktail is made by shaking 2 ounces of vodka with 3/4 ounce of fresh lime juice and 3/4 ounce simple syrup. Strain the cocktail into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.
Pro tip: Try a traditional style Gimlet by using lime cordial. Shake 2 parts vodka with 1 part Rose’s Lime Cordial.
Vodka Tonic: vodka, tonic water, squeeze of citrus
The Vodka Tonic is a classic choice. It’s a long, effervescent drink with a bittersweet personality and just a hint of booze.
Combine 2 ounces of vodka with 4-6 ounces of premium tonic water in a tall glass filled with ice. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to brighten things up.
Vodka Soda: vodka, sparkling water of any kind, squeeze of citrus
The Vodka Soda doesn’t get much love, but it’s a super refreshing drink when you want to stay hydrated while enjoying an alcoholic beverage. What it lacks in flavor, it makes up for with its versatility.
Make it more interesting by using flavored seltzer waters, premium club sodas, or infusing your vodka with fruit or teas. Find plenty of vodka soda inspiration in my 4 Ways to Upgrade Your Vodka Soda.
Greyhound and the Salty Dog: vodka and grapefruit juice (with or without salt)
The Greyhound is the ideal simple vodka cocktail for grapefruit juice lovers. That’s all it is – 2 ounces of vodka and a long pour of grapefruit juice (4-6 ounces or so). Combine the ingredients in a glass over plenty of ice and garnish with a grapefruit slice or a sprig of rosemary, if you’re feeling fancy.
Make the Greyhound a Salty Dog by adding a pinch of salt to the drink or by salting the rim before pouring it. A pinch of salt does wonders for citrus cocktails (think classic Margaritas). The salt punches up the sweet and sour notes, making the cocktail taste even more flavorful.
Sea Breeze: vodka, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice
Ah, the Sea Breeze, an easy summer classic! The Sea Breeze isn’t exactly a craft cocktail, but it sure does hit the spot on a hot day when you want something sweet, tart, and very refreshing.
In a highball glass filled with ice, combine 2 ounces of vodka with 3 ounces of cranberry juice cocktail and 2 ounces of grapefruit juice. Add a splash of sparkling water if you like. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. Try it with white cranberry juice in my Winter Sea Breeze recipe!
Pro tip: Enhance those sweet and sour flavors even more by adding a pinch of salt before stirring the drink.
Cape Codder: vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice
The Cape Codder is also known as the Vodka Cranberry. This ultra easy cocktail combines 2 ounces of vodka with about 4-6 ounces of high quality cranberry juice cocktail (meaning that it’s a sweetened juice blend, not pure cranberry juice, which is unsweetened). Garnish with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice.
A Vodka Martini is the go-to for the vodka drinker who enjoys a strong, straight-forward drink. The ratio of ingredients is the same as the classic gin Martini, and highly customizable.
Combine 2.5 ounces of vodka with 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth in a mixing glass. Fill the glass three quarters with ice and stir until thoroughly chilled, about 30 seconds.
Strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist or a few olives. Make it a Dirty Martini by adding a dash of olive brine. Make it a Gibson Martini by garnishing with a cocktail onion!
The Vesper is a unique cocktail created by James Bond author Ian Fleming. This extra potent elixir combines 1 ounce of vodka with 3 ounces of gin and a 1/2 ounce of the aperitif Lillet Blanc. Stir with plenty of ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Pro tip: Make it just like Bond by shaking, rather than stirring. This will add a bit more dilution to the drink, but some prefer their martinis shaken, and that’s ok!
The Spa Day
This simple vodka cocktail is a recipe from my first book, Essential 3-Ingredient Cocktails. It’s refreshing, light, and perfect after a day at the spa!
Combine 2 ounces of vodka with 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice and 3/4 oz mint simple syrup. Shake with plenty of ice, then strain into a martini glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Pro tip: make an easy mint syrup by steeping fresh mint leaves in hot simple syrup, just like you’d steep tea. Cover and let the leaves marinate in the syrup until it’s completely cool, then strain them out and reserve the liquid.
The easiest vodka cocktail of them all:
Vodka and lemonade – that’s it! A little sweet, a little sour, a little boozy, and all around very refreshing. Vodka Lemonade is a great choice for an easy summer cocktail when you want as few ingredients as possible.
Simply add 1.5 – 2 ounces of vodka to a tall glass with ice and top with lemonade. Garnish with a lemon slice or wedge and enjoy!
Pro tip: Make your own lemonade by the glass by combining 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice with 1 ounce of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) and 4-6 ounces of chilled still or sparkling water. If you use sparkling water and add an ounce or two vodka or gin, you just made a classic Collins cocktail.
Fancy something more indulgent? Try my easy Whipped Lemonade and add an ounce of two of vodka.
Want low-carb vodka cocktails? Check out my Definitive Guide to Low Carb & Keto Cocktails.
Even more vodka cocktail inspiration:
- 44 Vodka Cocktails from Delish
- 20 Vodka Cocktails from A Couple Cooks
- 20 Vodka Cocktails to Try from Liquor.com
The Easiest 3 Ingredient Vodka Cocktail
- 2 oz vodka
- 4-6 oz mixer of choice (see list below)
- 1/2 oz lemon or lime juice it must be freshly squeezed!
- Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the vodka over the ice, add a squeeze of fresh citrus juice, then top with your mixer of choice.
- Stir gently, garnish as desired, and enjoy!
The best vodka mixers:
- Ginger beer
- Grapefruit juice
- Cranberry juice
- Tonic water
- Sparkling water / seltzer / club soda
- Ginger ale
- Citrus sodas
- Grapefruit soda
- Tomato / vegetable juice
- Root beer
Sunday 18th of December 2022
Hi. Nice page of recipes - and you can have as many riffs on a cocktail as you like. However - the Vesper Martini is just plain wrong!! Your link to the vesper hits the nail squarely on the head, but the short description is wrong.
Sunday 18th of December 2022
Thanks Nigel! Fixed it