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10 cocktails to stir the aspiring bartender’s spirit on National Vodka Day

In the age of craft beer, it feels like craft cocktails have taken a bit of a backseat.

Thankfully, we have folks like Common Spirits in Goshen and Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Mich., who are keeping the spirit of craft cocktails alive.

Lovers of the clear liquor can rejoice because Tuesday, Oct. 4, is National Vodka Day. As if you really needed a reason to celebrate vodka.

We’re shaking things up and getting back to basics with these cocktail recipes. We’ve put together 10 of the simplest and common vodka cocktails to start expanding your bartending skills.

Pro tip: If you’re mixing a cocktail, don’t waste your money on top-shelf liquor because you’re diluting the flavor of the alcohol with a mixer. Instead, choose a medium-level liquor that’s a good compromise of quality and cost.

If you wanna get advanced, you can check out the Thai Swizzle, Coconut Margarita and the Original Vesper Martini from our “Behind the Bar” series.

We’ll leave the shaken or stirred debate to the comments section.

Na zdorovie!

White Russian (and Black Russian)

Photographer: (Cyclone Bill) License:
Photographer: (Cyclone Bill) License:

This one is a gimmie. It’s The Dude’s favorite drink, and it’s one that’ll fill you up if you’re at the bar. When I was in Iceland, they were selling them at a Big Lebowski-themed bar for $14 a pop. Fortunately, in the States it’s far less expensive, but it’s still better to make ’em at home. Mix one part Kahlua, one part cream and two parts vodka. Serve over ice in a rocks glass. If you want things a little lighter, skip the cream and make yourself a Black Russian.

Moscow Mule

Photographer: (Lauren Topor) License:
Photographer: (Lauren Topor) License:

The Moscow Mule has had a resurgence in popularity in the last few years, which has led to the sale of a whole lot of copper cups. The recipe itself is pretty simple: Mix one-and-one-half ounces of vodka to one half ounce of lime juice and top it off with ginger beer. Serve in copper cup (if you care about temperature) or a rocks glass, and garnish with a lime.


If I’m drinking a vodka cocktail, 90 percent of the time it’s a screwdriver. I enjoyed my first one while visiting my grandparents in Zolfo Springs, Fla., about a decade ago, and this classic drink has held a place in my heart ever since. As a bonus, after a glass or two you’ve also got your vitamin C allotment for the day! Simply mix one part vodka to four parts orange juice and serve either straight up or on the rocks in a highball glass, depending on preference.

Harvey Wallbanger

This is a lot like a screwdriver, but with the added twist of vanilla from Galliano. Plus, I guarantee either you or someone very close to you used to have this as an all time favorite drink. Mix one part vodka to four parts orange juice in a Collins glass on the rocks. Top with one half parts Galliano and garnish with a twist of orange.

Vodka Coke/soda/tonic

Photographer: (torbakhopper) License:
Photographer: (torbakhopper) License:

This mixer is a three-for-one, but is also left a little bit to preference. Depending on how strong you like your cocktails, you can craft this at one part vodka to one to three parts mixer. Serve over ice in a highball glass and garnish with either a lemon or lime.

Vodka martini

Photographer: (rick) License:
Photographer: (rick) License:

This is where things start getting a little shaky. Take six parts vodka, one part dry vermouth and an ice cube and either put it in a cocktail shaker and have at it, or put it in a mixing glass and stir away. Strain the mix and serve it chilled in a cocktail glass with a few olives and a twist of lemon. If you want a little extra flavor, add a little olive brine and make a dirty martini.

Vodka gimlet

Since the gimlet is generally a gin-based drink, I’m going to default to what Mr. Boston has to say on the subject. The well-known cocktail crafters at Mr. Boston suggest One-and-one-half ounces of vodka to 1 ounce lime juice and one half ounce simple syrup. Like the martini, you’ll shake a gimlet with ice, strain and serve in a cocktail glass.


Photographer: (Ralph Daily) License:
Photographer: (Ralph Daily) License:

No list of classic vodka cocktails would be complete without the cosmo. Next to the Bloody Mary, this drink is likely the most “complicated” of vodka cocktails listed as far as ingredients go. While not truly a martini, it’s prepared in much the same way. Combine two parts vodka, one part orange liqueur (Triple Sec or Cointreau), one part cranberry and on every half part lime in a shaker with ice. Combine and strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a orange twist.

Sea Breeze

Okay, summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a little in the past and dream of warm days. The Summer Breeze tastes exactly like it sounds, like a little bit of summer when you need it most. You’ll be heavy on the summer with this one, so you’re mixing four parts cranberry juice, one part grapefruit juice and one-and-one-half parts vodka. Pour over the rocks into a highball glass and garnish with a lime.

Bloody Mary

Photographer: (thesqueedler) License:
Photographer: (thesqueedler) License:

There are literally a million ways to make a Bloody Mary, and I’m not about to try to cover them all. Instead, I’m going to give you the absolute basics and let you go nuts. Mix one part vodka to four parts tomato juice/Bloody Mary mix and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Then? Go nuts. Add some olives, black pepper, garlic, pickles, horseradish, cheeseburgers, whatever! Serve in a highball glass and garnish with a celery stalk.

What’s your favorite vodka cocktail? Let us know in the comments and we’ll put together a list of reader favorites.

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