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Vodka is one of the most popular spirits in the world, loved by millions for its mixability and smooth neutrality. It’s no wonder then that cocktails with vodka are currently the most popular cocktails in contemporary cocktail culture.
| By Cameron Mowat
Vodka: a spirit that seems almost designed for mixing in cocktails when the goal is to highlight the other flavours without skimping on the ABV. The neutrality of vodka saw it as the reigning champion spirit of cocktail culture through the 50s to the 80s and it still holds the title for many.
Today, some of the most popular cocktails with vodka are still some of the most popular cocktails in general, so we put together a list of what we think the five most popular cocktails with vodka as their base are. Plus we’re giving you some hot tips on how to make them right and the recipes we use in our bartending academies and our cocktail consultations!
#5 Moscow Mule
The Moscow Mule is one of those drinks that is universally loved for its beautiful simplicity. It’s a three ingredient classic that is super easy to make but gives way more in flavour than it takes in effort. Of all the most popular cocktails with vodka this is one of the quickest to whip up in big batches and give you a good bang for your buck (that’s a pun for the cocktail aficionados out there).
Moscow mules are very open to different flavoured vodkas, and they take citrus vodkas especially well. A personal favourite is Absolut’s Grapefruit vodka, or Grey Goose’s Strawberry & Lemongrass vodka.
The other important thing to mention is that what makes or breaks this cocktail is the ginger beer. As the main ingredient, using a good quality ginger beer, or especially turning it up a notch with a delicious alcoholic ginger beer, is key! You want a good spicy kick of ginger to make this cocktail work best.
Here’s a great Moscow Mule recipe for you to whip up wherever you are!
Moscow Mule Ingredients:
- 50ml Grapefruit Vodka
- 20ml Fresh Lime Juice
- Zingibeer Ginger Beer to top (or alternative alcoholic ginger beer)
Moscow Mule Recipe:
- Add cubed ice to a copper mug (if you can’t find a copper mug… go get one!)
- Add your choice of vodka and lime juice
- Top generously with ginger beer
- Garnish with a wedge of lime
#4 Bloody Mary
The high-king of the cocktails with vodka that were designed specifically for hangovers, the Bloody Mary is one of the most notorious cocktails in popular culture. It’s also the most popular savoury cocktail, saying no to sweetness and hell yeah to rich umami and chilli spice.
Many claim to have the secret to a perfect Bloody Mary. From using Clamato juice (clam broth and tomato juice) for an extra salty kick, or sticking a few slices of crispy bacon into the drink as a garnish (Vegas style!), there are hundreds of different takes on what was originally a very simple mix.
Our secret to a perfect Bloody Mary is all in the spice mix and the method of making it. The classic blend of tabasco and Worcestershire is obviously timeless, but a homemade spice mix sauce adds so much character. Then if you roll the drink instead of just building, stirring or shaking, we find the tomato juice to reach the perfect level of thickness to avoid being cloying while keeping the texture.
Here’s our recipe for the spice mix and the Bloody Mary itself:
Spice Mix Ingredients:
- 150g Passata
- 10g Red Wine Vinegar
- 5g Worcester Sauce
- 5g Smoked Salt
- 10 Black Peppercorns
- 2.5g Cumin Seeds
- 5g Chipotle Tabasco
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 5g Smoked Paprika
- 5g Fresh Birdseye Chillies
Spice Mix Recipe:
- Add the cumin, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika into a mortar and pestle and grind.
- Add all spices into a medium sized saucepan and set on a low heat.
- Once the spices have warmed for a couple of minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and stir for 7-10 minutes, do not let it boil.
- Once stirred, turn off heat, let cool, bottle
Bloody Mary Ingredients:
- 50ml Vodka
- 40ml Spice Mix
- 100ml Tomato Juice
Bloody Mary Recipe:
- Add all ingredients to the small tin of a Boston shaker
- Add cubed ice to fill the big tin of the shaker and place a strainer on top to secure the ice
- Carefully pass the liquid from the small tin to the big tin and back again, trying to keep the tins as far away from each other as possible during the pour
- Repeat 4 or 5 times
- Pour into a highball glass with cubed ice
- Garnish with a lemon wedge, dried chilli and a sprig of thyme
The Cosmopolitan, making pink drinks sexy since the 70’s. The Cosmopolitan aka the Cosmo was by far and away the most famous of the cocktails with vodka leading up to the cocktail Renaissance, and for good reason. It’s boozy, fruity, sweet and sour all at once, making it a solid all rounder that can tap into most people’s palates.
Cosmos come in all shapes and sizes, some on the sweeter side, some on the sour. We teach, in our Become A Bartender course and our Introduction to Cocktails class, that the colour you should be aiming for is a light, cloudy pink. This is all down to not overdoing the cranberry and getting in enough lime juice. If your cosmo is clear and ‘cranberry red’ then you may have gone wrong somewhere.
Cosmopolitan recipes can be controversial, mostly around the cran content, but also around whether or not there should be sugar syrup on the specs. We would keep the sugar syrup out unless you’re using a very dry, tart cranberry juice, in which case a bar spoon (but no more!) goes a long way to balancing the drink.
Here’s a Cosmopolitan recipe that will never let you down:
- 40ml Vodka (Grapefruit or Citron is best)
- 20ml Cointreau
- 30ml Cranberry Juice
- 10ml Fresh Lime Juice
- Optional: 1 Barspoon Sugar Syrup
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with cubed ice and shake hard
- Fine strain into a chilled coupe glass
- Express an orange zest (Optional: through a lighter flame for a burnt orange oil flavour) and garnish
#2 Espresso Martini
Now we’re getting into our ‘top of the pops’ cocktails with vodka. The Espresso Martini is a cocktail that has steadily soared in popularity over the last few decades since the notorious Dick Bradsell whipped it up for an unknown model in his Soho bar in London.
There is no coffee cocktail more iconic, and few more instantly recognisable than the Espresso Martini. In any cocktail bar you’re most likely in with a good chance of seeing a few of these being served. Unsurprisingly, the trick to a great Espresso Martini is in the coffee (sure it’s in the name). Good quality espresso, aeropress or cold brew is essential, not just for flavour but for the foamy head we all know and love.
The other important factor is the shaking technique. To achieve the iconic Espresso Martini look a good, hard shake is more than a requirement, it’s a necessity. If you’re not breaking a sweat you’re not shaking hard enough! Also you can always step the Espresso Martini up with either vanilla vodka or vanilla syrup.
Here’s a recipe that you can rely on to give you the perfect Espresso Martini you deserve:
Espresso Martini Ingredients:
- 40ml Vanilla Vodka
- 30ml Espresso
- 20ml Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua or Tia Maria depending on your sweetness preference)
- 10ml Sugar Syrup
Espresso Martini Recipe:
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with cubed ice and shake VERY hard
- Fine strain into a chilled coupe glass
- Garnish with 3 coffee beans in the shape of a clover
Note: if the foam isn’t coming out right, just give it another 2 or 3 solid whips in a shaker with no ice and pour it straight back out!
#1 Pornstar Martini
There’s a cocktail on everyone’s lips: The Pornstar Martini. This passionfruit phenomenon has been catapulted to the top ranking of the cocktails with vodka in recent years, and its popularity continues to surge. Because of the Pornstar Martini ( or for family friendly bars: the Passionfruit Martini) passion fruit purée is now a pretty common ingredient behind most cocktail bars.
Passion fruit, vanilla and champagne, a recipe for success among the general population of cocktail lovers across the globe. Add in a sexy name and a sense of drinking something raunchy and you’ve got a cocktail that really nails the vogue of the new cocktail drinkers coming around to cocktails as well.
As the most popular of the cocktails with vodka, the Pornstar Martini has thousands of recipes, some good some… not so good. Our recommendation for a perfect Pornstar is pretty simple: good passion fruit purée. Passion fruit syrups are nice, but getting the authenticity of a mouth-puckeringly sour passion fruit purée with good acidity and balancing it with vanilla syrup and the dryness of champagne (or prosecco on a budget) makes a good cocktail a great one.
Here’s a recipe that will blow your everyday Pornstar Martini out of the water.
Pornstar Martini Ingredients:
- 50ml Vodka (Vanilla if you don’t have Vanilla Syrup)
- 40ml Passion Fruit Purée
- 20ml Sugar Syrup (Vanilla if you don’t have Vanilla Vodka)
- Top with Champagne or Prosecco
Pornstar Martini Recipe:
Add all ingredients except Champagne/Prosecco to a shaker
Shake well and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass
Top Champagne/Prosecco or serve separately in a shot glass
Garnish with a passionfruit slice or a dehydrated lime wheel