5 Classic Vodka Cocktails You Should Be Drinking
Say what you will about vodka, but the spirit is a workhorse. Ubiquitous in bars the world over, it’s a blank canvas for creative mixology. To help you familiarize yourself with the top-selling spirit, we’ve gathered five classic cocktails that take advantage of vodka’s versatility, perfect for mixing at home.
Back in the 1930s and ’40s, vodka wasn’t moving off shelves. This was much to the chagrin of John G. Martin, president of Heublin, Inc., who recently acquired Smirnoff Vodka. One night, Martin visited Hollywood’s Cock ‘n’ Bull Pub and chatted it up with bar owner Jack Morgan. He came to find out that Morgan was facing similar problems about moving product—he couldn’t get anyone to buy the bar’s ginger beer.
A few drinks later, the duo concocted the Moscow Mule—a simple vodka-ginger beer concoction that became a huge hit with the Tinseltown set and popularized the clear spirit nationwide.
2 ounces vodka
5 ounces ginger beer
Lime wedge, for garnish
Pour vodka over ice in a chilled mug or Collins glass. Add the ginger beer and stir gently. Garnish with a squeezed wedge of lime.
While Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw arguably popularized this pink tipple back in the late 1990s, cocktail historians trace the cosmopolitan’s origins back to the 1930s. There have been many variations since its inception, but this recipe—which many consider the de facto preparation—can be traced to the 1980s.
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 ounces citrus-flavored vodka
1 ounce Cointreau
½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
1 ounce cranberry juice
Mix sugar and zest in a shallow bowl and dip the rim of your cocktail glass to coat lightly. Shake together remaining ingredients and strain into the glass.
The Tom Collins is traditionally gin-based, but if you tend to shy from the stuff, vodka will do just fine. While historians don’t quite agree on the origins of the cocktail—was it invented by Jerry Thomas in 1876 or by John Collins in London?—it is widely considered “the king of cooling drinks.”
1½ ounces vodka
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Club soda, to top
Orange slice and a cherry, for garnish
Add first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.
Created in the 1970s—recognized by those in the bar biz as the worst decade for the American cocktail—the Harvey Wallbanger is one of the only libations to survive the era. Blame it on the flavoring agent, Galliano, which became known for being simultaneously sweet and watery. Thankfully, the company returned to its original recipe, L’Autentico, and intrepid mixologists rediscovered this recipe.
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces orange juice
½ ounce Galliano L’Autentico
Pour the vodka and the orange juice into an ice-filled highball glass and stir briefly. Slowly drizzle the Galliano onto the top of the drink.
Everyone’s favorite brunch staple also has a storied past. Created in the 1930s at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris before finding its way to the King Cole Bar at the St. Régis Hotel in New York, the original recipe is disputed. One thing, however, is for sure: How bloody good it is.
2 ounces vodka
3 ounces tomato juice
½ teaspoon grated horseradish
2 dashes Tabasco (or other hot sauce)
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
½ ounce lemon juice
¼ teaspoon celery salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Celery stalk, for garnish
Lemon wedge, for garnish
Stir together all ingredients in a Collins glass with ice. Garnish with a celery stalk and lemon wedge.
- 1Moscow Mule
- 3Classic Collins
- 4Harvey Wallbanger
- 5Bloody Mary