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How to Create a Signature Vodka Cocktail (and 7 Classics to Try)

A screwdriver from A Couple Cooks, a White Russian from The Spruce Eats, and a cape codder from Mom Foodie.
A Couple Cooks/The Spruce Eats/Mom Foodie

Vodka is one of those liquors that mixes well with just about any juice or soda that you have in the fridge. So, why not use whatever you have and give it a try?

We’ll show you how to create your very own signature vodka cocktail, along with a few classic recipes to use as your base or mix-up later.

Elements of a Kickass Cocktail

There are five basic components of solid cocktail construction, and knowing how to work with them will turn your mixer from boring to bright and beautiful. These elements include quality liquor, ice, the correct glassware, balanced measurements, and a nice presentation.

It’s always best to start with quality liquor! The better the booze, the smoother it tastes. That doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank, though.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Well liquors: These are cheaper, usually non-brand-name liquors. There are some that you might want to avoid. Cheap vodka is cheap vodka, and it mixes well enough. Cheap gin, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired in the flavor department.
  • Premium liquors: These are a step up from the good spirits, like Bacardi rum, Absolut vodka, or Jack Daniels. If you’re stocking your home bar, having mostly premium liquors is a great way to go.
  • Top shelf liquors: As you’ve probably guessed, these are always placed on the top shelf at the bar to show off their status, and they’ll cost you. For cocktails with few ingredients besides the liquor itself, top shelf is the way to go. A spirit on the rocks (with ice), straight up (stirred with ice but served without it), or neat (room temperature), should always be made with a top-shelf selection. When stocking your home bar, at least one or two top-shelf bottles of your favorite liquor(s) would be ideal.

Make sure that you understand how ice works in a cocktail, too. Too little will dilute your drink, and too much means that you’re losing room for the other ingredients. The right glassware, balanced measurements, presentation, and a perfect pour all matter as well, so you might want to do a little research.

Basic Vodka Cocktail Recipe

If you want to create a delicious cocktail at home using ingredients that you already have, here’s a great starter recipe:

  • 2 Ounces of vodka: Feel free to use any brand that you have, but we recommend using a premium one.
  • 5 Ounces of mixer: Cranberry, peach, orange, pineapple, you name it! It will taste delicious mixed with vodka.
  • Bubbly stuff (optional): If you want a splash of fizziness, Sprite, ginger ale, or even soda water are all great options. You can also use one of these instead of the mixers above.
  • Ice: Fill your glass at least halfway with larger cubes, as they look nice and won’t dilute your cocktail.
  • Garnish: This should complement the cocktail. For example, if you’ve created a blackberry peach cocktail, add a few blackberries on top. For a strawberry mint cocktail, add a halved strawberry and a sprig of mint.

Getting into the art and science of mixology can be lots of fun! You can craft your own cocktails with whatever you have on hand. You’re sure to discover some that you love as well as some that you’ll never make again. But both will be loads of fun!

Now that you understand the basics, you can head off and see what you can come up with on your own, or you can simply practice with these seven classic vodka cocktails.

Moscow Mule

Two images; the left image features to copper mugs with a Moscow mule cocktail made up inside, garnished with a lime wedge, and the right image features someone pouring ginger beer into the mug, to make a mule cocktail.
Cookie + Kate

Moscow mules are all the rage these days, and there are several delicious variations that you can make. Using vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and ice, you can create a classic, or spruce it up with various juices and other fun ingredients.

Learn more about Moscow mules and try making one of the five delicious variations included.

Get the Recipe: Cookie + Kate

Classic Screwdriver

Two images of a screwdriver cocktail made with vodka, and orange juice, garnished with an orange wedge and a cherry.
A Couple Cooks

Screwdrivers are about as traditional and easy as it gets! Orange juice and vodka are the two ingredients used to make this simplistic cocktail, but there’s plenty you can do to add a little jazz.

Mix in a bit of peach nectar or try some orange-pineapple-banana juice for additional flavor.

Get the Recipe: A Couple Cooks

Cape Codder

Two images displaying a cape codder cocktail, with ingredients like vodka, cranberry juice and lime in the background.
Mom Foodie

Like the screwdriver, a Cape Codder is pretty simple. All you need is cranberry juice, vodka, and a spritz of lime juice. Add some Sprite, ginger ale, or orange juice to this boozy beverage to change things up.

You can also whip out the blender to try a frozen version. You can also add other juices, like pomegranate or pineapple.

Get the Recipe: Mom Foodie

White Russian

A short rocks glass with one large ice cube, filled with a recently poured white Russian cocktail.
The Spruce Eats

White Russians combine vodka with Kahlua (coffee liqueur) and a splash of heavy cream. Feel free to add a semi-salted rim with a drizzle of caramel on this one.

You can also turn this sweet coffee cocktail into a chocolate dream by topping it with whipped cream and a chocolate sauce drizzle. The possibilities are endless!

Get the Recipe: The Spruce Eats

Vodka Tonic

A glass of vodka tonic with orange and lime wedges.
Fresh Simple Home

A vodka tonic is exactly what it sounds like: vodka mixed with tonic water. This recipe adds a spritz of fresh orange to the mix, but any muddle berries would taste yummy in this classic, too.

What else can you think to add to this one?

Get the Recipe: Fresh Simple Home

Bloody Mary

Two images of bloody Marys made by Spend with Pennies.
Spend with Pennies

If you can mix tomato juice with vodka and call it a cocktail, you can mix anything with vodka. This cocktail has several popular variations, with some using horseradish, pepper, steak sauce, clamato juice, and more.

You’ll also find that this cocktail offers garnishes that range anywhere from celery and carrots to pepperoni and shrimp. This drink can transform into a meal, and it’s tasty as hell when made just right.

Get the Recipe: Spend with Pennies

Vodka Lemonade

Two images of pink vodka lemonade with a bottle of Malibu rum in the background.
Cafe Delites

Lemonade is delicious on a hot summer day, and it really hits the spot when mixed with vodka! Feel free to use strawberry or raspberry lemonade, or you can make an Arnold Palmer and combine some ice tea with your lemonade.

Get the Recipe: Cafe Delites

So, gather all your drinkable (and even some edible) resources, and don’t be afraid to get creative! That’s how you discover your signature cocktail! After you’ve done that, be sure to add these classic recipes to your repertoire.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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