For most people, they either stray away from vodka completely as it can give off a sort of hellish reputation with a mean bite, or they operate solely in the realm of cheap vodka sodas to keep unwanted carbs away. But what if there were another way? What if you could drink this infamous spirit without waking up the next morning feeling like you’ve just been hit by a bus? What if there were cocktails where vodka was the main character and they weren’t completely loathsome in every way possible. Well, it seems you may have stumbled upon something wonderful, my friend. Here are the seven best cocktails where vodka shows itself to be something other than a quick gag reflex in front of a room of a dozen strangers.
1. LEMON DROP MARTINI
Possibly the most notorious…and tasty, for that matter. The Lemon Drop is sure to send wonderful dancing chills down your spine with the first sip as it’s both sweet and a bit sour. This cocktail gets its name after the timeless candy, the Lemon Drop and its sugar rim is like adding a cherry to a chocolate sundae. Take 2 oz Vodka, ½ oz Cointreau, 1 oz Lemon Juice, 1 oz Simple Syrup, some sugar and a lemon. Rotate the rim of a coupe glass with lemon juice on some fresh sugar, add your ingredients to a cocktail shaker and BOOM! The Lemon Drop. You’re welcome.
2. LYCHEE MARTINI
This is one I stumbled upon when helping a friend open up an Asian Fusion restaurant in Venice, CA. The mixologist at the time was coming up with some crazy creative cocktails (we’ll get into that at another time) but also understood his clientele and kept things simple. Give the people what they want, am I right? So, he did. And that just so happened to be the Lychee Martini. This cocktail comes off as a bit sweet and fruity with a slight floral aroma. It’s fresh, it’s simple and it’s here to stay. Take 2 oz Vodka (preferably something mid to high tier), ¾ oz Lychee Syrup from a can of Lychees, ½ oz Dry Vermouth and a plop a fresh Lychee right in there for good measure. I recommend trying this one with either sashimi or tuna tartar.
3. HARVEY WALLBANGER
This Harvey Wallbanger can be a bit elusive in the sense that it can be difficult to find someone who knows how to make it well (or someone who knows what it is at all). That may very well be because of the Galliano, or sweet herbal liqueur but, nonetheless, it is a timeless classic. The story of this mystic cocktail is one that is seemingly nonexistent at best, yet it’s simplicity and punch are revered by many. Think of a vodka orange juice but with an herbal twist and a hiccup of vanilla. Funky would probably be the best word to describe this one but oh so good! You’ll need 1 ½ oz Vodka, 4 oz Orange Juice, ½ oz Galliano and if you’re feeling it, an orange slice for good measure. Also, one thing to note here, this cocktail is better stirred than shaken.
Let’s get simple for a second. Who hasn’t heard of a Cosmo. Notice how there wasn’t a question mark following that statement. That’s because it wasn’t a question and never should be one. The Cosmo is as old as time…or at least at old as spirits go. And the beautiful thing about this cocktail is that there are many variations of it (both sweet and not so sweet) for just about anyone. It’s light or dark pink color is inviting, it’s fruity, it’s sweet and it’s easy to drink. Combine 1 ½ oz Vodka, 1 oz Cointreau, ½ oz Lime Juice and ¼ oz Cranberry juice into a shaker and strain into whichever sort of glass suits your fancy. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
5. THE BLOODY MARY
Some of you may say, “hey, this isn’t a sweet vodka cocktail.” You’re wrong. Let’s get that out of the way right here and now. It is. And this cocktail has the ability or superpower—depending on how you look at it—to fight hangovers and turn that frown upside down. Most popular at brunch time yet I’d wage to say this may very well be one of the most consumed cocktails there are, this savory and sweet drink has been experimented with by adding bacon and a slew of other famous foods and can be rationalized at any hour of the day. You’ll need 1 ½ oz Vodka, 3 oz Tomato Juice, ½ oz Lemon Juice, 2 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce, a pinch of Salt and Pepper, Some hot sauce if you’re feeling brave, a piece of Applewood Bacon and a Lemon Wedge for garnish. It doesn’t get much better than that.
6. SEX ON THE BEACH
Oh summer, where art thou? Surely a seasonal cocktail unless you live on a tropical beach or somewhere sunny year-round, Sex on the Beach is something just about everyone has heard of. Known for its sweet and fruity flavors, this cocktail is both bright, tropical and easy to sip on under the bright summer sun. Combine 1 ½ oz Vodka, ¾ oz Peach Schnapps, ½ oz Chambord, 2 oz Orange Juice (you can substitute this with pineapple juice as well), 2 oz Cranberry Juice into a shaker and strain into a martini glass.
Most known in shot form, this cocktail is actually, well, a cocktail. It’s simple and oh so refreshing while still carrying sweeter qualities. Think of a Margarita with vodka that’s just as delicious if such a thing were possible. Take 1 ½ oz Vodka, 1 oz Lime Juice, 1 oz Triple Sec and combine into a shaker. Strain into a coupe or martini glass with a lime wedge for garnish and you have one of the most delicious vodka cocktails known man and single women in the bar scene.