14 Vodka Cocktail Recipes You Need to Know Before You Start Bartending

Being behind the bar can be nerve-wracking, overwhelming, and confusing.

Whether you’re a veteran or just starting out as a budding, baby bartender one of the things you can do to make every shift easier is learn and master all of the best and tastiest cocktails there are to offer.

Today’s all about vodka! So let’s get started. Cheers!

1. Cosmopolitan

Image via Canva | Recipe via Liquor.com

Ah, the Cosmopolitan. Also called a Cosmo, this delightfully pink and refreshing sip that’s often served in a martini glass. But don’t get it lemon-twisted – that doesn’t mean it’s a martini.

Another myth behind the cosmo? That it’s a girly drink. Sure, it may be pink but hey, it’s 2022. I thought we were over those gender norms?

Here’s a tiny tip that I honestly use all the time, despite current times. If someone is embarrassed about enjoying a pink drink, serve it in a glass that’s not translucent. Boom. Pink-problem solved.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • .75 ounce Cointreau
  • .75 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • .5 ounce cranberry juice cocktail

Instructions

  • In a shaker with ice, combine vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, and cranberry juice. Shake until chilled. Then strain into a chilled glass. Serve with a lime wedge for garnish.

2. Moscow Mule

Image via Canva

Moscow Mules are my absolute favorite… to both make and drink! The ginger beer is zesty and easy on the belly. Not to mention, you can go pretty crazy with flavor infusions in Moscow Mules! Try adding muddled berries, using flavored vodkas, or fresh herbs—basil is my absolute favorite.

But be careful! Not all ginger beers are made equal; a bad-tasting mixer can easily make or break your drink. Our favorite? Q Mixers, hands down.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • .5 ounce lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Lime wedge

Instructions

  • Make a mule by adding ice to a mug. Pour vodka and lime juice into the mug. Then top with ginger beer. Add a lime wedge for garnish.

Optional: Local Bartending School’s master bartenders recommend that using aromatic bitters can really make your Moscow Mule stand out against others out there in the market. Try Angostura to start! Be warned, your bitters collect may grow from here.

3. White Russian

Image via Canva

After the release of The Big Lebowski in 1998, White Russians gained popularity. And nearly twenty-five years later, the cocktail is still ordered by bar guests every day.

When making the cocktail, you can use heavy or full cream, but you can also use milk or plant-based milk for a vegan or vegetarian cocktail.

Try the Colorado Bulldog, aka Teddy Bear, aka Paralyzer, for a fantastically fizzy and creamy experience. Your guests will be coming back for more!

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce heavy cream, milk, or plant-based milk
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa

Instructions

  • Fill your glass with ice. Then, add the coffee liqueur and vodka. Top with cream or milk of choice.

4. Black Russian

Image via Canva

The Back Russian is the White Russian’s predecessor. If a bartender hadn’t originally mixed vodka with a coffee liqueur we’d have none of the variations we serve today!

So don’t be afraid to experiment behind the bar! Who knows, maybe one of your drinks will be a household name?

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa

Instructions

  • In a copper mug, add ingredients to build. Stir gently and use a lime wedge or wheel for garnish.

5. Lemon Drop

Recipe via Liquor.com | Image via Canva

Usually served in a cocktail glass, Lemon Drop can also be poured as a shot, an easy choice at college bars and nightclubs.

It’s best served with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, no matter which way you choose to serve it. When it’s the only option, like it is at bars, sweet and sour in a bottle can get the job done. It’s the combination of fresh lemon and sugar that adds to the cocktail’s flavor and notoriety.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • .5 ounce triple sec
  • 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • Sugar rim, garnish

Instructions

  • Put sugar on the rim of a cocktail glass. Combine vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled. Then strain into your glass.

6. Screwdriver

Image via Canva

The first time a guest ordered this from me, I thought I was in for a long, complicated drink recipe. I couldn’t have been more wrong! 

The screwdriver is amazingly easy to make with just two essential ingredients: vodka and OJ. But it lends favor to a ton of variations, so let your little mixologist mind go nuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4-6 ounces orange juice
  • Orange slice, garnish

Instructions

  • In a glass filled with ice, combine vodka and orange juice. Stir, garnish, and serve!

7. Espresso Martini

Image via Canva | Recipe via Absolut Drinks

There are some things in the world that just belong together. You and bartending. Sticky floors and dive bars. Coffee and liquor.

And boy do coffee and liquor shine in the Espresso Martini (read espresso, not expresso). Bartenders, suggest this as an after-dinner drink, a digestif, or when your guest needs a little pick-me-up.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • .5 ounce Kahlúa
  • .5 ounce espresso
  • Coffee beans, garnish

Instructions

  • Put ice cubes in a shaker. Combine all ingredients. Give it a good shake and strain into your glass. Add beans to garnish.

8. Bloody Mary

Image via Canva

A quintessential craving during many, if not all brunch occasions, the Bloody Mary. And since there are about a zillion places to brunch, that means there are about a zillion ways to make a Bloody Mary.

Your bar may batch their own signature recipe, make Bloody’s to order, or use pre-made juice. Guests may like it spicy, with Clamato juice, or with bacon. Truly, the limit does not exist, but here’s a standard recipe that LBS’s instructors love, using the crowd-favorite bloody mix Zing Zang.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 4-5 ounces Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
  • Celery, garnish

Instructions

  • Add ice to your service glass then pour ingredients over top. Stir, garnish, and serve!

9. Crimson & Clove Sparkler

Recipe via Cosmopolitan Cooking | Image via Goop

Alexa, play Lana del Rey’s Venice B*&@%.

Your guests will want to order Crimson and Clove Sparkler, over and over, honey. Especially during those cold, fall moments.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounce Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit & Rose
  • 2 ounces pomegranate juice
  • .75 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • A pinch of ground cloves

Instructions

  • Combine ingredients into your shaker tin with ice. Give it a good shake, then sieve into your serving glass (goblet if available!). Top with soda water and pomegranate seeds.

True or False? You should always shake carbonated drinks like cola or soda water.

False! Shaking carbonated drinks will make them flat and your drinks taste like they’ve been sitting out on a hot bar. Nobody likes a flat drink!

10. Vodka Gimlet

Recipe via Liquor.com | Image via Canva

Us bartenders can thank the television series Mad Men for the gain in popularity of Vodka Gimlets.

Gimlets are a simple drink with not much to it. But hey, not all cocktails need to be complex to be delicious. But even if they are complex, you can learn anything with a good bartending course, experienced instructors, and practice.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • .75 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • .5 ounce simple syrup
  • Lime wheel, garnish

Instructions

  • Shake the vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker until chilled to the touch. Strain and use a lime wheel for garnish.

11. Vodka Sour

Recipe via Gopuff | Image via Canva

Just like the Whisky Sour, a Vodka Sour can be made with or without egg white.

You might think that the egg recipe will taste like drinking hard-boiled eggs but it’s really not the case! Egg whites in drinks serve to add a textured mouthfeel. If your guest has an egg allergy, is vegan, or just doesn’t like the idea of an egg, there are still options out there for a scrumptious sour sip.

Looking for a sweet variation? Try a Cherry Vodka Sour!

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • .5 ounce fresh lime juice
  • .5 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 egg white (for a plant-based option, use aquafaba)
  • Cocktail cherry and lemon slice, garnish

Instructions

  • Add vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, syrup, bitters, and egg white to a shaker without ice. Shake thoroughly. Make sure to shake again for at least 30 seconds after adding ice to your cocktail shaker. Over ice, strain the drink into an Old-Fashioned glass. Add a Maraschino cherry and lemon wedge as garnish.

12. Pomegranate Blood Orange Old Fashioned

Recipe & Image via Liquor.com

Pomegranate Blood Orange Old Fashioned by Nick Mautone uses a similar method to a Wisconsin Old Fashioned—muddle the fruit with sugar and bitters with the spirit before shaking it all together. I’m all for this Wisconsin method!

It’s not often that vodka is used in Old Fashioned-style cocktails, but its neutral flavor allows the fruit components to stand out and leave your guest craving Round Two.

Ingredients

  • 2 lengths of blood orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate seeds
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • Blood orange twist, garnish

Instructions

  • Muddle the pomegranate arils, blood orange peels, sugar, and bitters. Shake until well chilled after adding vodka and ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a twist of orange.

13. Vodka Martini

Recipe via Liquor.com | Image via Canva

A classic vodka cocktail, but still around for a reason. A good vodka martini is chilled, simple, and straight to the point.

But be warned! Because vodka is the star of this cocktail, you can’t disguise a bad one. Pour the best vodka you have in the house or you’ll have it sent back.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces premium vodka
  • .5 to .75 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters, optional
  • Lemon twist, or 3 olives, garnish

Instructions

  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the ingredients. Give it a good shake, or stir for at least 30 seconds. Then strain into a chilled glass. Add a lemon twist or olives for garnish.

14. French 76

Recipe & Image via Sidewalk Shoes

Bartender buddy, meet French 76. French 76, meet my bartender friends.

The elegant cocktail uses vodka instead of gin. In terms of sophistication, it is up there with the French 75. This is the perfect drink to celebrate any occasion or event with its light, bright flavors and effervescent bubbles.

Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce vodka
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • ¼ ounce lemon juice
  • 2 ounces Champagne or other sparkling wine
  • 1 maraschino cherry for garnish

Instructions

  • Grab a chilled flute then fill your cocktail shaker with ice. Fill shaker with vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake for a few seconds, then strain into glass. Pour in sparkling wine and top with cherry.

There’s More to Drink About…

While we are totally obsessed with and love a good vodka cocktail, there are tons of great recipes out there. So if you think we missed a vodka recipe that you think should be on the list, send us a message on Instagram or Facebook!

Or, if you’re just totally lost on getting started with any type of bar drink you might need some professional help (for bartending, that is). Local Bartending School is not only one of the best blogs for new bartenders (Feedspot said it, not us but we agree), but LBS is the only place in the U.S. you can get certified in a week!

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Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean

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