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Classic Cocktails: Vodka

by Warrick Steabben on December 3, 2014

What can’t vodka do? Smooth and nearly—but not entirely—flavourless, a high-quality vodka can either add an alcoholic kick to any drink where the mixers dictate the taste or play centre stage in a simple cocktail. This is the third instalment in our series on classic cocktails. As a school offering bartending and RSA courses in Melbourne, we have a lot to say about liquor. We’ve already covered cocktails that take advantage of rum’s sweet woody profile and gin’s bright herbal notes, so now it’s time to look at how we can mix something as versatile as vodka.

White and Black Russians

White Russians are moderately sweet, flavourful, smooth drinks. They are great on warm afternoons, but White Russians really stand out as a dessert cocktail. You’ll need:

  • 3 parts cream
  • 5 parts vodka
  • 2 parts coffee liqueur

For a Black Russian, simply leave out the cream or substitute espresso.

Vodka Martini

The article on gin cocktails already covered how to mix a martini, and of course, you can use vodka instead of gin in that classic drink. Since vodka has so much less flavour than gin, vodka martinis let the flavours of vermouth and olive shine. You’ll need:

  • 3-6 parts vodka
  • 1 part vermouth
  • 1 olive
  • (optional) dash olive juice
Vodka Martinis
Vodka Martinis


There’s nothing quite as simple as a screwdriver; it’s just a mixture of three or four parts orange juice to one part vodka. They’re bright, tasty, and serve equally well for brunch or in the evening. Legend has it that this drink got its name because American and British oilfield workers in Middle Eastern countries where alcohol is prohibited would mix them with their company-provided juice using (surprise!) their screwdrivers.

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary, full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails… – Sterling Archer

A staple of many a weekend breakfast, this purported hangover cure can be tweaked and personalised endlessly. At its most basic, a Bloody Mary is simply a mixture of tomato juice and vodka with a dash of black pepper and Worcestershire sauce garnished with a celery stalk. From there, it gets interesting. Hot sauce, pickle spears, and even pieces of charcuterie have all appeared from time to time. A search for Bloody Mary variations will yield a dizzying spectrum of them; the only real rule is to have fun!

Moscow Mule

This cocktail is so simple that it’s surprising so few people have had one. A mix of ginger beer, lime, and vodka, the name doesn’t make much sense, but it IS incredibly refreshing. A strong ginger beer is best. You’ll need:

  • 3-4 parts ginger beer
  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part lime juice

There are plenty more vodka cocktails out there. Odds are you know a few that didn’t make the list, and that tells you how versatile vodka really is. Of course, if you want to learn how to make a bang-up perfect cocktail, you might want to check out a bartending course