While vodka has come a long way in recent years in terms of distinctive character, most of the brands available today strive for a certain flavorlessness that catapulted the spirit to its notable popularity.
And so flavor matters when it comes to what to mix with vodka. To determine the best juices, sodas, and other dance partners for the clear spirit, we turned to an utterly subjective source: our own drinking experience.
Our criteria? All mixers had to be widely available, disqualifying that tasty Concord grape syrup a friend from Maine sometimes brings to Thanksgiving. And we prioritized simple, two- or three-ingredient drinks. Because, let’s be real, if you’re looking for a mixer, you’re probably not interested in more involved cocktail recipes. (Though you can find those here.)
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Wondering what to mix with vodka? Here are eight of the best juices, sodas, and more.
For those moments when you want to drink something that barely tastes like anything and you’re fresh out of White Claw, there’s the Vodka Soda. We suggest a heavy-handed squeeze of lime for flavor. And if you’re looking to go top-shelf, treating the Vodka Soda like a highball, with a quality spirit, craft mixer, and careful dilution, can be revelatory.
Vodka Cranberry anyone? This combo is classic for a reason, but be sure to skip the cranberry juice cocktail in favor of the real, tart stuff. Solid enough on its own, but extra good with a squeeze of lime.
If you previously swore off tonic water, cringing at that almost medicinal quinine taste, now is your time! There’s an array of quality craft tonics on the market with subtle flavors. We are partial to Fever-Tree’s “Naturally Light” reduced-calorie tonic and Q Tonic Water.
Even though breakfast-friendly OJ is America’s top-selling juice (by a landslide!), the classic Screwdriver is rarely mentioned alongside Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and other brunch favorites. It’s a shame, really, because vodka and orange juice blend quite well, with sweet, tangy citrus offset by an almost imperceptible bite of booze.
Half & Half Spindrift
The bubbly Arnold Palmer from sparkling water purveyor Spindrift is an excellent complement to vodka, especially if you pour it over ice and garnish with a lemon wedge. The results are bright and breezy, the perfect late-afternoon or happy-hour sipper. Half & Half is sold on Amazon and in chains like Target, but it’s a pretty specific item, and you might not have it lying around when the mood for a vodka cocktail strikes.
If you’re a fan of the Moscow Mule, ginger beer’s the mixer for you. Sweet, spicy, and fizzy, it combines easily with vodka for a refreshing cocktail that plays well in all seasons. Bonus points for a squeeze of lime.
Grapefruit Juice and a Splash of Soda
As with pretty much every item you consume, the caliber of your ingredients matters here. Pour a few ounces of good-quality grapefruit juice over a shot of vodka on ice, give it a stir, and top with soda water and a lime wedge. It’s a light, bright, slightly effervescent version of a Greyhound cocktail.
Lime Juice and Simple Syrup
It’s admittedly slightly more laborious to squeeze limes and make simple syrup than, say, to open a jug of OJ, but the effort pays dividends in this lo-fi vodka Gimlet. We suggest using the classic cocktail ratio: equal parts simple syrup and lime juice, plus twice as much vodka, served ice-cold.