Vodka is the ideal spirit for the holidays because its neutral flavor profile is the perfect foundation for layering holiday flavors. The distilled, unaged spirit has long been a staple in the regions where it’s produced, such as Scandinavia, Russia, and Eastern Europe. and over time, these countries have evolved from shot glass to cocktail shaker.
Inventive concoctions that evoke the spirit of the season are made all that much better with the addition of vodka. Since it has a neutral aroma, flavor, and color, it’s the prime alcohol to shake and swirl into a glass with botanicals that remind us to celebrate this time of year when our friends and family gather round for festive fun and merry making.
Here are eight vodka cocktails from around the world that embrace this joyous time of celebration and gratitude.
Russia is not necessarily known for its festive spirit but it certainly is known for its vodka. The term “white Russian” denotes a sympathizer of the tsar during the 1917 Russian revolution. The cocktail itself is far less political. It wasn’t actually created in Russia but was named because of its vodka base. The first incarnation was called a “black Russian” because the coffee liqueur and vodka didn’t include cream. It wasn’t until a splash of heavy cream was added that it became the beloved cocktail it is today. Get the recipe.
Szarlotka in Poland means apple pie, a dessert that is adored throughout the nation. What many Polish people cherish in equal measure of a cocktail of the same name and flavor profile as an apple pie. The traditional szarlotka is made from Żubrówka vodka, a unique Polish brand that contains a piece of bison grass in the bottle. The grass originates in Puszcza Białowieska, a park with a UNESCO world heritage site designation. The addition of apples and cinnamon make this cocktail truly festive and Polish, through and through. Get the recipe.
The Moscow Mule is another cocktail named after a city in Russia that was not invented there but will forever be associated with it. The cocktail, a combination of vodka, ginger beer, and lime served in the iconic chilled copper mug, is a mainstay at holiday parties because it is both easy to prepare and easy on the palate. In this recipe, cranberries are added for a festive red finish. Get the recipe.
Cuban is more famous for its rum cocktails than it is for beverages containing vodka but that doesn’t mean that rum should have all the fun. This simple recipe contains pineapple juice for a hint of the island along with a splash of amaretto for a decadent almond finish. This cocktail would be a festive way to lively up a holiday brunch. Get the recipe.
Glögg means “glow” in Swedish and this is an appropriate moniker for a cherished Scandinavian drink that makes you glow from the inside out with its alchemy of holiday fruit, spices, aquavit, or Swedish vodka, that pairs perfectly with red wine and port. Frequently referred to as mulled wine in America, a pot of glögg simmering gently on the stove, infusing the house with the aroma of spices, is the perfect way to strike a festive mood. Get the recipe.
This is a holiday cocktail in a bottle which makes it easy to whip up for a holiday party because there is no whipping (or shaking or stirring) to do. This British favorite takes a few days to prepare but once the ingredients are combined, there’s nothing more to do but wait for a few days before the Christmas pudding is ready to work its magic in a glass. Get the recipe.
Nothing says festive like sparkling wine bubbles and when they’re combined with lemon and vodka like they are in this festive Italian cocktail recipe, the party has officially begun. For an even more merry affair suited for the holidays, swap out the lemon sorbet for cranberry. Get the recipe.
This is the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary and it’s perfect for a hangover holiday cure or to kick off a festive brunch. It was invented in Calgary in 1969 to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant and pays homage to that classic Bloody Mary ingredient, clamato juice. Get the recipe.