This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

The vodka cranberry might be the easiest cocktail ever, starring vodka and cranberry juice! Here’s how to make this tart drink, also called a Cape Codder.

Vodka cranberry cocktail
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!

Here’s one of the easiest cocktail recipes you can make: the vodka cranberry! It’s got only a handful of ingredients and it tastes tart and refreshing. Even better (or worse?), it goes down easy. The flavor is nicely balanced so that the alcohol is not too strong. Alex and I love cranberry cocktail recipes, and we had some cranberry juice left over from making Cosmos. We used the leftovers to whip up a vodka cranberry and it hit the spot. Here’s how to make this classic no-frills drink.

Looking for more cocktails? Try our top 30 great cocktails you should know.

Vodka cranberry cocktail

What’s in this vodka cranberry?

Is it really that simple? Is it just vodka and cranberry juice? Yes! And no. Alex and I have added a few little elements to our recipe to really make it shine. But it’s still one of the easiest cocktails you can make! It’s part of a family of highball cocktails: drinks that use a larger portion of a non-alcoholic mixer. What’s in our version of a vodka cranberry?

  • Vodka
  • 100% unsweetened cranberry juice
  • Maple syrup or simple syrup
  • Lime

All of those ingredients are served on the rocks (or with crushed ice). You’ll simply mix them all together with a bar spoon: no cocktail shaker needed! No fancy glassware needed here either: anything goes.

A little drink history: the Cape Codder!

Where did the vodka cranberry cocktail come from? Believe it or not, this classic drink was invented by Ocean Spray itself (you know, the cranberry company?). What a marketing ploy! It was invented in the 1940’s, and we’re still drinking them today.

The drink was originally called a Red Devil, but it was renamed to Cape Codder in the early 1960’s. So, vodka cranberry, Cape Cod, and Cape Codder all the mean the same thing!

Cape codder

Cranberry juice vs cranberry juice cocktail

Here’s an important point: so pay attention! Cranberry juice is different from cranberry juice cocktail. What’s the difference?

  • Cranberry juice is unsweetened: it tastes tart and is labeled as “100% juice”.
  • Cranberry juice cocktail is sweetened, often with added sugars or high-fructose corn syrup.

Here’s the thing: most cranberry cocktail recipes that call for “cranberry juice” really mean “cranberry juice cocktail!” The sweetened version was all that was available in the 1940’s when these cocktails were invented.

This vodka cranberry uses unsweetened juice!

While most traditional versions of a vodka cranberry use sweetened cranberry juice, this recipe uses 100% cranberry juice! Consider it a modern spin on the classic. Why use unsweetened juice here?

  • It has less sugar, and you can customize the sweetness. Use 100% juice and the drink has less sugar overall. To balance the flavor, we added sweetness back to the drink by adding maple syrup or simple syrup. You can make it more tart or a little more sweet depending on your taste! Alex and I prefer using maple syrup because it provides a gentler sweetness.
  • The color is brighter. The color is bright pink because 100% juice has a deeper color.
Vodka cranberry

There’s a whole family of drinks related to the vodka cranberry! Here are the most popular cranberry cocktails, many of which are in the vodka cocktail family:

Cosmopolitan cocktail
The Cosmopolitan cocktail is a cousin of the Cape Codder

When to serve a vodka cranberry cocktail

The vodka cranberry cocktail or Cape Codder is a laid-back, no-frills drink. You don’t need any special equipment or special glasses to make it, but it still seems special. It’s great as a:

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Vodka cranberry cocktail

Vodka Cranberry (New & Improved!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The vodka cranberry might be the easiest cocktail ever, starring vodka and cranberry juice! Here’s how to make this tart drink, also called a Cape Codder.


  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) vodka
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) 100% unsweetened cranberry juice (do not use sweetened!)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or simple syrup*
  • 1 lime wedge


  1. Fill a glass with crushed ice. Pour in the vodka, cranberry juice and syrup and stir with bar spoon.
  2. Squeeze the lime wedge on top, then add it to the drink as a garnish.


*If all you can find is sweetened cranberry juice or cranberry juice cocktail, omit the syrup.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktail

More vodka cocktails

Got a bottle of vodka to use up? Here are a few more popular vodka cocktails to try:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 1word says:

    This vodka cranberry cocktail is delicious! I love the addition of the orange juice.

  2. Jane Brown says:

    This drink is amazing. How would I make it in a pitcher..
    What would the measurements be!
    Thank you

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! Just multiply by 8:

      1 cup vodka
      3 cups 100% unsweetened cranberry juice
      3 tablespoons maple syrup or simple syrup*

  3. Margaret Gross says:

    I love this drink. I make a version of this at Thanksgiving/Christmas. I make a ginger infused simple syrup and add it instead of plain simple syrup. It gives this drink a lovely holiday twist. And you can make this without Vodka as a punch with the plain or ginger infused simple syrup. I severed the punch at an office party and it was a hit.

  4. Jim T says:

    Agave syrup works great, especially with a pinch of lime juice.