Vodka Cranberry Cocktail

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

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 tart flavors, so cranberry cocktail recipes are where it’s at for us! We had some cranberry juice left over from making Cosmos and Poinsettias and whipped up a vodka cranberry while we were at it. Here’s how to make this classic no-frills drink.

Looking for more inspiration? Our top 20 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. What’s in our version of a vodka cranberry?

  • Vodka
  • 100% unsweetened cranberry juice
  • A touch of maple syrup or simple syrup
  • A squeeze of 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 call for “cranberry juice”, but they really mean “cranberry juice cocktail”! Cranberry juice cocktail (the sweetened version) was all that was available in the 1940’s when these cocktails were being 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. If you’d like, 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

What drinks are related to the vodka cranberry?

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

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Vodka cranberry cocktail

Vodka Cranberry (The Easiest Cocktail!)


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

Description

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.


Scale

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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

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

Keywords: Vodka Cranberry

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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