Category Archives: vodka

Iceberg Vodka

iceberg vodka

We recently tried Iceberg Vodka on the podcast, and we were really impressed with what we tasted, especially in the flavored versions. Before I was contacted by Iceberg, I’d never heard of this brand before. It’s an affordable vodka ($20 range) with some interesting (though not childish) flavor options.

As with many vodkas, it’s story is a large portion of sales, and Iceberg is no different. It’s a corn-based Canadian vodka which uses water from an iceberg as it’s base liquid (50-60% of vodka is water). Iceberg’s site goes into detail about the iceberg “harvesting process,” plus the rationale behind the purity of an iceberg, it’s been frozen 12,000 years, etc. Ultimately, of course, the flavor of the vodka is more critical to it’s long life than it’s backstory, and Iceberg delivers.

Distilled from sweet Canadian corn, Iceberg is a creamy and sweet vodka (thanks, corn!) with an average amount of vodka burn, and is certainly a vodka you should consider in the $20 price range.

Iceberg Ice Fusion Cucumber has lots of cucumber flavor, is not sweetened at all, and is a refreshing and tasty vodka flavor (I’ve tasted a cucumber vodka here before). Lisa recommended mixing this vodka with mint. I’m curious about how it’ll taste in a Bloody Mary.

Iceberg Ice Fusion Creme Brulee isn’t syrupy, though it is sweetened just a touch. This would be great with a hot drink, from coffee to tea to a hot toddy. It’s easier to drink because of the sugar and it has a nice, natural vanilla/caramel flavor. This was Lisa’s favorite of the bunch.

Iceberg Ice Fusion Chocolate Mint is a wonderfully creative vodka flavor, and in this case, it’s not overly sweet. I preferred this flavor to the Creme Brulee because of the toned down sweetness and more subtle flavors – I’m curious to try it out in a White Russian or Alexander cocktail.

We tasted Iceberg on the Simple Cocktails Podcast, too. Click here to listen.


A Simple Bloody Mary Bar

bloody mary bar

Bloody Marys are an interesting cocktail in many ways. Firstly, they’re not simple – both the ingredients and garnishes can be huge lists of spices and pickled things. Second, they occupy the very fun day drinking and traditional brunch-drink space with Mimosas and Bellinis.

That being said, we still like to keep things simple, even with something as complex as the Bloody Mary. If you visit the reviews page at this blog, you’ll see that I’ve tasted many natural ‘Mary mixes, and many of them are awesomely delicious. Recently, we had brunch at Simple Cocktails headquarters, and here’s how we did the Bloody Mary bar.

Get the liquor and the Bloody Mary mix in a pitcher, with ice, ahead of time. We got them ready 1/2 hour before brunch. I used regular vodka. while you may be tempted to break out the Hot Monkey for this occasion, not everyone likes a spicy  Bloody Mary. For our mix this time around, I got a jug of Trader Joe’s Garden Patch juice, which contains lots of tomato juice, several other veggie juices, plus a little lemon juice. We discovered it’s pretty great for Bloody Marys.

When your Bloody Mary is in the pitcher, you can go about setting out your garnishes. In this case, we set out celery sticks, jalapeño olives, regular olives, cornichons, Sriracha, salt and pepper, lemon and lime wedges. I pre-rimmed the glasses with Crazy Steve’s Bloody Mary Salt, too.

Once the party started, it was a simple process for everyone: pour your Bloody Mary into your glass and toss in all the garnishes you want. A small amount of prep will make is so that you have a simple, self-serve Bloody Mary bar next time you brunch!


Our Stanley Cocktail

our stanley cocktail

My first homemade cocktail was a Borodino, which is a 1:1:1 variation of the drink pictured here. If you’ve ever visited our Buyers Guide section, you’ve seen that the first 4 bottles of liquor I recommend that you buy are vodka, gin, triple sec, and dry vermouth. This cocktail uses 3 of those 4.

The cool thing about this particular cocktail is that subtle adjustments to the brands you use, particularly in the gin and triple sec, will make a big difference in the flavor of this drink. For instance, a barrel-aged gin, or Cointreau instead of a simple triple sec will give you all sorts of flavors to play with.  Also there’s no garnish, so if you’re still growing your home bar this should be a cinch to make.

In this case of my cocktail, I decided to use Brothers Old Tom Gin, a local Albuquerque gin from Left Turn Distilling, a gin that’s a touch sweet with heavy citrus. Here’s how to make Our Stanley:

Our Stanley


Black Martini

black martini

Last year, I made a Harry Potter-themed cocktail for Halloween: the Devil’s Snare. For several years, though, I’ve meant to make a Black Martini for Halloween, and now that I have a bottle of Sambuca, I can.

This is a two-ingredient cocktail that’s perfect for Halloween, though I will say, that if you’re not a black licorice fan, remember that Black Sambuca has a strong anise flavor, so if that’s not your cup of tea, maybe revert to last year’s cocktail.

Before you begin, you need to get a little messy. Make a small amount of Halloween sugar by adding some dashes of Angostura bitters to regular sugar.

halloween bitter sugar

Then wet your finger slightly with Sambuca (which is very sticky) and run that around the rim of the glass, then sprinkle the sugar on it. Let the glass sit while you make the drink:

Black Martini

  • in a mixing glass, combine:
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz black Sambuca
  • stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with “Halloween” sugar

Enjoy…and happy Halloween!

We make a Black Martini on the Simple Cocktails podcast, too. Listen here. 

For a video of Greg making the this cocktail, click here.

Cocktails with Ciroc Coconut and Peach

ciroc peach and coconut cocktails

Like I said in a post earlier this week, Ciroc’s flavors really caught me off guard. I was a pleasantly surprised that they weren’t sweetened (flavored vodkas almost always are). Since I liked them so much, I’ve been dreaming up some cocktails to use these Ciroc flavors with and so I’ve been digging around in recipe books for cocktails that would go well with flavored vodka. Here are some recipes I really liked with Ciroc Coconut and Ciroc Peach (pictured left to right):

Ciroc Coco Creme (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz Ciroc Coconut
  • 3 oz coconut water
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz half and half
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

*frozen blueberries are jucier when they thaw and squish up in the shaker better than fresh ones.

Our Stanley (from the Bartender’s Bible)

  • in a mixing glass or pint glass, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz Ciroc Peach (the original recipe calls for regular vodka)
  • 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz triple sec (orange liqueur)
  • stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Remember, you can get a free cocktail PDF book by registering for our email newsletter here.


Cocktails with Ciroc Pineapple

cocktails with ciroc pineapple

I confess to being totally alarmed at how much I liked some of the the Ciroc vodka flavors on a recent podcast episode, and again in my review. Since that initial tasting, I’ve been dreaming up with some recipes that I think will taste great with these Ciroc flavors. Here are 2 recipes — one that I came up with and one from a recipe book — to try with Ciroc Pineapple (pictured left to right):

Purpina (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 2 oz Ciroc Pineapple
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • about 20 thawed, frozen blueberries*
  • shake vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lime wedge

*frozen blueberries are jucier when they thaw and squish up in the shaker better than fresh ones.

Firefly (from the Bartender’s Bible)

  • in a highball glass full of ice, add:
  • 2 oz Ciroc Pineapple (the original recipe calls for regular vodka)
  • 4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • drizzle 1 tsp of grenadine over the top
  • do not stir
  • serve with a straw

Remember, you can get a free cocktail PDF book by registering for our email newsletter here.


Ciroc Flavored Vodka

ciroc flavored vodkas

Ciroc is one of those infamous liquors – a “premium” spirit with star as a spokesperson. In this case, it’s Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and as a matter of fact, he announced Ciroc’s newest flavor, pineapple (pictured above) on his Instagram profile.

There are paragraphs I could write about marketing, the use of spokespeople (particularly in liquor), and all that, but I’m no industry pundit. I’m just your average home bartender and booze writer, so I’m going to skip all that fluff if you don’t mind?

Ciroc’s portfolio includes 6 total types of the distilled-from-grapes vodka, in our tasting, we didn’t try the regular Ciroc or Amaretto, we stuck with 4 fruity flavors in the photo above. Flavored vodka often uses a bit of sugar to enhance its taste, which drops the alcohol level about 10% as well. In Ciroc’s case, all of the flavors fall at 35% alcohol. I poured lots of little tasting cups of these Ciroc flavors, and as the vodka dribbled on my hands, I waited for the sticky.

It never came.

That’s right, these are not sweetened vodkas, and I was pretty surprised at that. Every one of them is pretty subtly flavored, but overall, tastes like a nice vodka with a splash of not-sweet flavor.

As far as the flavors are concerned, four of us tasted them together. The favorite flavor was either Coconut (my favorite), Pineapple, or Peach, depending on the person. Unfortunately, Red Berry was universally panned as everyone’s least favorite for tasting like “artificial candy flavor” and “cough medicine.” Of the three that we liked, opinions varied about which flavor was the most natural tasting, though pretty much everyone agreed that these flavors not only tasted good on their own, but we were tempted to mix them together, too. 1/3 Coconut, 1/3 Pineapple, and 1/3 Coconut water would make an awesome, clean-tasting, simple cocktail for sure.

At $30 each, these are good flavored vodkas without the goofiness of the dying flavored vodka trend. These would actually make awesome subtle twists to some classic cocktail recipes. Coconut in a Cosmopolitan, maybe a Peach Moscow Mule, would be a fun twist using tasty vodka.

To hear us taste Ciroc flavors, you can listen to this episode of the Simple Cocktails Podcast.

Green Dragon Cocktail

green dragon cocktail

Lisa and I recently compared 3 different types of Chartreuse on the podcast and it reminded me how much I love the stuff. I looked through my recipe books for Chartreuse cocktails, and found the simplest one ever. This is a vodka-and-green version of the Alaska, a gin-and-yellow Chartreuse cocktail. Try it out, but sip it slowly – vodka’s 40% alcohol and green Chartreuse is 55%!

Green Dragon

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 oz green Chartreuse
  • stir with lots of ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass



I dug this cocktail out of Gary Regan’s Bartender’s Bible while I was on the hunt for simple vodka cocktails. It’s sort of a banana version of an eggy Vodka Sour. While the recipe has you serving it on the rocks, I think in hindsight I would have made it without ice because it accentuates the egg foam on top better.

Take a crack at the Spymaster:


  • in a shaker combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1/2 creme de banane
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • egg white
  • shake without ice (to foam up the egg), then add ice and shake again
  • strain into an old fashioned glass



This cocktail is a simple alternative to “________ and Coke,” and though it only adds one more ingredient, it’s more of a drink because it requires just a tad more effort. The ratios are simple, too, so it’s easy to make quickly. Here’s a grown-up-chocolate-Coke, otherwise known as a Piranha:


  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz brown creme de cacao (chocolate liqueur)
  • 1 oz cola
  • build on the rocks in an old fashioned glass
  • stir briefly to mix

Remember you can subscribe to our email newsletter and download our free Simple Cocktails recipe booklet now!