Home Knowledge 11 Vodka Substitutes – Cocktails And Recipes

11 Vodka Substitutes – Cocktails And Recipes

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A vodka bottle next to cocktails and a shot of vodka

Vodka is a popular liquor with virtually no color, flavor, or odor. This makes it a handy ingredient for cocktails and cooking. If you can’t or won’t use it, then keep reading; we’ve got vodka substitutes for every conceivable application.

What can I use as a substitute for vodka?

To replace vodka in a cocktail, use a similar clear spirit like gin, white rum, tequila, or sake. Although they have a little extra taste, they’re still perfect for your next White Russian or Cosmopolitan. In cooking, you’ll find that apple cider, grape juice, or water will work fine.

Substitutes for Vodka Infographic

1. Gin

Use in: Alcoholic cocktails.

While gin will add a slightly herbaceous, juniper berry flavor to your drinks, the difference is minimal. Gin makes an excellent replacement for vodka in most cocktail recipes. It’s perfect for splashing into the classics like a Bloody Mary or Harvey Wallbanger.

Gin is also clear, so it won’t muddy up the other colors that get added to the glass. Use the same amounts as you would vodka.

Bloody Mary Cocktails in jars with celery
Gin is useful for cocktails like Bloody Marys.

2. White rum

Use in: Alcoholic cocktails.

White rum doesn’t go through the filtration process that vodka does, so it’ll have more flavor than vodka. Bottles range from fruity and sweet to herbal or even savory.

If you want a substitute with a similar flavorless taste, opt for the cheapest bottle in the store. You won’t get the herbaceous depth of flavor that comes from a higher-priced brand.

Mixologists can use white rum in any cocktail that calls for vodka. They are especially well suited to the Daiquiri, Pina Colada, or Mojito.

3. Sake

Use in: Alcoholic cocktails.

Over the years, vodka has been responsible for many hangovers. It’s easy to go overboard drinking the stuff! If you want the night to last a little longer then try sake as a replacement. The alcohol volume will vary depending on the bottle. In most cases, it will be much weaker than vodka.

Sake is an alcoholic beverage that’s made from fermented rice. It’s sweet, fruity, and aromatic. This makes it a delicious drink for stirring into Sangria, Mojitos, or Martinis.

To learn more about sake, check out what sake tastes like and how to store sake.

4. Tequila

Use in: Alcoholic cocktails.

Going in the other direction from sake, if you want to party like it’s 1999 then use tequila. Blue agave gives the beverage a fruity, earthy, and sweet taste. You can add it to a Kamikaze, Moscow Mule, Margaritas, or make tequila laybacks if you want a night to remember.

Kamikaze cocktails next to limes
Try tequila in drinks like a Kamikaze or Margarita.

5. Lemonade

Use in: Non-alcoholic mocktails.

Not everyone wants to drink alcohol and that’s where lemonade steps in. Use it to turn any vodka cocktail into a delicious mocktail, suitable for non-drinkers and kids.

Lemonade is a lot sweeter than vodka. If there are other sweet ingredients in the cocktail, like honey or a simple syrup, then leave them out. Otherwise, your drink may be sickly sweet. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice to give your drink some zing.

Tip: Lemonade won’t work in every drink that calls for vodka. For example, you wouldn’t add it to an espresso martini.

Other mixes like tonic water, mineral water, or sparkling water can also be used.

6. Whiskey

Use in: Pie crusts.

Some bakers prefer using vodka instead of water for moistening pie crust pastry. The alcohol allows you to work the dough without contributing to gluten formation. This stops the crust from turning leathery once baked.

If you’re making pies and don’t have any vodka, then whiskey is a good alternative. You’ll still get a delicious flaky crust with a very subtle hint of the whiskey.

Bakers that don’t want any new flavors added are best to revert to water instead of vodka. Use less water than you would vodka as it won’t burn off as fast as alcohol does.

Apple Pie and Ice Cream
Whiskey makes a delicious alternative to vodka in pie crust.

7. Mezcal

Use in: Ice cream.

Dessert makers have long known that alcohol has a relatively low freezing point. This makes it perfect for adding to ice cream during churning. You get a creamier, smoother homemade ice cream than you would without it.

Many ice cream recipes call for vodka but any clear spirit works well. Mezcal is an excellent substitute, bringing a delicious, slightly smoky taste to your dessert.

8. Premade vodka sauce

Use in: Pasta sauce

For creamy, tomato-based Italian dishes like penne alla vodka, vodka plays a vital role in the recipe. It helps to mellow any acidity from the tomatoes and also stops the cream from separating. Vodka also adds a sharpness that balances out the sweetness from the tomatoes.

If you’ve got no vodka then a premade vodka sauce is a quick and easy solution. There are a selection of brands available from the big chain stores like Walmart and Target. They are also available online. Brands like Pregos and Bertolli provide excellent quality sauce without the need for buying a bottle of vodka.

For pasta sauce also try: Grappa – an aromatic, grape-based pomace brandy. Choose a high strength bottle.

9. Schnapps

Use in: Aperitif

If you enjoy a quiet aperitif after dinner, you’ll probably find vodka a little too intense. For a sweeter, more mellow drink try schnapps. This drink varies as it is flavored with fruits – it’s versatile enough to be used in cocktails as well.

Another good aperitif liqueur that you may prefer over vodka is akvavit. It’s a Scandinavian drink that is distilled from potatoes and grain. Dill and caraway give this spirit a distinct herbaceous flavor that many Europeans enjoy.

10. Brandy

Use in: Flambe

Are you cooking a savory dish that calls for vodka to flambe the food? Any high-alcohol spirit will work, but brandy is an especially popular choice amongst chefs. You can also use this liqueur for deglazing the pan.

Also try: Sherry

11. Juice

Use in: Alcohol-free cooking

For most recipes and drinks that call for vodka, you can usually get away with using juice. Old-fashioned apple juice is your best option or white grape juice. Apple cider will also make a great alcoholic-free choice and orange juice is sometimes okay if you’re in a pinch.

Expert tip: Want clear, odorless alcohol for cocktail making? Why not invest in a moonshine still and make your own? Just be sure to check it’s okay to make the stuff where you live.

Summary table of vodka alternatives

ApplicationSuggested Substitute
AperitifSchnapps, akvavit, amaretto
BakingJuice, water, apple cider
BatterWater, beer
Bloody MaryGin
Cake decoratingLemon extract, rose spirit
CocktailsGin, white rum, brandy, tequila, sake, whiskey
CookingBrandy, bourbon, white wine, juice, water
Food coloringLemon extract
Frying (batters)Water
Ice creamMezcal, gin, white rum
Jello shotsGin, rum, tequila, bourbon, champagne
KetoWhite rum
Luster dustLemon extract, rose spirit
MarmaladeGin
MartiniWhite rum
MojitoWhite rum
Non alcoholicLemonade, juice, apple cider, water
Penne alla vodkaPremade vodka sauce
Pie CrustWhiskey
Vanilla extractBrandy, bourbon, white rum
Vodka saucePremade vodka sauce
White RussianGin

Related reading:
How do I replace grenadine?
What are the best Barenjager substitutes?
How many ml in a shot?
What are the best Pernod substitutes?

Summing up

Vodka is a unique spirit often made from ingredients like wheat, rye, corn, sorghum, and potatoes. It’s a clear, neutral-tasting drink ideal for cocktails and cooking.

If the only thing stopping you from using it is a short trip to the liquor store, then you’re best to go get it. Nothing will perfectly mimic vodka. If you’ve got no choice, then gin, white rum, sake, or tequila will also work fine (using the same amount). They’ll add a unique new flavor, but it won’t be unpleasant.

For those looking for a non-alcoholic substitute, lemonade or mineral water is fine for mocktails. In cooking, you can use water, juice, or apple cider. You may even want to leave it out and not replace it.