Vodka Cranberry (Cape Cod) drink recipe

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You might think the Vodka Cranberry drink is simply vodka and cranberry juice, especially since that’s how some bars serve it. Well, some bars do it wrong.

This drink actually has four ingredients, and the last two are very important to the flavor. That means this drink recipe is actually a little more complicated than its name might lead you to believe.

Vodka Cranberry drink with lime garnish

Cape Cod or Vodka Cranberry

I’ve always understood these were two separate drinks. The Cape Cod is literally just vodka and cranberry juice, optionally with a squeeze of lime, and it originated in the northeast. Ocean Spray promoted it decades ago to sell cranberry juice.

The Vodka Cranberry is, in my experience, more of a West Coast drink, and it includes two additional ingredients in very small amounts. They change the flavor profile just enough that, to me at least, they’re two different drinks.

I first learned about the Vodka Cranberry in Los Angeles bars, and the recipe I include here was given to me by a bartender I knew.

But the internet has decided they are the same cocktail, and they are both just vodka and cranberry juice, so there you go. Obviously the thing to do with either of these recipes is to experiment to find the version you like best!

The real drink recipe

A proper Vodka Cranberry also uses a touch of Rose’s sweetened lime and some orange juice to bring out the best of the cranberry flavor.

Because vodka doesn’t really change the flavor of the cranberry juice, this cocktail would just taste like straight cranberry juice without some help. The orange and lime add hints of something sharp and bright.

This cocktail recipe is pretty light on the alcohol, so feel free to vary it according to your taste and tolerance. The only alcohol in this drink is vodka, so you can add a little more if you prefer.

You can also leave it out completely when you want a mocktail. That makes it great for parties where some guests might not be drinking.

If you’re making it as a virgin cocktail, you might want to add a little more of the orange and lime to make it extra special. It doesn’t take much – just a few dashes, or maybe half an ounce.

Vodka Cranberry drink on gray textured surface

What the Vodka Cranberry drink tastes like

The Vodka Cranberry is sometimes thought of as a beginner’s drink because it’s not very strong and you don’t really taste the alcohol. But it’s a delicious drink for anyone.

The great thing about this drink is how refreshing it is without being strong. The lime and cranberry are both tart, which really wakes up your taste buds. 

But you also get some sweetness from the dash of orange juice, and that makes it delicious.

Overhead view of Vodka Cranberry drink with lime garnish

Note that some bartenders do make this drink much stronger. The classic recipe only calls for an ounce of vodka, but some put in a good bit more.

When it’s mixed according to this recipe, the only reason you’ll know the vodka is in there is that slight burn you feel as it goes down. And it is really slight.

If you want a regular strength drink, you certainly can bump the vodka up to the standard 1 1/2 ounces without changing the flavor noticeably.

If you want your drink on the strong side, bump it up to two ounces of vodka and just reduce the cranberry juice accordingly.

Vodka Cranberry Drink in tall glass with cranberries by poolside

Brunch, anyone?

While the Vodka Cranberry might not sound like your usual brunch drink, it actually works because it has such a high ratio of fruit juice to alcohol.

And cranberry juice tastes great with a lot of brunch foods. Try it with omelets or quiche, or breakfast pastries.

It goes surprisingly well with a good cinnamon bun. too. Cranberry and cinnamon might not sound like the most obvious pairing, but it works. Especially with gobs of sugar icing.

Three Vodka Cranberry drinks in cocktail glasses on a bar

A refreshing cocktail

Because this drink contains several ounces of cranberry juice, it’s also refreshing in the sense that it’s truly hydrating. It’s even got a few vitamins in it.

And that makes it great for a night of dancing. It puts back some of the vitamins and hydration you’re sweating out as you enjoy yourself.

It’s also great for a day in hot weather. It’s perfect for poolside or anytime you’re going to be out in the heat.

If you like this drinkā€¦

Before we get to the recipe: there are a few other drinks you should check out.

Bright red Desert Shield cocktail on placemat

If you like this drink, you should also check out the Desert Shield, which blends vodka and cranberry with cranberry liqueur. If you want pure cranberry flavor, that’s the drink for you.

Crystal Cranberry drink with lemons on cutting board

There’s also the Crystal Cranberry, which features amaretto, Crown Royal, gin, cranberry juice and more. It does make a change from this drink, but the taste of it is wonderful.

C&T Cocktail with lime wheel

There’s also the C&T Cocktail, which blends cranberry and gin with Absolut Mandarin and more. That one is so good.

Closeup of two Long Beach Iced Tea cocktails

And you may also want to try the Long Beach Iced Tea, which is very strong and very tasty. It features cranberry juice, triple sec and lots of white liquors.

Vodka Cranberry drink with lime garnish

Vodka Cranberry Cocktail

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes

The Vodka Cranberry is a very simple drink to make, but it's so delicious. With tart cranberry and lime, and a dash of sweet orange juice, it's great for an evening out.


  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 4 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 1 dash Rose's lime
  • 1 dash orange juice


  1. Fill an old-fashioned glass halfway up with ice.
  2. Pour all the ingredients in.
  3. Serve with a straw for stirring and sipping.

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Last Updated:

April 2, 2024