13 Top Chasers To Pair With Vodka - Tasting Table (2024)

Drink co*cktails and Spirits

ByByron ArmstrongandJoanna Kalafatis/

People sometimes confuse chasers and mixers, but they actually serve two very different functions. Unlike mixers, chasers are not mixed in with your alcohol of choice; they are served on the side and drunk after you've consumed a strong liquor to help it go down. Ideally, they're supposed to tone down the aftertaste that can linger after taking a good sip of neat alcohol, or a shot. They can also be a good way to cover any bad-tasting or overly strong elements of not-particularly-good alcohol.

The following chasers are meant to accompany vodka, one of the purest but also strongest liquors on the market.For most drinkers, a good chaser is absolutely necessary in order to be able to gulp down even the best-tasting vodka. A lot of the items on this list have been personally tested (and tasted), while others are recommended by top vodka experts and information sources online, as well as experienced bartenders and vodka companies.

Does vodka need a chaser?

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It is entirely possible and acceptable to drink vodka straight without a chaser, especially if you have purchased a good quality vodka brand. However,despite its clean look and reputation as a supposedly odorless alcohol, vodka can be very strong when drunk on its own (rather than in a co*cktail), and a follow-up flavor can help soften the rather overwhelming taste. This is especially true for those who aren't used tovodka, as it's definitely a bit of an acquired flavor.

That being said, the kind of vodka you buy can have a lot to do with it. Some people who don't like the taste of pure vodka buy one of the many flavored vodkas available in stores, which come in varieties like lemon, citrus, tropical, and caramel flavors. These brands tend to be easier on the palate and stomach of inexperienced vodka drinkers. In addition, a lot of well-made vodkas have a smoother quality than bottom-shelf brands, enabling them to go down easier on their own.Keep in that mind that "well-made" doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive, as some overpriced brands don't rank that highly when it comes to flavor or quality.

1. Olive brine

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Olive brine pairs well with vodka. If you've ever seen or ordered a dirty vodka martini, you know how necessary the olive and its brine are to add complexity to that drink. In fact, being specific about the type of martini you want is one of the most important do's and don'ts of ordering a martinibecause the sodium and briney umami downplay the harshness of vodka.

It makes sense, then, that a shot of olive brine would be a great chaser for a tall glass of vodka. It's basically a deconstructed dirty martini, just spaced out between two glasses. In fact, these flavors pair so well together that vodka producers like Kástra Elión have gone ahead and distilled olives into its liquor. So it stands to reason that olive brine would make an incredible chaser for the right type of vodka, which is whatever you're in the mood for.

2. Water

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Perhaps the most important ingredient in vodka you've never thought about is water. The same element present in every glass of transparent liquor actually derives its name from the English translation of the Russian word voda, meaning "water." But why are we talking about water as an effective chaser for vodka if vodka is literally made from the stuff?

Something else you may not know about the flavor of vodka is that water can have an impact on the taste of it, depending on the salt content. Water as a chaser also has the dual benefit of watering down the alcohol going into your system while hydrating your body as you drink. In other words, you can enjoy more vodka for a longer period by chasing it with water and maybe mitigate the nauseating effects of a hangover while you are enjoying it. That definitely sounds like a winning combination to us.

3. Tonic water

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If you like drinking vodka, you are probably well acquainted with vodka tonics as one of the world's most popular and simple co*cktails. Relatively simple in its execution — the water being an equal ingredient to vodka in the recipe — tonic naturally works as a chaser to pair with vodka, too.

The "tonic" title can be attributed to the carbonated water's medicinal properties, which go back 300 years to 17th century South America as a cure for fevers. Sourced from the bark of the cinchona tree, quinine (the medicinal compound that gives tonic water a slightly bitter aftertaste) also adds layers of bitter and sweet complexity to a vodka. While the sweeteners added to the tonic water don't make it as healthy as natural water, tonic water can still be mildly hydrating.Throw in the benefit of it having a slightly enlivening taste, and you have another winning vodka chaser.

4. Lemonade

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Lemonade is a pretty versatile drink that works well as a mixture for almost any distilled liquor you can think of. Spiked lemonade is one of those drinks that stands the test of time and has survived beyond college dorm room parties because of how great it works with rum, gin, whiskey, and, yes, vodka. In fact, several vodka producers already have some type of lemonade-infused vodka available for purchase for that reason.

Better still, a research study by the National Library of Medicine concluded that lemon juice may actually protect the liver from the damaging effects of alcohol because of the antioxidants present in lemon ... at least in mice.With the concentration of alcohol sitting at about 40% ABV in the U.S., chasing your drink with a shot of sweet, tart, and tangy lemonade sounds like a great way to level up your basic vodka drink and may even have some preventative benefits as well.

5. Ginger beer

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Like a few of the suggested chasers on our list, ginger beer is another chaser that works for people who enjoy the sweet, tastebud-tingling, ginger-based drink in any co*cktail. Although the noted afterburn of gingery heat that emanates from your chest after swallowing it isn't for everyone, regular imbibers of the Moscow mule co*cktail should have no issue with the fiery combo of ginger beer and vodka. Consider it a very basic deconstructed version of a favorite drink, just split up between two glasses.

Unsurprisingly, the vodkas that pair best with your ginger beer chaser are going to be whatever you find to be the best vodkas for your Moscow mule. That all depends on what flavor notes are most important for you to impart on your vodka.A ginger beer chaser is just a natural combination of flavors, and the more carbonated the ginger beer, the more bubbly and crisp a reaction you can expect to follow your vodka with.

6. Iced tea

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Iced tea is maybe the least likely suspect on our list of vodka-paired chasers. The aforementioned lemonade, together with vodka and iced tea, is also its own drink — the John Daly. It's named for a scandalous professional golf champion who was known to consume the beverage regularly. However, when it comes to pure chasers, black tea and vodka without the presence of lemonade is another marriage made in shot chaser heaven.

As evidenced by the existence of a co*cktail known as thevodka sweet tea — a co*cktail that mixes iced black tea, vodka, and your choice of preferred sweetener — the addition of sugar, honey, or syrup to your iced tea will help balance out your glass of vodka's alcoholic kick. It also enhances the hint of herbaceousness in your shot of iced tea while culling some of the astringency of the non-alcoholic part. This is effectively like chasing your vodka with a shot of sweet tea, which sounds all sorts of right.

7. Fruit juice

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Different fruit juices are often used in any number of co*cktails as mixers, with good reason. The uniqueness of the fruit juice imparts itself to whatever liquor you mix it with, making for an interesting flavor collision in your mouth. With lightly flavored alcohol like vodka, the essence of fruit doesn't have to work very hard to deliver those extra layers of taste, and some of the best drinks to mix with vodka, like pineapple, orange, cranberry, and grapefruit juice, also impart an added nutritious benefit.

All told, your fruit juice vodka chaser is only as good as the quality of fruit juice you pair your vodka with. The fruit juices you buy from your local grocery tend to be watered down and higher in unhealthy preservatives, so if quality ingredients matter to you, it may be a better idea to chase your vodka with organic juices made from 100% fruit concentrate. These types of juices hang onto more vitamins without the addition of unnatural chemicals and sugars, making for a better-tasting chaser for your vodka.

8. Pickle brine

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Pickle brine, the salty, tangy liquid leftover in the empty bottle of your favorite pickles, is another fabulous option for vodka. Pickle juice co*cktail recipes are everywhere these days, and if you've ever wondered, "What's up with all these pickle drinks lately?" you may be ready to discover that the answer is found in a shot glass chasing your next round of vodka.

Although the profile of the pickleback — a shot of pickle brine following a sip of whiskey — is rising in America, the Polish have long been using pickle juice brine as a vitamin C-packed cure-all for hangovers and an energy booster. It turns out they may be on to something since The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that the vinegary liquid in pickle juice could reduce inflammation that causes muscle cramps in athletes, while the salty brine-filled pickle juice can lower your blood sugar. The best brines are high quality, staying away from the use of artificial dyes and preservatives, and are your best bet for a proper vodka chaser. The acidic, pungent flavor will accent the flavors of fine spirits and wash out the taste of poor imitators.

9. Tomato juice

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The Bloody Mary is basically a Caesar without the clam juice, and if you've ever had one, you know exactly how well tomato juice pairs with vodka. Chasing vodka with tomato juice is like someone sneaking you a Bloody Mary co*cktail after each sip, with the thickness of tomato coating and cooling your throat as the vodka works its way down. The tartness of tomato actually gives vodka some complexity, while the mouthfeel of the juice imparts a pleasantly pulpy texture against the watery body of the liquor.

Tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C, making them an antioxidant booster capable of removing harsh stuff from your liver while also minimizing the horrible feelings of a hangover. So tomato juice will not only taste incredible chasing your vodka, but its health properties can help stave off a horrible hangover the next day and keep you from feeling the lethargic effects of drinking alcohol.

10. Beer

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The boilermaker, as it's known in America, is a classic combination of beer and whiskey. A shot of the latter gets dropped directly into a beer, each chasing the other. It can also just be a beef followed by a shot, depending on how many you've had. In Russia, a version of the boilermaker called Yorsh. It relies on vodka and is named after an adaptive fish known to survive in any environment you put it in.

Unlike Americans, the Russians prefer to slowly enjoy their vodka boilermaker between small helpings of the previously mentioned appetizers. Divided between two glasses, the mix tastes pretty much like beer with undertones of vodka's grainy aftertaste. This is a combination definitely more about lowering the feel of the alcohol content in a way that doesn't taste or feel like watering it down. In other words, what you get from this chaser is more alcohol in one sitting without sacrificing either the beer or vodka's flavor.

11. Sweet wines

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There are people who believe sweet wines like port or ice wine are too cloyingly sweet to enjoy beyond an aperitif or dessert. What you need to know about ice wine is that the real high-quality stuff actually offers balanced complexity in the form of equal parts natural sugar and acidity. Port, a fortified Portuguese sweet wine named after its birthplace in Porto, very closely mirrors that sugary, acid balance.

With ice wine's low alcohol content sitting somewhere between 10% to 11% alcohol by volume (ABV) and port a little higher at around 19% to 20% ABV, both drinks offer a chaser that is low in alcohol but high in flavor. Ice wine's notes of ripe pitted fruit with citric acidity add fruitiness and zing to an unflavored vodka. Meanwhile, port adds notes of sweet spice and berries to the lingering grain of vodka. The thickness of each wine offers a salve for the astringency of alcohol that may accompany vodka's aftertaste, making your glass of vodka easier to down and better tasting. Imagine a deconstructed lounge chair afternoon or an ice wine martini, and you begin to get an idea of where this chaser can take your vodka.

12. Sparkling water

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Sparkling water, the main ingredient in a vodka soda, can also be separated from the drink as a chaser. It works just fine for the same reason it works as a mixer. The carbonated, low-calorie vibrancy of sparkling water reduces the burning sensation that can accompany a swig of strong vodka while offering the same benefits as plain water when it comes to hydration — offsetting a hangover with its bubbly effervescence.

Nowadays, sparkling water brands are infused with a number of interesting flavors, which creates the additional upside of chasing your vodka with flavor notes of everything from citrus to wild berries and seasonal or tropical fruits. Sparkling water brands like bubly, with options like orange cream and lemon sorbet, make it easier to get a hit of nostalgia with each shot of sparkling water chaser. So now you can enjoy an adult alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic chaser through flavors that remind you of your childhood — and help keep you clear-headed enough to enjoy the memories.

13. Soda

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Soda is the everyday mixer for the unfancy home bartender who just wants to get their alcohol down as smoothly as possible. Vodka is one of those spirits that pairs well with pretty much any decent soda you can think of. Coca-Cola, Sprite, Mountain Dew, you name it, vodka's ability to pair with any soda and hold onto its potency without overpowering the drink is well known. Of course, chasing your vodka with a pop of choice can only make the tasting experience that much better.

One thing to keep in mind if you choose to go this route with your chaser is the sugar content your pop will bring to the proceedings. Althoughthere's no evidence to suggest that combining sugar and alcohol won't ensure a hangover, there are two ways it can raise the likelihood of that happening. Number one, the benefit of flavor enhancement can also become a drawback if you end up drinking more alcohol than you should because of it. Lastly, too much sugar can drastically affect your blood sugar levels, resulting in a sugar high followed by a crash. This adds up to a bad morning made even worse.

Vodka chasers to avoid

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For all the good chasers that exist, there are also plenty of bad ones. Some bad chasers, like milk, might even have reputations of being good for you, supposedly because the milk comforts your stomach after some harsh vodka shots. This couldn't be more wrong. Thanks to the high alcohol content of the vodka, chasing it with milk can actually make itcurdle in your stomach, which will leave you feeling pretty nauseous. Even if this doesn't occur, the flavor profile of milk is completely antithetical to vodka's, making it a bad mix of tastes in your mouth.

Energy drinks can also be a bad idea, even with the popularity of drinks like Vodka and Red Bull among college students. Most energy drinks will counter the effects of alcohol, confusing your system and stressing your heart. They will also further dehydrate you, as opposed to most other chasers that are supposed to take the edge off the sharp taste and minimize the dehydrating effects of vodka.

Methodology

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The research for this article included a combination of methods to ensure we got the best results possible. In addition to personal experience as seasoned vodka drinkers, we delved into online recommendations, reviews, and co*cktail recipes from expert sources. Some of these expert sources included vodka companies like Grey Goose, internationally recognized co*cktail bars like Blacktail, and medical sources like the American Journal of Gastroenterology, which published articles and reports on what substances helped reduce the possibility of hangovers, as well as ameliorate the general effects of drinking.

We also took cues from online liquor bloggers and websites with articles curated by bartenders and industry professionals to ensure that we could find a general positive consensus on the chasers we deemed best for this article. Lastly, we checked out some of the most popular posts right here on Tasting Table that mentioned ingredients that pair well with vodka. After all, even though mixers and chasers are different, some of the flavors that work well when mixed into vodka-based co*cktails also function well as chasers.

13 Top Chasers To Pair With Vodka - Tasting Table (2024)
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