Lemon Drop Martini: Best Cocktail Recipe + 5 Delicious Variations
Looking to expand your collection of signature cocktails, find a new bar staple, or just try something new? Maybe you’ve grown tired of the same old, same old and want a classic refreshment that’ll never go out of style.
As a great drink for every occasion, perhaps you’ve heard of the lemon drop martini. And while this cocktail is arguably one of the best choices out there, there’s still a lot to consider when preparing and serving the perfect glass.
It’s zesty, it’s sweet, it’s sour — classic flavors that’ll have everyone buzzing for more. That’s the allure of the lemon drop martini, and in this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into this party drink.
Once you’ve perfected this recipe, we’re sure you’ll be keen to experiment with this cocktail – maybe even creating a whole new brew that you’ll love just as much in the process. That’s why we’ve worked hard to include everything you’ll ever need in our guide, such as:
- The basics of a lemon drop martini, its history, and ingredients
- The best vodka brands to use for this cocktail
- A short and simple recipe for making a lemon drop martini
- Tips and tricks on how to serve a perfect glass of lemon drop martini
- Other similar cocktails for you to try out and explore.
Get your cocktail shaker, curiosity, and a classic bottle of vodka because we’ll be exploring everything you need to know about this amazing drink.
What a Lemon Drop Martini Is
The lemon drop martini may be straightforward, but don’t be deceived as it’s this simplicity that makes the drink delectable.
The balance of sweet and sour flavors and clear, refreshing taste make it a classic menu favorite. The lemon drop martini is typically served straight up (meaning it’s shaken with ice and then strained), making for a cool and smooth drink.
Brief History & Origin
The lemon drop martini is likely named after the popular hard candy, and its invention is attributed to Norman Jay Hobday in the 1970s.
Hobday invented the drink and served it at his bar, Henry Africa’s, in San Francisco, California. The drink then spread from there like wildfire and is now found in bars and restaurants all over the world.
The official ingredients of the lemon drop martini are 60 ml of vodka citron, 20 ml of triple sec, and 30 ml of lemon juice, in addition to 20 ml of simple syrup.
The drink is commonly served with a sugar rim, and is also frequently decorated with a lemon garnish. Lemon-flavored or other citrus vodkas are also suitable alternatives to use for this cocktail.
Best Vodka Brands for a Lemon Drop Martini
As with any cocktail, the quality of the base liquor used makes a huge impact on the final product. By starting with a delicious, high-end vodka, you’ll be able to ensure that your lemon drop will truly shine. Be sure to experiment and try out a few different brands to find your favorite for this cocktail.
This well-known Swedish vodka brand never disappoints. Absolut Citron is flavored with lemons and limes, making for a subtle but strong citrus flavor. For an added authentic flavor, this vodka also uses lemon peel – giving the drink just a hint of bitterness while increasing its tart flavor profile.
Ketel One Citroen
Ketel One is a vodka distillery from Holland that prides itself on its family values and generational expertise. Resting on centuries of passed-down knowledge, each batch of Ketel One vodka is still personally sampled by a member of the family to ensure its quality.
The citron drink infuses four separate lemon essences with two lime essences, resulting in a bright and fresh vodka. It’s also slightly sweetened with honey, leading to warm afternotes.
Grey Goose Le Citron
This French vodka is famous for a reason. Le Citron from Grey Goose is made using the essence of Menton lemons, which are known for being larger and sweeter than other varieties. This makes Grey Goose’s citron vodka, renowned for its bright flavor and warm finish, one of the best out there.
Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka
This stellar liquor from Deep Eddy is lemon-flavored vodka as opposed to vodka citron. What this means is that rather than using citrus essences, it’s flavored with fresh lemon juice, making it an excellent choice for a lemon drop martini.
This vodka is also sweetened with cane sugar, which is something to keep in mind when deciding how much simple syrup to add to your cocktail.
St. George California Citrus
If you’re after a bit of a spin on the classic lemon drop, using St. George Vodka is a great place to start. This California distillery uses two varieties of locally grown oranges, as well as bergamot – a green citrus fruit with a distinct tangy and bitter flavor.
These fresh orange flavors are blended from individually distilled batches to create a unique and perfectly balanced drink.
Crop Meyer Lemon Vodka
This artisanal vodka brand prides itself on being all-organic and using only the highest-quality ingredients. Its vodka is flavored with Meyer lemons, a sweet and floral citrus that’s a cross between a citron and a mandarin. This gives the drink subtle undertones, as well as a bright balance between sweet and tart.
Hangar 1 Buddha’s Hand Citron
This unique vodka is flavored with Buddha’s hand citron, the ancestor of all modern lemons. This gives it a less tart, more complex flavor profile that’s helped along by the added notes of jasmine, basil, and apricot.
Hangar 1 spirits also come in a unique bottle that features vintage brown glass and a cork top, emphasizing their handcrafted nature.
Recipe – How to Make a Lemon Drop Martini
Now that you know the basics of the lemon drop martini and have some worthy recommendations for what to use for the base vodka, why not give it a go?
There are plenty of recipes for this cocktail out there, but the one below is tried, true and super easy to make. Once you’ve got it down, feel free to experiment until your drink tastes just how you like it.
- Wet the rim of a martini glass with lemon juice and twist it into a plate of sugar
- Combine two ounces of vodka, ¾ ounce of triple sec, one ounce of lemon juice, ¾ ounce of simple syrup, and a handful of ice into a cocktail shaker
- Shake until chilled or for around 30 seconds
- Pour into the prepared glass and serve immediately.
Tip: For an easy way to upgrade your lemon drop, try using lemon sugar to rim your glass. Simply add lemon zest to your plate of sugar and rub it in until the sugar appears yellow and radiates a sweet aroma.
The best thing about this technique is that it doesn’t require any additional ingredients to take your cocktail game to the next level.
How to Serve and Drink a Lemon Drop Martini
The lemon drop martini is a very versatile drink that you’re sure to love no matter the situation. However, as with any cocktail, keeping presentation, timing, and pairings in mind will elevate your experience. Here are a few suggestions to really make your martini shine.
Time & Occasions for Drinking a Lemon Drop Martini
This cocktail’s tangy brightness makes it the perfect drink for a hot day. The refreshing sourness of this cool drink transforms any sunny backyard gathering into a real party. It’s also a popular evening choice, as an afternoon indulgence, or a treat following dinner.
Knowing when it’s best to serve a lemon drop martini won’t just help the drink match the occasion – it’ll also show that you’re a well-versed host.
When serving lemon drop martinis, you’ll have a wide variety of ideal food pairings to serve with the drink. You can either go with fresh, light fare or something more savory.
Appetizers like chips and salsa, bruschetta, or flatbreads work excellently. If you’re instead preparing a full meal, the citrus tones of a lemon drop martini perfectly complement salad, pasta, or fresh seafood.
Best Glass to Serve a Lemon Drop Martini
Traditionally, lemon drops are served in a martini or standard cocktail glass. The wide surface area of this glass allows fragrant aromas to be released, which results in the drink’s taste coming through more fully.
Additionally, this glass has the advantage of an easy-to-hold stem – ensuring that your skin doesn’t come in contact with the bowl and, in turn, warm the drink.
Variations of Lemon Drop Martini
If you think you’ve got the basics down, why not try experimenting? One of the best things about the lemon drop martini is that you can take the core ideas that underlie this beloved drink and do anything you want with it (within reason of course).
These variations allow you to experience the cocktail you love with a twist.
Lemon Drop Martini with 3 Ingredients
If you don’t enjoy triple sec or just don’t have any on hand, you can still make a lemon drop martini without it. Simply increase the ingredient ratio to make up for the missing liquid, or add a bit more vodka if you enjoy a stronger drink.
While the triple sec adds notes of orange, giving the cocktail a more complex profile, the three-ingredient lemon drop is fresh, simple, and still delicious.
Lemon Drop Shot
Looking to party? It’s easy enough to make powerful, delicious lemon drop shots as well. To make around eight shots, simply combine a cup of your choice of vodka, two tablespoons of simple syrup, and two tablespoons of lemon juice – then shake, serve, and enjoy.
You can even make a sugar rim for your shot glasses for a special celebratory touch.
Smirnoff Lemon Drop Martini
If you’re not interested in shelling out for an expensive bottle of vodka – no worries. You can just as easily make a lemon drop martini with Smirnoff or other middle-shelf brand of your choice as well. Just make sure you serve your cocktails chilled to preserve the flavor.
Classic Lemon Drop Martini
On the other hand, if you’re looking to make the ultimate lemon drop, there are a few extra steps you can take.
For this one, make sure to use high-end citron vodka and freshly squeezed lemon juice. You should also use Cointreau as your triple sec and add lemon zest to your sugar rim or dehydrated peel as a garnish.
Lemon Drop Limoncello Martini
Looking for even more lemon? Try making a limoncello lemon drop. The limoncello replaces both the triple sec and the simple syrup in the martini (due to its high sugar and alcohol content), so this swap can cut down on your shopping list as well.
Some excellent limoncello brands to try out include Caravella, Tosolini, and Luxardo.
Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy
Love the lemon drop martini and looking to branch out? These drinks are all similar in style to the lemon drop (so you’ll be comfortable with the preparation), but they each have their own twist to add to the party. If you add them to your repertoire, you’ll be a cocktail connoisseur in no time.
This delightful drink couldn’t be more similar to a lemon drop martini. Simply shake one and a half ounces of vodka with ice to chill it, pour into a prepared martini glass, and top with your favorite champagne. The resulting boozy bubbly is sure to be a crowd favorite.
Topping it with fresh fruit such as strawberries is a simple way to elevate the experience to the next level as well. Just be warned that this is a rather strong drink, so keep things in moderation.
Often dubbed an “Appletini”, this sweet pale green drink is candy for adults. Recipes vary, but a popular option involves combining two ounces of vodka, one and a half ounces of sour apple liqueur, and one and a half teaspoons of lemon juice into a cocktail shaker.
Then, shake until chilled, and serve in a martini glass with a green apple slice as a garnish. If you’re after a more authentic apple flavor, there are varieties that use apple juice or apple cider as well.
This citrus-flavored drink is one of the world’s most popular cocktails and a variation of the classic martini. To make it, mix two ounces of gin, a quarter ounce of dry vermouth, a quarter ounce of sweet vermouth, and an ounce of orange juice into a shaker before combining to chill.
Then, serve in a martini or coupe glass and enjoy. Orange bitters or an orange peel garnish are popular additions.
Nothing tastes more like summer than a cool glass of watermelon martini. Simply combine three ounces of watermelon juice, one and a quarter ounces of vodka, one and a quarter ounces of limoncello (or orange or watermelon liquor), and one ounce of fresh lime juice, and shake vigorously.
Line the glass with a mix of salt and sugar, and serve with a mint or watermelon wedge garnish.
Blue Lagoon Martini
This cocktail looks as good as it tastes. This recipe is very similar to a lemon drop, but subs out the triple sec in favor of blue curaçao for color and a slightly different flavor.
Mix two ounces of vodka with a half ounce each of blue curaçao, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake to chill, and serve. If you want a larger beverage, add some lemonade and serve in a hurricane glass to make a true blue lagoon.
If you’re looking for a martini with a bit of romance, this one will be right up your alley. The raspberry martini’s deep pinkish or reddish hue and sweet taste make it a popular option for Valentine’s Day or date nights.
To make it, add two ounces of vodka, one ounce of unsweetened cranberry juice, a half ounce of lemon juice, and ¾ ounces of raspberry syrup. Garnish with fresh raspberries and serve with a chocolatey dessert if you’d like to go above and beyond.