Lemon Drop Martinis are simple, quick, and versatile enough to satisfy both casual drinkers and cocktail snobs, with even Oprah Winfrey counted among the ranks of enthusiasts.

Black Russian Cocktail


The Lemon Drop Martini (or simply Lemon Drop) was likely inspired by the popular hard candy of the same name. Most agree the cocktail was created in San Francisco in the 1970s. Through the decades the drink preparation grew more popular as a Lemon Drop Shot rather than a cocktail, served with a sugared lemon on the side to suck after knocking it back. With the resurgence in popularity of martinis in the 1990s and craft cocktails in the 2000s, the Lemon Drop Martini finally found its way back into stemmed cocktail glasses. After Oprah Winfrey expressed her enthusiasm for the cocktail in 2006, the Lemon Drop Martini’s immortality became all but assured.

Tasting Notes

The Lemon Drop Martini has a mouth-wateringly tart lemon and citrus flavor, with the sugar rim providing a pleasant sweet textural contrast.


• 2 ounces citron vodka: such as Absolut Citron, Stoli Citros, or Smirnoff Citrus.

• ¾ ounce simple: equal parts sugar and water.

• ½ ounce lemon juice: If fresh squeezed lemon juice is impractical, Cocktail Artist offers excellent premium juices.

• sugar rim: to rim the glass. Pro tip: pour sugar into a saucer or shallow dish.

• lemon wheel: as a garnish.

  1. Rim a coupe or martini glass with sugar. This can be done by moistening the edge of the glass with a lemon wedge then dipping the rim into a saucer of sugar. (Pro tip: to avoid a dripping, crusty mess, don’t over-moisten the glass before adding the sugar rim)
  2. Fill a mixing glass with ice
  3. Pour 2 ounces citrus vodka into the mixing glass.
  4. Pour ¾ ounce simple syrup.
  5. Pour ½ ounce lemon juice.
  6. Shake for 10 – 15 seconds.
  7. Strain into the sugar-rimmed glass.
  8. Garnish with the lemon wheel.


The Lemon Drop Martini’s simplicity leaves some wiggle room for fun variations.

  • Flavored simple syrups such as mint syrup or lavender syrup can add interesting new dimensions.
  • Using sweet liqueurs such as limoncello or Chambord instead of simple syrup provides a bolder fruit flavor. Consider reducing the proportions as the flavor should be tart, with sweetness provided more from the sugar rim than the cocktail itself.
  • Substitute triple sec for simple syrup for a slight citrusy orange touch.
  • If martini or coup glasses aren’t your thing, shake and strain over ice in a sugar-rimmed rocks glass.
  • If you want to get right down to business and serve as a shot. To make Lemon Drop Shots, reduce the ingredient proportions by roughly half, shake, and strain into a shot glass. Serve with a sugared lemon wedge.


  • If fresh squeezed lemon juice is impractical, Cocktail Artist offers excellent premium bottled lemon juice.
  • Plain vodka with a squeeze of lemon may be used if citrus flavored vodka is unavailable.
  • All out of vodka? Bacardi, Cruzan, and other brands offer citrus rum.
  • If sugar is not an option, consider using stevia or other artificial sweeteners for the cocktail.
  • Try infusing your own vodka with lemons if you’re the DIY type or a super cocktail nerd. Keep in mind it takes some time to properly infuse vodka.

When to Serve Lemon Drop Martinis

  • Hosting parties: Easy to make with few ingredients, mixing Lemon Drop Martinis won’t interrupt the flow of the party. Plus, you can impress your friends with your mad shaker skills! (Note: grunting and clenching your teeth while shaking cocktails is less “impressive” than it is “hilarious.”)
  • After dinner: as a bright palate cleanser.

What to Serve with a Lemon Drop Martini

  • Fruit desserts, especially sorbet and fresh berries. The acidity of the Lemon Drop Martini can also lend pleasant contrast to richer desserts like pecan pie or peach cobbler.
  • Light to medium-bodied seafood, such as shrimp cocktail, calamari, ceviche, or sushi.
  • Spicy, savory foods such as Cajun or even spicy barbecue.

As always, remember to enjoy Lemon Drop Martinis responsibly!

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