Leap Year Cocktail

Classic Leap Year Cocktail

S&C Design Studios

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail (1 serving)

The leap year cocktail has been around since the 1930s. If its name is not on the tips of all tongues, it is at least in the back of some minds and a well-rounded martini alternative. A wonderful mix of flavors with a classic style, this cocktail definitely deserves to be enjoyed more than once every four years.

In this recipe, you'll pair gin with sweet vermouth and the brandy-based orange sweetness of Grand Marnier. Adding a little lemon juice brings it all together, creating a cocktail that has an enlightening citrus tone. It's very easy to mix up and is an excellent choice for a dinner cocktail, either before or after the meal.


  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour the gin, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.

  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  4. Garnish with a lemon twist.

  5. Serve and enjoy!


  • Top-shelf gin is the way to go with this cocktail. It relies heavily on that single ingredient and lays the foundation for the best-tasting drink.
  • When it comes to sweet vermouth, ensure that it's fresh. If you don't mix with it often, that open bottle in your bar may be stale. Its shelf life is just 3 months once oxygen hits the fortified wine, so replacing old bottles is a good idea.
  • For the orange liqueur, triple sec and curaçao will not do. This drink deserves a brandy-based, sweet orange that can only come from Grand Marnier or GranGala.
  • The lemon juice should not be an afterthought. Fresh-squeezed juice is the final touch for a great leap year. Since the average lemon yields 1 3/4 ounces, you can easily make more than a few drinks with one piece of fruit.
  • To maximize your fruit usage, cut the lemon twist before cutting the lemon open. You can then use that same piece of fruit for its juice.

Recipe Variations

There are a few similar drinks within the gin martini lexicon that are worth mixing up and comparing to the leap year.

  • The gin and it is a simplified version that uses gin and sweet vermouth alone.
  • The Emerson cocktail is a lesser-known variation on the popular Martinez (the gin martini's predecessor). Those two drinks opt for maraschino rather than an orange liqueur, though the Emerson includes the same lemon juice enhancement as the leap year.

How Strong Is a Leap Year Cocktail?

Martinis are rarely light drinks and the leap year follows that pattern. This shouldn't come as a surprise because the majority of the cocktail is made of alcoholic ingredients. Though it will vary slightly, this cocktail's alcohol content will be in the 29 percent ABV (58 proof) range.