Lemon Drop Martini

Lemon drop martini garnished with a lemon peel twist in a Champagne coupe

The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai

Prep: 2 hrs 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 2 hrs 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
175 Calories
0g Fat
12g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 175
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 8mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 12mg 61%
Calcium 11mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 44mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The lemon drop martini—often simply called a lemon drop or a lemon drop cocktail—is one of the best versions of a classic vodka martini and a highlight of modern cocktail menus. Created by San Francisco bartender Norman Jay Hobday in the 1970s, the lemon drop, which was named after the hard candy, became so popular that it inspired a number of ready-to-drink mixes.

However, there's no need for a mix—the recipe is very easy and a freshly made lemon drop tastes far better than any bottled version of the cocktail. It's a great dessert drink and a fabulous choice when you want a cocktail with a bit of pucker and a hint of sweetness. You can also adapt it to suit your personal taste and have fun adding other flavors like berries or orange to the mix.

What's a Lemon Drop Made Of?

Like many of the best cocktails, the lemon drop requires just a few ingredients, which are shaken together over ice and poured into a martini glass, often with a sugared rim. Simple drinks like this deserve—and almost require—the best ingredients. Here's what you'll need.

  • Vodka: The foundation of the lemon drop is vodka, so begin building the best tasting cocktail possible by choosing a smooth vodka. There are many fantastic premium vodkas perfect for cocktails of this caliber. If your budget is tight, you can also find some nice inexpensive vodkas.
  • Limoncello (Optional): Adding 1/2 ounce of the Italian lemon liqueur limoncello gives the lemon drop an extra burst of citrusy sweetness. Some people use an orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Triple Sec in place of the limoncello, but you can also just stick with vodka.
  • Lemon Juice: For the very best lemon drop, definitely opt for freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Simple Syrup: Simple syrup—a 1:1 blend of sugar dissolved in water—takes the edge off of the vodka and lemon juice. Homemade simple syrup is the way to go. If you find the drink to be a little too tart, add more simple syrup next time. Likewise, if it's a bit too sweet for your taste, cut back on the simple syrup.
  • Granulated Sugar and a Lemon Wedge: You'll use these to rim the cocktail glass with sugar for a little sweetness in every sip.
  • Lemon Twist: A lemon twist is the classic garnish for the lemon drop.

How to Make a Lemon Twist to Garnish Your Cocktail

Making a lemon twist is not difficult, but it does take a little practice. Here's how to do it.

  1. Use a canelle knife or sharp paring knife and hold the whole lemon firmly in one hand.
  2. Dig the knife into the peel, just deep enough to avoid most of the white pith.
  3. In a smooth motion, roll the fruit in your hand as the knife cuts a thin strip of peel. You can stop whenever it reaches the desired length or when it naturally cuts off.
  4. Roll the peel into a tight spiral and gently squeeze it without breaking the peel. The twist will loosen up once released; keep it in a glass of ice water to maintain a nice spiral.

Click Play to See This Easy and Fresh Lemon Drop Martini Recipe Come Together

"The lemon drop martini is a cocktail that, while simple, can be bracingly delicious. It should taste like a tart adult lemonade (and who doesn’t want that?). This recipe is perfect. If you use fresh and proper ingredients, you might want to go ahead and make a pitcher." —Sean Johnson

Lemon drop martini tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • Granulated sugar, for rimming

  • Lemon wedge, for rimming

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1/2 ounce limoncello

  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 to 3/4 ounce simple syrup, to taste

  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for lemon drop martini recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai

  2. Rim a cocktail glass with sugar: Place the sugar in a shallow dish. Wipe a lemon wedge around the glass to wet the surface, then dip it into the sugar. Set aside to dry while you mix the drink.

    Glass rim being dipped in sugar on a small plate

    The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai

  3. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour the vodka, limoncello (if using), lemon juice, and simple syrup.

    Open cocktail shaker next to small glasses containing the cocktail ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai

  4. Shake well.

    Cocktail shaker being shaken

    The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai

  5. Strain into the rimmed glass.

    Lemon drop martini strained into sugar-rimmed glass

    The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai

  6. Garnish with a lemon twist. Serve and enjoy.

    Lemon drop martini garnished with a lemon peel twist

    The Spruce Eats / Qi Ai


  • Add extra flavor with citrus or another fruit vodka.
  • Fruit syrups like this strawberry simple syrup are simple to make and berries are a nice pairing for the tart lemon juice.
  • Floral syrups can also add a fun twist. For instance, a lavender simple syrup creates a lovely lavender lemon drop martini. In spring, get a similar flavor by harvesting lilac blooms for a lilac lemon drop martini.
  • Another simple variation adds 1/4 ounce Cointreau and uses only 1/2 teaspoon simple syrup. This brings in an orange undertone that complements the sweetened lemon.
  • If you're in the mood for a shot, try the lemon drop shot. It has the same great flavor in an interactive shooter that's quite fun.

How to Make Your Own Lemon Drop Martini Mix

Lemon drop martini mixes are, essentially, a lemon sour—sweetened lemon juice in a convenient pour-and-shake package. You can replicate that by making a fresh lemon sour at home: Replace the lime juice in a standard sour mix recipe with lemon juice.

The advantage of pouring lemon juice and simple syrup separately is that you can adjust the sweet and sour to taste. You can still get that customization in a homemade lemon sour: Take notes while mixing up the martini with the individual ingredients until you find an ideal balance. Use that sweet-sour ratio when making your lemon sour and bottle it. This makes it even easier to enjoy a lemon drop anytime you like because you simply need to add vodka and shake it up. This is a particularly great option for parties.

How Strong Is a Lemon Drop Martini?

The lemon drop has an alcohol content that's typical of fruity vodka martinis. On average, it shakes up to about 20 percent ABV (40 proof), which is half the strength of a straight shot of vodka. Keep this in mind because the cocktail's sweet taste makes it easy to drink one too many.

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