Key Lime Martini

The Key Lime Martini is a stunning cocktail that tastes just like key lime pie…but even better! Two secret ingredients make it work.

Key lime martini

Here’s a drink that blew us away with its nuanced, rich flavor: the Key Lime Martini! This drink might sound a little restaurant-chain-y? (and the concept is). But here’s the thing: it’s made with this incredible Spanish vanilla liqueur that makes anything taste delightful. Add to that tart key lime juice and a graham cracker drink rim, and well: it’s not overly sweet or one note like you might expect. It’s a heavenly dessert drink that’s full of complexity and nuance…and completely irresistible.

What’s in a key lime martini?

The Key Lime martini is a vodka martini with the flavors of key lime pie. If it sounds like something that’s on restaurant chain menus: you’re right! There are lots of ways to make a Key Lime martini, and it seems that every restaurant or bar has their own version. Some people use vanilla vodka, others use pineapple or coconut cream.

But we ran across a version using Licor 43 vanilla liqueur (apparently the way PF Chang’s makes it?). Since we had a bottle on hand from making coffee drink, we thought we’d try it. One sip in and we were convinced: the way this vanilla liqueur combines with the key lime juice is pure genius! Here’s what you need for a Key Lime Pie martini:

  • Licor 43 liqueur (available in many liquor stores and grocery stores)
  • Key lime juice (bottled; available in most grocery stores)
  • Vodka
  • Heavy cream
Key lime martini

Do you really need key lime juice?

Yes! Lime juice and key lime juice really have a difference in flavor. Key limes are smaller limes that are yellow green in color: they grow in the Florida Keys (hence the name) and Mexico. The juice tastes tarter, more aromatic, and a bit more floral than a standard lime. Take one sip, and you’ll think: that tastes like key lime pie! It’s hard to describe the difference, but it’s very noticeable.

We used bottled key lime juice for this Key Lime martini. You can also use fresh squeezed key lime juice if you can find the fresh fruit: the flavor is even better.

More about Licor 43

Is Licor 43 really worth buying? After making 200+ homemade cocktails, our liquor cabinet is so packed we have to be selective about what we purchase! But after tasting it, Licor 43 is absolutely worth it. Here’s what to know about this unique liqueur:

  • Licor 43 is a bright yellow, vanilla flavored Spanish liqueur, also known as Cuarenta Y Tres (43 in Spanish). It was invented in 1946 by the Zamora family, apparently based on an ancient recipe. The name comes from the 43 herbs and botanicals used to make it.
  • What does Licor 43 taste like? Licor 43 tastes sweet and aromatic, strongly of vanilla with notes of orange peel, spices, and cocoa.
  • How much does Licor 43 cost? It’s mid-priced. A 375 ml bottle costs about $15 and a 750 ml bottle costs about $25.
  • Is it worth buying? Yes, we think so! It’s great in these Licor 43 cocktails and pairs perfectly with coffee. Use it for a Carajillo or Mini Beer Shot.
Licor 43

How to make a graham cracker rim

The best part about a Key Lime martini, besides the drink? The graham cracker rim! Now, it’s totally optional. But there’s something about the sensory experience that makes this drink even more fun. Here’s more about how to rim the glass:

  • Crush the graham crackers very finely. A good way is to place them in a plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin.
  • Place them in a flat layer on a plate. You can also add some granulated sugar if you like.
  • Wet the glass rim. You can cut a notch into a lime wedge if you like, then run that around the wedge of the glass.
  • Dip the outer edge of the rim into the glass, gently turning the rim. All you need is the outside of the glass to be covered, not the inside.
Key lime pie martini

How to make a Key Lime martini: basic steps

Once you’ve rimmed your glass, there’s nothing to this Key Lime martini! Here are the basic steps (or jump to the recipe):

  1. Shake: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add 2 handfuls ice and shake until cold. Don’t have a cocktail shaker? Use a mason jar with top.
  2. Strain: Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lime wheel if you like!

More vodka martinis

The Key Lime martini is one in a family of flavored vodka martinis that have really nothing to do with an actual dry martini. Vodka martinis became popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s and are known as overly sweet, vodka-based drinks served in martini glasses. But vodka martinis can be perfectly balanced and full of flavor! Here are some of our top martini recipes:

Key lime martini

When to serve a Key Lime martini

The Key Lime Pie martini is creamy and tart! It works well for summer, but you can drink it anytime (and we do!). It’s great for serving as a:

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Key lime martini

Key Lime Martini


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

The Key Lime Martini is a stunning cocktail that tastes just like key lime pie…but even better! Two secret ingredients make it work.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces Licor 43*
  • 1/2 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce key lime juice (bottled)**
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • Graham crackers, crushed for the rim
  • For the garnish: Lime wheel

Instructions

  1. Wet the rim of the cocktail glass. Place finely crushed graham crackers on a plate, and tilt the outside rim of the glass into the mixture so that it coats the outer rim. 
  2. Place the Licor 43, vodka, key lime juice, and heavy cream in a cocktail shaker with 2 handfuls ice. Shake 15 seconds until cold.
  3. Strain the drink into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and serve. 

Notes

*For converting to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons. 

**Licor 43 is a Spanish vanilla liqueur you can find at most liquor stores and even grocery stores. Key lime juice is sold bottled and available in most grocery stores. 

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Key lime martini, Key lime pie martini, Key lime martini recipe

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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