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Here are the secrets to a refreshing and tangy lemon drop martini! Learn how to make this classic cocktail at home, from rim-dipping techniques to the ideal vodka-to-lemon ratio.

Lemon drop martini in martini glass with lemon garnish and sugar rim.
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Love a classic sour cocktail? Then you’ll adore a lemon drop martini! This zingy drink is perfectly balanced and refreshingly tart, served with a sugar rim and a lemon twist. It looks so festive that it’s great for celebrations of all kinds. Whatever the occasion: this drink delivers!

Why we love this recipe: When we first tried the lemon drop martini, we could see why it’s a classic. It’s got a cool, clean flavor and a sophisticated vibe. It’s now solidly a part of our cocktail recipe repertoire!

Ingredients in a lemon drop martini

A lemon drop martini is a sweet and sour version of a vodka martini. Its similarities with the classic martini are in name only! The lemon drop is a classic alcoholic drink that makes the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. That means it has an official definition of how to make it:

  • Citron vodka (or regular vodka): For our spin on the lemon drop martini, we use standard vodka to keep it simple. In our taste tests, citron vodka only adds a subtle citrus hint to the finish. But if you have citron vodka, by all means use it here!
  • Cointreau or triple sec: We prefer using Cointreau as the orange liqueur in this drink, but triple sec also works.
  • Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice brings the zippy, tart flavor: steer clear of bottled juice here.
  • Simple syrup: Simple syrup balances the flavors: it’s a bar cart staple that’s easy to make at home.

Related drink: This drink is very close to a Vodka Sidecar, which uses similar ingredients!

How to make a lemon twist

How to make a lemon drop martini: step by step

If you’re ready to get drinking, here are the basic steps to the lemon drop martini:

  1. Step 1: Rim the glass with sugar. A classic lemon drop is served in a martini glass with sugar on the rim. This helps to balance out the tart flavor of the cocktail.
  2. Step 2: Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Place 1 ½ oz vodka, ½ oz Cointreau, ½ oz lemon juice, and ½ oz simple syrup into a cocktail shaker. Add 1 handful ice and shake until cold.
  3. Strain into a glass and add garnish. Strain the drink into the martini glass and add a lemon twist or lemon wheel.

How to make a lemon twist

🍋 The lemon twist makes a sophisticated lemon drop martini! For our method of making a lemon twist garnish using no special tools, go to How to Make a Lemon Twist.

Don’t want to try the twist? Slice a lemon wheel, then cut a notch in it and add it to the rim of the glass.

How to make a sugar rim

Using superfine sugar rim on the martini glass rim makes for a festive look, and it helps to balance out some of the tart flavor. Here are our tips to making the perfect rim:

  1. Spread the sugar on a plate in an even layer. Using superfine sugar is best, since it adheres best to the rim.
  2. Take a lemon wedge and cut a notch in the middle: then slide it around the rim of the glass. This moistens the rim without having to use your fingers!
  3. Tilt the glass into the sugar so that the sugar sticks to the outside edge.
Lemon drop martini with lemon garnish.

Cointreau vs triple sec

We like this lemon drop martini recipe using Cointreau, which has a orange perfume flavor that’s well balanced between bitter and sweet. You can also use Triple Sec, which has a more straightforward, intense flavor. If you’re not sure whether to spring for a bottle of Cointreau, there’s a long list of great Cointreau drinks that use it, like the margarita and the Cosmopolitan.

When to serve a lemon drop martini

The lemon drop martini cocktail is tart and tangy, with a festive vibe. It works well for so many occasions. It’s great as a New Year’s Eve drink, Christmas or holiday drink, bachelorette party drink, celebration drink, and more!

More martini recipes

There are lots of types of martinis, from dry to fruity. Once you’ve tried the lemon drop, here are a few more to mix up:

Frequently asked questions

What vodka is best for a lemon drop martini?

Citron vodka is classic, but we like using a high-quality, plain vodka here.

My rim keeps coming off! How can I get it to stick?

Use superfine sugar if you can, which adheres best. Moisten the rim of your martini glass with a lemon wedge or a very wet fingertip. Then, dip the rim into a shallow dish filled with the sugar.

How sweet or tart should my lemon drop martini be?

It’s a matter of personal preference! Start by following a recipe, then adjust the amount of simple syrup or lemon juice to your taste. For a more nuanced sweetness, consider using maple syrup as a sweetener.

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Lemon drop martini

Best Lemon Drop Martini


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.5 from 2 reviews

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

Description

Here’s the best lemon drop martini you’ll have! It’s zesty and refreshing, sweet tart with a crunchy sugar rim.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ½ ounces* citron vodka or vodka
  • ½ ounce Cointreau or triple sec
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • Superfine sugar, for the rim (or substitute granulated)
  • For the garnish: Lemon twist or lemon wheel

Instructions

  1. Cut a notch in a lemon wedge, then run the lemon around the rim of a martini glass. Dip the edge of the rim into a plate of superfine sugar.
  2. Make the lemon twist garnish.
  3. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill it with ice, and shake until cold.
  4. Strain the liquid into the glass with the sugared rim. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Notes

*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

**To achieve a yellow color for this drink, use maple syrup as the sweetener or use citron vodka. With simple syrup and standard vodka, the drink is clear in color. 

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

More classic cocktails

Here are a few more of our best cocktail recipes you might enjoy:

  • Classic Margarita The only margarita recipe you need! Here’s how to make the very best margarita with 3 simple ingredients: lime, Cointreau and tequila—and no added sugar.
  • Classic Mojito It’s perfectly balanced with lime, rum and fresh mint! This iconic Cuban cocktail is refreshing and just sweet enough.
  • Salty Dog Here’s a refreshing citrus cocktail that pairs grapefruit juice, gin, and a salted rim. (The classic version has no salt and is called…a Greyhound!)
  • Tom Collins This tall highball drink is a gin sour, a sweet and sour classic cocktail made with gin. It’s refreshing, bubbly, and nostalgic.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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4 Comments

  1. jonny mo says:

    Sorry I did not try this recipe – but for years that is very much like how I made it. And I always viewed the LDrop and Cosmo as “Drinks made in martini common Glass”.
    The Lemon Drop is a ladies go to – but many others enjoy it as well. It is what lemonade wants to be when it turns 21.
    My current recipe varies in one major way – Limoncello. There are many version with Limoncello out there – try them and you won’t make a Lemon Drop without it again.

    Oh and I agree with KB- real maple syrup. Always a plus to have on hand. Makes a first-rate Manhattan. YTF it is mentioned here ? No idea.






  2. Kristin B says:

    Thank you for this recipe! Quick and easy for a last-minute cocktail and since we usually have organic real maple syrup on hand, this was a hit!






  3. MEC says:

    The best lemon drop recipe contains a 1:1:2:3 mixture:

    1 oz simple syrup
    1 oz Cointreau
    2 oz fresh lemon juice
    3 oz quality vodka

    Want the perfect margarita? Substitute lime juice for lemon and a quality blanco tequila for the vodka.

    Easy peasy, and always a hit.

    1. Richard says:

      Awesome man. I tried this before the original recipe on the page and I’ve added this to my drink journal. Possibly the best cocktail I’ve ever had.