The combination of a little sweet and a little sour—mixed with liquor—has won over cocktail drinkers and for good reason: it’s a tasty combo! But while the Margarita may be one of the most popular cocktails that stem from the “sours” family of drinks, there’s another sour, the Lemon Drop Martini, that deserves a place in your at-home rotation as a pre-dinner drink or a late brunch sipper.
The Origins of the Lemon Drop Martini
The Lemon Drop Martini is a creation stemming from the 1970’s. It can be traced back to the long defunct bar Henry Africa’s in San Francisco (one of the early “fern bars” that wooed women with leafy greenery and homey trappings), however the creator has been lost to history. Lemon Drops were a 19th century candy, and here the candy, both sweet and tart, has been transformed into a drink with a similar flavor profile.
While many 1970s cocktails developed during what cocktail historians refer to as a “dark” period in drink history, where drinks were cheaply made and sweet, the Lemon Drop has proven to be a popular cocktail decades later. But yes, like its brethren, it was originally a very sweet drink.
A Modern Balanced Take on the Lemon Drop Martini
For this modern take, I’ve toned the sweet levels down, and I implore you to use freshly squeezed lemon juice. Bottled juice is tart, but seriously lacks the brightness and freshness needed to balance the drink.
And since you’re using a whole ounce of juice here, it should taste good! The natural, mouth-puckering tartness will be balanced out with a touch of Cointreau, the orange flavored liqueur from the triple sec family, and another dash of simple syrup.
Vodka is Your Base Liquor Here
It is somewhat overshadowed by the lemon, Cointreau, and sweetener so don’t break out the good stuff (unless that’s all you’ve got). A budget-friendly vodka like Absolut or Tito’s works nicely here.
Once you’ve mastered this recipe, try swapping out the vodka for brandy to give your drink a richer, more complex flavor profile. Adjust the sweetener as necessary and enjoy!
A Cocktail Glass Rim Covered in Sugar
The drink, served up in a coupe, has traditionally been garnished with a rim covered in sugar. Since we’ve toned down the sweetness inside the glass, I would suggest keeping with this particular sugary tradition, and rim your glass as well.
To amp up the lemon aroma and flavor, we’ll zest about a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon peel into the sugar before you rim your glass (or even early if you think of it), mix it together (a small fork works well for this), and let it sit while you prepare your drink.
Use a light touch when rimming the outside–not inside–of the glass. You’ll want roughly an 1/8 of an inch of liquid around the edge before firmly pressing your glass into the sugar-lemon mixture to coat. This light coating of sugar adds some texture into your drinking experience, in addition to the occasional hit of sugar while sipping.