The Lemon Drop cocktail is a drink based on Vodka. It’s often served in a sugar-rimmed Martini glass as it’s thought to be a take on the classic Vodka Martini. Therefore, the drink is often called Lemon Drop Martini – the IBA also lists the cocktail under that name.
When taking a closer look at the Lemon Drop and its recipe, it actually has more similarities with other classic cocktails like the White Lady or the Crusta cocktail. But whatever you want to compare it to, the Lemon Drop cocktail was a huge success in the recent past. And even though the drink is relatively new, it already reached enough popularity for talk show host Oprah Winfrey to serve it in one of her shows. While Oprah might or might not be an indicator for a good drink, this definitely shows how popular the recipe has become.
So let’s have a look at the history of this modern classic and where it was born.
History of the Lemon Drop cocktail
Norman Jay Hobday, a former Vietnam veteran, transformed himself into a bar owner in 1969 when he opened Henry Africa’s Bar in San Francisco. That also was the countries first fern bar, decorated with house plants (mostly fern) and fake Tiffany lamps. The bar became an instant hot spot, and the term fern bar was quickly a household name in the whole region.
But not only was his bar a success, but Hobday also invented the Lemon Drop cocktail during that time. The exact year is unknown, but it must have been sometime in the early to mid-70s. And just like the fern bar concept, the cocktail spread across the region like wildfire. It was usually either served in the classic version or as Blueberry or Raspberry Lemon Drop.
Most likely, the cocktail got named after lemon drop candy. And it became a favorite serving in San Francisco’s bars and saloons. This hype surrounding the tart drink also led to a shot version which got ordered frequently in clubs and bars in the 1990s.
Variations of the cocktail
The classic recipe for a Lemon Drop cocktail asks for Vodka citron, a Triple Sec like Cointreau, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice. It can come with or without a sugar rim on the glass. But mostly, it’s rimmed.
The most successful variations of the drink are Blueberry Lemon Drops and Raspberry Lemon Drops. And there are various ways to serve the cocktail. Some variants even use colorful and flavored sugar rims to improve presentation.
Also, the berry-flavored Lemon drops often contain fresh, muddled, crushed, puréed, or frozen berries and can be enhanced by liquors or liqueurs flavored with the respective berry.
Similar to the original Lemon Drop, twists like the Raspberry Lemon Drop can be seen as a type of Martini. But that definition is definitely up for discussion.
- 2 oz Vodka citron
- 0.25 oz Cointreau
- 0.75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 0.5 oz Simple syrup
- Sugar-rim a chilled Martini glass some minutes before preparing the drink. This way, the sugar can dry and build a crust before you pour the drink into the glass.
- Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake until well-chilled.2 oz Vodka citron, 0.25 oz Cointreau, 0.75 oz Fresh lemon juice, 0.5 oz Simple syrup
- Strain into the prepared Martini glass.