Lemon Drop Martini

A bright, sweet and sour vodka-based drink, the Lemon Drop Martini needs to be in your at-home cocktail rotation!

Lemon Drop Martini Surrounded by Lemon Wedges and a Shaker

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

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. 

Lemon Drop Martini

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

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. 

Simple Tip!

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!

Lemon Drop Martini on a Wooden Tray

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

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.

Lemon Drop Martini

Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

More Marvelous Martinis for You!

Lemon Drop Martini

Prep Time 4 mins
Total Time 4 mins
Serving 1 serving
Yield 1 cocktail


For lemon sugar rim

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

  • Lemon wedge

For the cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau

  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup


  1. Make lemon sugar for rimming glass:

    Pour the granulated sugar into a small bowl or plate that is roomy enough for your glass to fit into. 

    Zest your lemon peel directly into the sugar and mix with a fork. 

    Set aside while you mix your drink to allow the lemon oil to permeate the sugar.

    Zest Lemons for Martini Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

    Lemon and Sugar Mixture for Lemon Drop Martini

    Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

  2. Make the cocktail:

    In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, pour in the vodka, lemon juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup. Shake for 20 seconds until chilled. Set aside.

  3. Rim the cocktail glass:

    Now take a lemon wedge and lightly coat a small amount of the outside rim of your glass. Then press the outside edge of the glass firmly into the lemon-sugar mixture to coat. 

    Gently shake off any excess sugar.

  4. Strain and serve cocktail:

    Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass and enjoy!

    Did you love the recipe? Leave us stars below!

    Lemon Drop Martini Poured into a Glass

    Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

    Lemon Drop Martini Next to Lemon Wedges and a Shaker

    Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
544 Calories
3g Fat
112g Carbs
9g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 544
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 25mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 112g 41%
Dietary Fiber 22g 80%
Total Sugars 56g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 435mg 2,177%
Calcium 207mg 16%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 1329mg 28%
*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. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.