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The Lemon Drop Martini Is Like a Sip of Sunshine — Here’s How to Make It

Plus, the secret to the perfect lemon twist garnish

If you grew up sucking on Lemonhead candies like we did, you’ll be thrilled to meet the adult-beverage counterpart: the lemon drop martini. Consisting of four simple ingredients, vodka, triple sec, simple syrup and fresh lemon juice, this drink is a little bit sweet, a little bit sour — and a whole lot of delicious. Its refreshing citrusy notes make it a perfect summer cocktail, but we like to enjoy year-round because — let’s face it — who could really turn it down? Read on for our best lemon drop martini recipe, plus a “twist” on how to make your next cocktail even fancier.

Where did the Lemon Drop Martini come from?

The lemon drop was invented in the early 1970s by Norman Jay Hobday, owner of a bar in San Francisco known as Henry Africa (the original “fern bar,” decorated with plants and Tiffany-style lamps to attract a young, hip crowd). He originally served it in a cocktail glass just like every other mixed drink. His motive for creating it? To entice more single women into his bar by putting sweeter, dessert-like drinks on the menu. Hobday named the drink “lemon drop” due to its similar sweet-and-sour taste to the old-fashioned lemon drop candies.

How to make a Lemon Drop Martini

Lemon drop martini
New Africa/Shutterstock

With its perfect balance of sweet and sour, our easy recipe is sure to become your new go-to. To make it extra refreshing, chill your martini glasses in the freezer before filling.


  • 6 oz. vodka
  • 4 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1½ oz. triple sec


  1. To ice-filled cocktail shaker, add vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and triple sec; cover.
  2. Shake 30 sec.; strain into 2 martini glasses.

3 fun variations on a Lemon Drop Martini

Nothing beats the classic — but these twists come pretty close! Pick your favorite or try them all:

  1. For a berry-licious version: Muddle any berries you have on hand, such as raspberries or blackberries; add with ingredients to cocktail shaker. Shake; strain into glasses.  
  2. For a fizzy lemon drop martini: ry shaking up your cocktail with the addition of 3 oz. limoncello (a lemon liqueur); strain into glasses and top each with club soda.  
  3. For lemon drop Jell-O shots: In pot over medium heat, add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, 1-2 min. Whisk in 3 (¼ oz.) envs. unflavored gelatin until combined; stir in ¾ cup fresh lemon juice and ¾ cup vodka. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Pour into individual cups; chill until set, at least 1 hr.

2 ways to upgrade your martini

The Lemon Drop Martini is easy to make — and even easier to take the next level with a few extra touches. Read on for the simple trick that’ll make you feel like a master mixologist right at home:

1. Give your glass a sugared rim

A sugared rim is a popular addition to a traditional lemon drop martini. The sweetness is a delicious counterpart to the drink’s pucker-up tartness. Start with a chilled martini glass, white granulated sugar or sanding sugar in a shallow dish and a lemon wedge. Run your lemon wedge around the rim of your glass, then just dip the rim into the sugar. The citrus juice will become sticky as it dries, helping the sugar adhere to the glass better.

2. Garnish with a lemon twist

Lemon twists are sure to take your lemon drop martini from pretty to oh so elegant. To start, wash and dry your lemons. Next, cut your lemon into ¼”-thick slices. Lay slice flat on surface and with a sharp knife, cut a notch into one side of the slice. Then, cut the peel away from the lemon flesh. (You can use that leftover lemon flesh to make our Honey and Lemon Popsicles.) Twist peel, white pitch facing inward, holding it for at least 10 seconds. Making several drinks at once? Simply wrap your twist peels around straws until ready to use. Then place onto the rim or inside of your drink for garnish. Want to see the technique in action. Check out this video from Jenny On The Spot:

How is a Lemon Drop Martini different than a Lemon Drop Shot?

The answer is pretty easy: A lemon drop martini is served in a martini glass, not a shot glass. That said, the shots do have slightly different ratio of alcohol to simple syrup and juice, with the shots being a bit boozier than their martini cousins.

Inspired to try your hand at even more cocktails? Check out these deliciously easy recipes:

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3 Delicious Summer Cocktail Recipes That Also Improve Your Heart Health

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