Easy Lemon Drop Martini

published Apr 12, 2022
Easy Lemon Drop Martini Recipe

This classic cocktail is the perfect way to celebrate the warm, sunny months of spring and summer.


Prep7 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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seeing top of lemon drop martini
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

As spring begins, all I can think about is the impending warm weather. Where I live, in New York City, this is the season when everyone emerges from their long hibernation, ready to eat, drink, and be merry. In my mind, I’m already planning summer dinner parties and, of course, I’m thinking about cocktails that are perfect for the sunny days ahead. At the top of the list is a tried-and-true classic: lemon drop martinis.

The lemon drop martini is a cocktail composed of vodka, lemon juice,

orange liqueur

For as simple as lemon drops are to make, I’ve had more than my fair share of less-than-mediocre ones. I’ve realized that it’s all about the ratio of ingredients, finding the perfect balance. This recipe hits all the right notes in that regard. It’s got acidity, just the right amount of sweetness, and a nice blend of spirits. I’ve also included steps for an optional lemon sugar rim, which I highly recommend.

Why Are They Called Lemon Drop Martinis?

As with many cocktails, the origin of the lemon drop martini isn’t entirely clear. It’s said to have been invented in San Francisco in the 1970s. The only thing it has in common with a classic Martini is the vodka (if you believe vodka has a place in a Martini), and the glass it’s often served in. The backstory on the name is also unclear, but the drink is tart and sweet like lemon drop candies. (For a fun diversion, watch Oprah making her signature lemon drop martini for Rachael Ray back in 2006.) The cocktail is also known simply as the lemon drop.

What Are Lemon Drop Martinis Made Of?

Lemon drop martinis are one of my favorite cocktails because they are so simple to make. They’re a mix of lemon juice, vodka, orange liqueur, and simple syrup. (To make sure you’re getting the most juice out of your lemons, use our go-to citrus juicing method.)

How Do I Turn a Lemon Drop Martini Into a Batch Cocktail?

Lemon drop martinis are easy to make for a crowd. Just grab a pitcher and scale up the recipe using the same proportions.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Easy Lemon Drop Martini Recipe

This classic cocktail is the perfect way to celebrate the warm, sunny months of spring and summer.

Prep time 7 minutes

Serves 1

Nutritional Info


For the lemon sugar rim (optional):

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar

For the martini:

  • 1 ounce

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • Ice

  • 2 ounces


  • 1/2 ounce

    orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier

  • 1/2 ounce

    simple syrup


Make the lemon sugar rim:

  1. Finely grate the zest from 1 large lemon onto a small plate until you have 1 teaspoon zest. Cut a wedge out of the lemon and reserve the remaining for the cocktail. Add 1 tablespoon granulated sugar to the lemon zest and rub it together with your fingers to combine. Moisten the rim of a 6-ounce martini glass with the lemon wedge. Invert the glass into the lemon sugar, turning it as needed, until the rim is coated.

Make the martini:

  1. Peel a piece of zest from the lemon with a vegetable peeler and reserve for garnish. Juice the rest of the zested lemon until you have 1 ounce.

  2. Add the lemon juice, 2 ounces vodka, 1/2 ounce orange liqueur, and 1/2 ounce simple syrup to a cocktail shaker and then add enough ice to fill the shaker. Seal and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosty, about 20 seconds. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into the martini glass and garnish with the lemon peel.