In 5 minutes, you can turn 4 simple ingredients into a perfectly balanced sweet and tart lemon cocktail. Anyone who enjoys a martini is bound to like this lemon drop with limoncello.
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Looking for a refreshing and bright drink, perfect to sip on during the summer months? Look no further than this four-ingredient limoncello lemon drop martini.
If you’re a fan of lemon drop shots, this has a similar taste with a classier way of enjoying your drink.
With limoncello as the star of the show, in 5 minutes you can whip up a drink that will make you feel like you are in Italy.
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
- The history of the lemon drop martini and what makes it so special.
- Everything you need to know about limoncello.
- The best ratios for a lemon drop martini. Don't worry, we experimented with lots of taste tests to get this just right.
- A secret trick for keeping your martini extra cold.
If you’re interested in even more simple and tasty cocktail recipes, check out this bartender cheat sheet where you can learn all about 45 different cocktail recipes. Not only does it give you all the information in one place, but it is completely free.
What Is A Lemon Drop Martini?
The lemon drop is a cocktail invented in the 1970s by Norman Hobday, according to The Oxford Companion To Spirits & Cocktails.
Hobday had a bar in San Francisco called Henry Africa’s, and it was here where he developed this famous drink.
What set Hobday’s famous creation apart from the competition, was his determination to use high-quality spirits and fresh juice in his recipe.
Before long, this cocktail became a staple at many bars across the country.
Ingredients You Need
Limoncello: This is the star of the show in this limoncello lemon drop. Limoncello is an incredibly popular Italian liquor made from lemon peels.
Originating in the Southern region of Campania Italy, and most famously from the picturesque areas of Sorrento, Amalfi, and Capri (coastal cities near Napoli), this spirit is loved across the world.
The way limoncello is made is quite simple. Producers steep lemon peels in a clear, neutral spirit like Grappa or vodka. Then, the product is sweetened with sugar. When making limoncello, it is important to avoid using any pith (the really bitter white part underneath the zest) in the lemon peels.
In Italy, limoncello is typically offered at the end of a meal as a digestif. After attending culinary school in southern Italy, I can confidently say that Italians love limoncello.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice: If you want to achieve the best-tasting and freshest end product, using fresh juice is key. With that being said, if you don’t have the time to juice lemons or do not have access to getting fresh lemons, bottled lemon juice won’t fail you.
Simple syrup: This ingredient is key to balancing the acidity and tartness of the lemon flavor coming from the limoncello and the lemon juice. You can both purchase simple syrup or make your own.
If you decide to make your own, in a pot, combine a 1:1 ratio of granulated sugar to water. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the sugar has dissolved.
Feel free to alter the sweetness level of this cocktail by adding more or less simple syrup to your drink.
Vodka: This recipe simply requires a generic, unflavored vodka. Any vodka brand will do for this recipe. However, I would not recommend Citron vodka as it will make your martini too tart.
If you want to learn even more about vodka, check out this post about different types of vodka.
Lemon wheel: Optionally, slice a few lemon wheels to use as your cocktail garnish for this drink.
Check out the recipe card below for the full details on the ingredient quantities.
How To Make This Recipe
Now that you know all about the ingredients, let's get to work making a limoncello martini.
Mix Up The Cocktail
1. Add the limoncello, vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled part-way with ice. If you do not have a cocktail shaker, you can also use a mason jar or any other jar with a lid to shake all your ingredients.
Next, shake the cocktail until it's well chilled, which should take about 15 seconds.
This cocktail requires you to use the shaking mixing technique because there is citrus included in the ingredients. Shaking cocktails with citrus helps to develop a light, frothy consistency in your drink.
Plus, shaking brings out the aromatics in the citrus, giving your drink a delicious and intense flavor.
It is very important to have a chilled martini glass when serving this cocktail. Because this drink is served straight up (no ice in the final glass), a warm or even room-temperature glass will instantly start warming your cocktail, making it much less refreshing than if you had a nice chilled glass.
After straining, it's time to taste-test the cocktail. Arguably, one of the most overlooked yet important parts of any cocktail is to taste before serving.
Tasting allows you to adjust the flavor if it is not to your liking. For example, in this limoncello cocktail, if the drink is too sweet or too tart, you can adjust the simple syrup quantity.
Garnish The Cocktail
3. This part is completely optional, but you can garnish your drink with a lemon wheel or even with a lemon twist.
Be sure to cut your lemon wheel before squeezing the juice out of the lemons. This way, you do not have to use a whole new lemon for your garnish.
For an even fancier cocktail, give your martini glass a sugar rim.
To do this, add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar to a shallow plate. Next, run a lemon wedge around the rim of your glass.
Once coated, dip the rim of the glass into the sugar, turning the glass as you go to get a nice even coating.
- To chill your martini glass, place it in the freezer for about 30 - 45 minutes before you plan on making and serving this simple limoncello martini recipe. This helps the drink stay super cold while you're drinking it.
If you don't have time for this, you can also fill the glass with ice and water while you're shaking up the cocktail. This won't keep the drink nearly as cold, but it's a great alternative if you are in a time crunch.
Helpful tip: It is theorized that carbonation speeds up the chilling process when you chill a cocktail glass. Opt for carbonated water if you have it on hand.
- Want to make a large batch of these lemon drop martinis with limoncello? Mix all of the ingredients in a pitcher with a lid (without ice so it doesn't get diluted). Then, serve it in a chilled beverage dispenser.
Here's the recipe for a large batch that serves 10 people:
- 2 ½ cups (590 ml) limoncello
- 1 ¼ cups (295 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ¼ cups (295 ml) simple syrup
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (150 ml) vodka
- To make this cocktail ahead of time, mix all of these ingredients in a pitcher without ice. When you're ready to serve, shake the pre-mixed cocktail together with some ice. This is the perfect option if you need to prepare the cocktail the morning before a party!
I don’t suggest substituting unflavored vodka for citrus-flavored vodka. The drink will become too tart. With this being said, if you are a really big fan of tart flavors in your cocktails, feel free to experiment with a citrus-flavored vodka.
A martini glass is best, but you can also use a coupe glass or wine glass if that's all you have on hand. The best option is to choose a glass with a stem so the heat from your hand doesn't warm the drink up.
There's no one best brand. It's up to your personal preference. I like to look for a limoncello bottle that has the ingredients listed. I prefer one that has only a few ingredients: alcohol (vodka), lemon peels, and sugar. The fewer ingredients usually assures me that the product is made properly and therefore should be of good quality.
More Lemon Cocktails & Shots
Limoncello Lemon Drop Martini (4 Ingredients)
- Add limoncello, vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled partway with ice.
- Shake until well-chilled, about 15 seconds. Double strain with a Hawthrone and mesh strainer into a chilled martini glass.
- Optionally, garnish with a lemon wheel.