Start to Finish: 10 minutes prep; 40 minutes total
Servings: 4 to 6
Difficulty Level: Beginner

A lemon drop is made with vodka, but the nonalcoholic ingredients are the star of this drink. If you’re in a rush, skip the simple syrup step and simply stir together sugar, water and lemon zest — but if you have time to let the syrup steep, it will pay off in flavor and texture. You’ll need a cocktail shaker for this recipe.


  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  • Sparkling sugar for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups cold vodka
  • Ice

Making Lemon Syrup

Combine the water, sugar and zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.

Remove the pan from the heat. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour the syrup through the strainer to remove the zest from the liquid. Pour in the lemon juice and stir.

Refrigerate the syrup in a glass bowl for 30 minutes, or until it’s cool. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 month.

Assembling and Garnishing

When the syrup cools, prepare your glassware. Lemon drops are traditionally served in martini glasses, but you may also use glass tumblers. Run a lemon wedge around the lip of each glass. Pour the sparkling sugar onto a plate and press each glass, lip-side down, into the sugar. Set the glasses aside.

Place a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add the vodka and lemon syrup. If your cocktail shaker can’t hold that much liquid, make the drinks in 2 batches. Shake the cocktail for about 15 seconds, until the liquid is icy.

Strain the drinks into the glasses. Garnish each glass with a fresh lemon wedge.

Drink with a Twist

  • Any kind of citrus can be used in a lemon drop. Add orange and lime zest to the cooking simple syrup, or pour a splash each of orange and lime juice into the syrup when you add the lemon juice. For more subtle citrus flavor, use one of these fruits to wet the rim of each glass before dipping it into the sugar.

  • Use lemon-flavored vodka to strengthen the flavor of your cocktails. You may also add 1/4 cup of triple sec, an orange-flavored liqueur, to the cocktail shaker.

  • Grapefruit works well with both lemon and vodka. Muddle grapefruit with superfine sugar to place in the bottom of each glass, or add grapefruit juice to the lemon syrup.

References and Resources Lemon Drop Cocktail