Lemon Drop Recipe: a Sweet History and Even Sweeter Cocktail

Back in the 1800s, the candy of choice was the Lemon Drop. Who knew that, nearly 200 years later, that sweet little candy would live on in one the most delicious cocktails ever made?

The lemon drop recipe ingredients are simple: some vodka, a splash of Triple Sec, some lemon juice, and simple syrup. But there’s more to this cocktail than some ingredients and a sugar-rimmed Martini glass. Read on to learn the history behind the drink and how to make one yourself.

Table of Contents

The Story of the Lemon Drop Drink

Technically speaking — at least, if Gary Reagan’s 2003 book The Joy of Mixology is to be taken as an authority — the Lemon Drop cocktail can accurately be lumped into the “New Orleans Sour” family of drinks.

This style of drink expands on a basic principle: a base spirit, some orange liqueur, and citrus juice for tartness. The Lemon Drop hits the mark perfectly. It’s got that crunchy sweetness around the rim and a tangy, sour body that puckers and pleases.

How did this fantastic drink come to be?

The Setting

Legend has it that the Lemon Drop breathed its first breath in the 1970s. The setting: a chic, plant-filled bar in San Francisco called the Henry Africa. This bar was part of a new trend called “fern bars” that were heavy on the greenery and even heavier on the scenery — that is, attractive young singles looking to pair up.

The 1970s were the thick of the sexual revolution, which saw single women heading to bars for the first time in history. To attract more of them, bars added a slew of sweet dessert drinks (this was before scientists discovered that women do, in fact, have palates).

But anyway, who doesn’t love a sweet drink? The Henry Africa churned out plenty of them: the Mudslide, the Grasshopper, the Harvey Wallbanger, and others. Women and men alike adored them.

The Main Characters

According to a man named Dale DeGroff, who has been a major pioneer for modern mixology since the 1980s, we don’t know for sure who invented the Lemon Drop. All we know for certain is that it was invented at the Henry Africa.

The cocktail revolution began in the late 1970s and 1980s. According to Cheryl Cook, the woman who invented the Cosmopolitan, her own recipe of Triple Sec and Rose’s lime juice took direct inspiration from the Lemon Drop. That means the Lemon Drop was a precursor to the Cosmopolitan.

In fact, it may have even been the drink that started the cocktail revolution.

Literary References

It’s no secret that literature has played a significant role in propagating cocktails. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was partly responsible for the popularity of the Bronx cocktail. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf gave the Brandy Alexander a boost. Then there was The Long Goodbye, the 1953 novel by Raymond Chandler that popularized the Gimlet.

The Lemon Drop had its share of literary references. Many female characters have enjoyed sipping on a Lemon Drop, including those in the books: Death, The Fire Down in My Soul, Her One-Night Price, and Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later. Admittedly, it never made quite the splash that other cocktails did.

But the Lemon Drop finally got its moment in the spotlight.

In 2006, Oprah Winfrey had guest chef Rachael Ray on the show. Oprah made a Lemon Drop on live television and claimed that it was her favorite cocktail — and you know what effect that can have.

So there you have it, folks. Many have dubbed it a “girly” drink, but the Lemon Drop has survived for decades and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.s

lemon drop cocktail

Lemon Drop Recipe for Cocktail

It’s cocktail recipe time, everyone. Grab some affordable vodka and get ready to make some citrusy magic happen.

  • Prep Time 2 Minutes
  • Cook Time 3 Minutes
  • Total Time 5 Minutes
  • Serves 1 People
  • Calories 125 kcal


  • 2 oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • Lemon wheel for garnish


  1. Fill a shaker with ice and add the ingredients.
  2. Shake them and then strain the mix into a Martini glass with a sugar rim.
  3. Zest lemon over the cocktail and garnish with a lemon wheel.
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Brooklyn native, accent-having, travel lover, wordsmith and bud enthusiast. Versed from the streets of NYC, mixed with some world influence, writer/editor and medical user extraordinaire, JJ is here to tell you like it is and guide you to the finest. Brooklyn's favorite feminine stoner, your neighborhood contributor, wrapping leaves like a bandage and bringing you along for the ride.

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