Serious Eats: Drinks
Cocktail Overhaul: Lemon Drop
The Lemon Drop was one of the most popular cocktails in the US in the later part of the 20th century. It should follow a simple formula of spirit, lemon, and sweetener, but sadly, in many bars the drink disintegrated into a candied mess. It's time to give the Lemon Drop the glory it deserves.
As with much of cocktail history, the origin story of the Lemon Drop is murky at best. Rumor has it that the drink was created sometime in the 1970s at a bar called Henry's Africa in San Francisco, and that their goal was to popularize so-called "girly drinks." But there's no reason to banish this simple cocktail to the dark days of drinking history.
Cocktail geeks often criticize vodka for being flavorless, but in my opinion, this is not its greatest weakness...it's the spirits greatest strength. A clean, well-made vodka can serve as a true blank canvas, enhancing other flavors and allowing them to shine. This is clearly evident when the Lemon Drop is properly constructed.
High quality storebought citrus vodka such as Stolichnaya will suffice in this cocktail, but the drink gets even better with an added homemade touch. Try infusing your own vodka with sweet Meyer lemons if you can find them. Then proceed with fresh lemon juice and superfine sugar to let your homemade infusion shine. This drink's beauty is in its simplicity, and the end result is bright, clean, and refreshing.
You can also consider the Lemon Drop as a starting point for experimentation. Consider swapping out some of the sugar for a touch of Cream Limoncello, which turns the cocktail into a tart (and alcoholic) lemon meringue pie.