Cocktails, until about the 1960s, were an art form, much like phenomenal cooking. Comparing a vodka tonic from a local dive when I was kid to an artisanal cocktail, is like comparing mass market macaroni and cheese to a creation by Julia Child. Fantastic bartenders were skilled and rightly proud of their skills pre-1960s.
After the dark ages of cocktails from perhaps the 1960s to the 2000s with few places emphasizing quality and care in construction and mixing, we are experiencing a new renaissance in the art and craft of making killer cocktails. Some of the classics, long forgotten, have come back, and new delicious concoctions are being invented every day.
My fascinating with cocktails was reinvigorated when I became single again a few years ago. I was not only dating, but entertaining at my place fairly often. I like the idea of having a "featured drink" at parties, whether it is a special beer, wine, or a fantastic cocktail!
The history of the Lemondrop is vague, like many cocktails. It may have first been at Henry's Africa in San Francisco, but we'll never know for sure. It seems to have been created around the 1970s, and there are many variations.
I know the first time I had a Lemondrop I was on a first date in Portland, Maine. I opted for a Martini (the classic, gin) as my stomach was slightly upset and that can actually be quite settling. The waitress talked my date into a Lemondrop, and we ended up sharing and loving it!
A properly made Lemondrop, sometimes called a Lemondrop Martini, is beautiful. A poorly made one with cheap vodka, sour mix instead of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and generic triple sec, is a sickly sweet "girly drink" intended to get drunk on.
We'll show you how to make an awesome one! It's become one of our friends favorite drinks, and we must have tried them literally in at least 100 places, across a dozen plus states, and a few countries as well.
Step 1: Assemble Ingredients
The ingredients are pretty straightforward, but slightly particular:
Vodka: Get a decent vodka. It doesn't need to be a top tier vodka (although I love Grey Goose and Belvedere), but not the cheapest. I most often use Absolut, Stoly, or Finlandia, which are all very respectable, but as long as the vodka doesn't suck you are okay.
Sugar: To coat the rim of the glass. I use generic sugar. Feel free to experiment with cane sugar, brown sugar, etc. but I've found no difference. If you do, let me know!
Triple Sec: I'm saying triple sec, but I'm quite particular in using Cointreau. Triple sec is a (triple distilled) orange liqueur, and I'm sure several varieties are fine, but the cheaper ones I've tried cheapen the drink! Despite dozens or maybe even hundreds of iterations, I haven't yet tried Curacao or Grand Marnier as I don't normally stock those, but I will eventually try them (none of the ones I had in bars used Curacao or Grand Marnier).
Lemons: Depending on how juicy the lemons are, you'll need between 1/2 to one lemon per drink. Experimenting with organic versus ordinary supermarket lemons has been inconclusive. Just get lemons, not prepackaged "lemon juice" and your drinks will shine!
Step 2: Gather the Tools You Will Need
As far as tools you do not need much.
A couple of cocktail glasses (you really shouldn't drink alone!).
A small dish to put sugar in for rimming the glass.
A cocktail shaker.
A lemon squeezer.
On lemon squeezers, sometimes called juicers: there are several types available. My favorite may be the OXO (on the right in the picture) since it can handle fruits of several sizes, and I do juice all kinds of things. I also love the lever style one in the middle as it's quick and easy for smaller fruits like lemons and limes. For whatever reason though, I most commonly use the cheapie on the left. They all work; it's just personal preference.
Step 3: Get Ready!
Slice that lemon in half so you can juice it.
Fill the shaker with ice.
Put a little sugar in the dish (a tablespoon or two) so you can sugar the rim of the cocktail glass.
Get ready for an awesome cocktail!
Step 4: Squeeze Lemons/Make Fresh Lemon Juice
Squeeze the lemon juice out of the lemon. Fresh squeezed lemon juice makes all the difference! It really does. It is the most important part of the recipe.
It'll take between 1/2 to 1 lemon per drink depending on how juicy they are. I haven't been able to determine how juicy lemons will be until I juice them.
You can squeeze the lemon juice a little ahead, say up to two hours but preferably no more than one hour, and refrigerate tightly sealed. This is great when you know you will be making a lot of drinks, for example at a party.
Step 5: Mix the Ingredients and Shake
Mix the ingredients. I use a shot glass to measure, but they come in several sizes, and I have a festive assortment from various places I've visited.
Basically, to make one drink, I use the smallest I have,which is about 1 ounce.
To make two drinks, I use the largest, which is a little bit over 2 ounces.
Vodka: 2 shots
Lemon Juice: 2/3 shot
Cointreau: 1/2 shot
The ratio of lemon juice to Cointreau is important, to give the drink the appropriate balance between sweetness and tartness.
Put the top on the shake, and shake vigorously. I give it 30-40 shakes, which is plenty.
Step 6: Rim the Cocktail Glass With Sugar
You now want to coat the rim of the glass with a thin coating of sugar. The sugar is not going to want to stick, unless you moisten the rim of the cocktail glass. Most bartenders will use water, and you tend to get clumps of sugar this way.
Instead, I quickly but vigorously rub the rim with the inside of a lemon I've just previously juiced, and then stick the glass in the dish of sugar, creating a thin sugar coating all around the rim.
Step 7: Pour and Enjoy!
Pour the drink from the shaker into the cocktail glass and enjoy!
Drink responsibly, keeping in mind that these are STRONG drinks.
You can also experiment with other (freshly squeezed) juices besides lemon. For example, I'll sometimes do half lemon and half lime, and absolutely love blending in some blood red orange juice during the small window in the late winter and early spring when we can actually get them here!
Flavored vodka can also be used. There are a hootload (that means a lot) available commercially, but wonderful and mediocre, and you can also experiment with your own infusions.
Basically, I love tasty drinks and foods. A few related sites I love are:
Portland Craft Cocktails
For The Love of Port