Lemon Drop. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Lemon Drop. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

A couple weeks ago, inspired by my BFF Blake Bailey’s latest bio, Farther and Wilder (boffo WSJ review here), I offered a Tom Collins, gin-lemon-soda. But on retrospect it was only OK—it would be the perfect libation on a hot summer evening, but it was March. Also, I could hardly taste the gin, and what’s the point of that unless you’re drinking the cheap shit? Just to check, I ordered one last weekend at a restaurant and it was so bad I didn’t even finish it (which is not like me, that’s how bad it was—how do you screw up something as simple as that?).

But I loved the idea of the heavy lemon. I loved the idea of, every now and then, not being aware of the alcohol in my drink. What does this lead to? Well the latter leads to using vodka, America’s go-to, boneless-skinless-chicken-breast default spirit. Yes, sometimes I have this, even want it (Moscow Mule!—need to invest in the sporty mugs next time).

So last weekend whilst looking for a cocktail using vodka that was worth making, I went to my sterling cocktail companion See Mix Drink, and found the Lemon Drop. I had been making lemon curds for the new book and had an abundance of lemons. Thus it was decided. And it is absolutely lovely. I will be making this very drink tonight before watching the finale of Season 5 of Madmen so that I am properly primed for Season 6. It’s alcoholic lemonade, a delightful cocktail.

Lemon Drop

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in one part water)
  • Lemon peel
  1. Combine all fluids in a shaker, fill with ice, stir or swirl for a minute or two, and strain into a coupe glass.
  2. Garnish with lemon peel.

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.





11 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Lemon Drop”

  • Allen

    I need to send you a bottle of my limoncello, it is unsweetened, just a touch of simple syrup, so the recipient can sweeten to taste.
    It is a powerhouse of lemon flavor – summer in a glass, taken from the freezer and served in a very small iced shot glass.

    I put simple syrup on the side, so you can sweeten as you like.
    I am amazed at how little sweetener people add. It is strong – 190 proof. So one or two shots is plenty.
    Any more and a screeching headache is guaranteed. I can vouch for this, many times.

    A great finisher to lemon caper halibut, or lemon rosemary chicken, broccoli with lemon, olive oil & salt.
    & a salad with bresaola, arugula, lemon juice, olive oil & shaved parmesean, with dry white wine and a lemon themed cocktail – or two beforehand.
    Don’t be fooled by the low price on Platinum 7 vodka, damm good, a lemon twist shines through.

    Buzz on.
    I am partaking in Manhattans, Cinzano vermouth adds to negroni’s, detracts from the Manhattan. Traditional is best.

    Your last post I wanted to add a movie recommendation: Samsara.
    It shows mass produced food, efficient, necessary and frightening.

    Cheers, happy Friday all!

    • Diane

      Hey, Allen- I’d love a bottle of your limoncello. Sadly, I’m not Ruhlman. Any chance you could share your recipe?


      • Allen

        Hi Diane,
        You don’t have to be Ruhlman!
        I am honored that anyone read my post, and ashamed that I took up more space than the original article – damn Manhattans!
        If you are in the Pacific Northwest I have plenty. I give it away as gifts to anyone.
        I’m not a techy but I don’t see an email on your web link, so I will post the recipe here with apologies …

        It’s very simple, just a waiting game.


        1 – .750ml bottle of 190 proof Everclear – (You can use any lower proof vodka if you live in the Bible Belt or cant get high proof, but high proof Everclear is best for extracting flavors).

        2- Fill a 1 quart mason jar with as many organic lemon peels as possible – pack ’em in.
        – be sure to use organic if possible.
        The best orange I ever had was from a Costa Rica street vendor, and it was green. They inject and spray oranges here to make them orange, the same with making lemons yellow.
        Outer zest, no white. A good peeler is a must to leave the pith on the lemon and get only yellow peel.

        Shake the jar once a day for about a month, or whenever you walk by it and it looks like it needs shaking.

        Strain through a fine mesh cloth lined strainer – like the ones in Ruhlman’s chicken broth post, or a coffee filter – not as quick or effective.
        Do this a few times until clear.

        I repeat this process with a second jar packed with lemon peels for a second extract, this may be overkill and not necessary.

        After the straining, you now have unsweetened limoncello.


        I add a small amount of organic simple syrup – 1/2 organic sugar and 1/4 water.

        For additional flavor ideas you can add peeled ginger root, or lavender, anything you like. Get creative.

        Bottle and give as gifts.

        Add this delicious liquid to a glass of muddled mint leaves, simple syrup, sparkling water, lemon juice, ice and a lemon wedge for a great summer beverage.

        Keep it in unsweetened, easier to sweeten to taste for each individual with a side of simple syrup. This drink brings summer into winter months.

        I also make candied lemon peels for garnish. Just boil lemon peels in a pot of simple syrup and strain to dry. Roll in organic sugar, leave on a cookie rack to dry.
        The extracted peels are a little bitter, fresh is best – but I don’t like to waist them, I store them in a large jar to use as garnish.
        My apologies for taking up blog space. I should email, or better yet send you a bottle.


        • Allen

          I forgot to mention poor the Everclear over the peels. Ruhlman would have said all that in one short paragraph.

        • Natalie Luffer Sztern

          Allen, if I actually have Limoncello will it still be a Lemon Drop if I add it to the vodka, leaving out the other ingredients ex garnish? And how many oz if I wanted a highball size?

  • David

    When I tended bar the lemon drop was one of the drinks I dreaded making the most!

    If you delivered one to a table of 6-women, odds were that you were going to be getting an immediate order for five more, which was great for tips and the bottom line. However, we did a sugar lined rim, which made for a really beautiful presentation, but made an absolute sticky mess of everything, glasses, trays, bartop, and hands.

    • Connie

      With me it was always ice cream drinks. Of course everyone at the table wanted a different one, and then other tables…

  • arlene

    Lemon Drop …make mine a Meyer lemon Drop–
    1 ounce freshy squeezed Meyer lemon juice, 2 ounces Charbay Meyer Lemon vodka (all their vodkas are sensational..Ruby grapefruit, Blood orange), 2 ounces Cointreau and a splash of Limencello. Place all in a chilled cocktail shaker, add 1 cup of cruched ice and shake vigorously. Pour into chilled, sugar-rimmed martini glasses. Makes two. I like to keep the vodka and Cointreau in the frig for a lemon drop super-cold. For parties I scale this up to a quart quantity..6oz lemon j, 12 oz. Meyer Lemon vodka,12 oz Cointreau, 2 oz Limoncello..to keep up with demand. Can be made a day in advance (in quantity) and refrigerated.

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