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How to Make the Perfect Lemon Drop Cocktail

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One of my favorite uses for flavored vodka has to be Lemon Drops. As far as drinks go, they're almost foolproof. I'll even tolerate low-rent ones made with (gasp!) bottled sour mix.

While the vast majority of Lemon Drops out there are at least somewhat drinkable, a well-made one is a marvel. It almost makes you pine for the cocktail explosion of the late 1990s, back when anything Technicolor-hued in a cocktail glass was dubbed a martini.

Almost.

See Also: What the Hell is Triple Sec?

As with so many cocktails, balance is key. Since the Lemon Drop is a simple drink with a vodka base, the supporting cast deserves most of the attention. In the case of Lemon Drops, you want to have lemon up front. To achieve this, I prefer using about half as much lemon juice as I use vodka.

Now that there's tart lemon, we need something sweet to balance it out. Since lemon drop candies are sweetened with sugar, the Lemon Drop drink uses good ol' simple syrup. How much simple syrup to add depends largely on your taste buds. Go easy at first, and add a little more if you like. Remember, you want this to taste like a drink, not like actual candy.

The Lemon Drop is one of those few drinks that really needs flavored vodka. If you use plain vodka, then you're just having a vodka sour. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with a vodka sour; it's just not what we're drinking this week.

I do have a couple of tricks up my sleeve when making Lemon Drops that really stand out. Both involve squeezing even more citrus flavor into the drink. First, I like to use triple sec as a secondary sweetener. The orange flavor of triple sec stays in the background, adding a pleasing harmonic element. If you don't feel like using triple sec, go ahead and throw in some more vodka.

My favorite Lemon Drop grace note is to make lemon simple syrup. It's not much harder than making regular simple syrup. Before you juice the lemons, peel off the zest, making sure you leave behind as much bitter pith as possible. Then, add the lemon zest to the sugar and water before you heat the mixture. See? Perfectly simple. If you don't happen to be drinking, the lemon simple syrup is an excellent sweetener for homemade lemonade.

One other little thing: It's not in the official playbook, but a tiny drop of bitters in there makes things even better.

The recipe:

Lemon Drop 1 ½ ounces citron vodka ½ ounce triple sec (or use more citron vodka) ¼ oz lemon-infused rich simple syrup (or regular simple syrup) ¾ oz lemon

Shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Lemon-Infused Rich Simple Syrup Zest from 1 or 2 lemons ½ cup sugar 1 cup water

Heat everything together in a pan over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand until fully cooled. Strain out lemon zest, bottle, and store in refrigerator.

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