If ever I’ve needed a lip-smacking cocktail, it’s today, the Friday after Labor Day. I should be used to it by now, but each year the “Back to School” moment rudely jerks me out of whatever mellow I’ve managed to achieve during the summer. It plunges me headfirst through a chaotic scramble for supplies and into a pool of anxiety (mine, my son’s, and other parents’) concerning teachers, classmates, lunches, the return of the playground bully, after-school activities, and the grim reality of homework. Nor was my week helped by the shoe store pairing mismatched shoes in the box, or the fact that the art smock I swore was in the closet suddenly vanished the night before school. (Cutting the sleeves off one of your own shirts is not what you want to be doing the exact minute you need to leave the house or risk being late on Day One.)

On the upside, I did talk my son out of wearing a stained sports shirt from the dirty hamper, and he somehow avoided having the one teacher whose name was muttered darkly in our house all summer: the dreaded Ms. X. According to the second-grade gossip mill, she’s both strict and a frequent screamer.

One week down, 36 to go. One hundred eighty days of making turkey and cheese sandwiches at the crack of dawn, of spelling test trauma, and my son’s caveman-like answers to the question “How was your day?” Today, though, happy hour starts at 2:55. Maybe I’ll gather some other mothers and serve up this cocktail. It might be just the thing to make us all forget the pain of tuition.–Kathy Casey

LC Bottoms Up! Note

You could follow this Lemon Drop Martini recipe to the letter and shake these cocktails one at a time. Given their rather compelling nature, however, you may instead wish to stir up a batch of them in a pitcher with some ice and set them out for guests to pour at will. (If you’re about to multiply the amounts below but are as bad as we are at math, just bear in mind that 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons.)

A martini glass filled with rosemary lemon drop with a sugared rosemary rim.

Rosemary Lemon Drop

5 / 2 votes
This sweet-tart Rosemary Lemon Drop martini recipe with its hint of summer and its sophisticated rosemary riff is a lovely way to mark the change of seaasons.
David Leite
Servings1 servings
Calories192 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes


  • Cocktail shaker


  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
  • Rosemary Sugar, optional (recipe follows)


  • Bend 1 sprig of rosemary and drop it into the cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice. Measure in the vodka, limoncello, lemon juice, and simple syrup into the shaker. Cap it and shake vigorously.
  • Rim a martini glass with rosemary sugar, if desired. Strain the cocktail into the martini glass. Float the remaining rosemary sprig (or part of the sprig, if it’s large) in the glass. Imbibe!


Rosemary Sugar

LC Look at All the Ways You’ll Use This Note: This recipe makes ample rosemary sugar, but we’re confident that once you have it on hand, you’ll come up with ample ways to put it to good use. We find a sprinkle of it atop shortbread and grilled or poached stone fruits to be quite nice.
Coarsely chop 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves. Combine the rosemary with 1 cup superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery) on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in a warm, dry place until the rosemary has completely dried out, about 4 days. Now blitz the rosemary and sugar in a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground. You can keep the sugar in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Adapted From

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Serving: 1 cocktailCalories: 192 kcalCarbohydrates: 17 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 9 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 16 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Kathy Casey. Photo © 2009 Angie Norwood Browne. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

After the strong perfume from a fresh sprig of my rosemary plant drifted up to my nose, I was really worried about how much I’d like this drink. But I love it, and I may make it my designated summer cocktail. I’m already thinking of who to invite over so I can make this again. The fresh lemon works so well with the limoncello to break up that sweetness without diluting the lemon flavor. There’s just a faint hint of rosemary left on the tongue after the intial lemon flavor. Don’t be afraid as I was to break that rosemary sprig and give the shaker a good shake. You won’t be sorry. The only change I’d make would be to pour this drink through a fine sieve, as I had little bits of rosemary floating in my glass which were not caught by the cocktail shaker.

Loved it! This is the perfect lemon drop. Usually I find them to be way too sweet, but this one was more like a good lemonade, not too sweet and not too tart—although you have to like vodka and lemon to like this pretty little cocktail. I wasn’t able to make the rosemary sugar as I didn’t realize until too late that you had to let it dry out for more than a day, but I did finely grind some fresh rosemary and mixed it with the sugar to put on the rim of the glass. The rosemary helped to balance the sweet and tart. This will be on my summer drink menu for sitting on the deck, watching the sun slip to the west.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. These drinks were a big hit with my friends a few weeks ago and I finally got around to using up that rosemary sugar. I subbed it in for regular sugar in my lemon cheese pressed cookies. Not too sweet and perfect with the late harvest viognier we enjoyed picnicking @ Zaca Mesa winery yesterday.

  2. This is very nice with an assertive lemon flavor from the Limoncello. I found that a Rosemary Simple Syrup introduced more rosemary flavor into the drink. I recommend trying it if you like more rosemary, and don’t mind making a special syrup!

    1. Glad you liked the cocktail, Larry. Thanks for taking the time to let us know. Cheers to you!