Want to drink a piece of history? The Lemon Drop is the place to start. This cocktail has its roots, like many, in Prohibition-era America, but there’s a lot more to it. When you make it, you can take pride in knowing you’re drinking something that’s shaped drinking culture, and the wider culture of America, since its inception. Keep reading to learn more and get the best recipe.
Learn About the Lemon Drop
Bars (and coffee shops, for that matter) have always been places for the seditious. Taverns and pubs are social spaces, and wherever people gathered, they tend to talk about politics and even make plans for change. In fact, bars and taverns were prime planning spaces for both the American and French revolutions.
They were egalitarian and progressive in many ways; except for the fact that women weren’t allowed in. Though, to be fair, it’s hard to say whether the main issue is that women actually weren’t allowed to come in, or if no woman of sense really wanted to hang out in a slightly seedy place crowded with men in their cups!
The Blessing of Prohibition
When Prohibition came along, the traffic to local bars and pubs dried up. Anyone who owned such an establishment had just three choices: learn a new profession, move to another country, or run an illegal business. Illegal businesses tend to be much less picky about who they let in, so suddenly, women were not just permitted to enter but positively encouraged to do so.
The glorious co-mingling of the sexes that prevailed during Prohibition dried up once things we back to “normal.” It turned out that lots of women preferred to drink at home, with friends, instead of with strangers in dark bars, and bar culture slowly shifted back to a male-only environment.
That all changed in San Francisco when Henry Africa of the Fern Bar deliberately designed a clean, comfortable, bright, and aesthetic gathering place and started actively trying to draw women in. Africa saw a lot of commerce was to be had by attracting young, single people of both sexes and giving them a safe place to meet and mingle. Henry Africa not only marketed to women through the design of his bar but also by adapting cocktails popular with men to flavors preferred by women. Here’s what he came up with:
The lemon drop is a classic cocktail recipe. Why not make one tonight?
- 1.5 oz vodka
- .75 oz Cointreau
- .74 oz lemon juice
- 1 t simple syrup
Shake these in a cocktail shaker and then strain them over ice. Garnish the glass with a rim of sugar. Just remember: when the drink is this simple, nothing matters more than the quality of the ingredients. Don’t use this to hide inferior additives: use a top-shelf vodka, fresh lemons rather than juice, and a homemade simple syrup for the best results.
Bored with the classic? Try upping the lemon juice, using straight, superfine sugar instead of syrup, or using a fruity gin instead of vodka. A half-ounce of limoncello will give it extra sweetness, but also more lemon flavor. Try adding a floral simple syrup, like lavender, for an interesting twist.
The drop is a classic. Why not make one tonight?