The Lemon Drop first squeezed to life in San Francisco sometime during the 1970s. Its inventor, Norman Jay Hobday, an out-of-work Vietnam vet turned saloon owner, is also credited with opening the country’s first fern bar, a concept that mixed house plants and Tiffany lamps with throngs of upwardly mobile urbanites.
Both were an instant hit. And for two-plus decades, the Lemon Drop dominated cocktail menus from North Beach to Bangkok, hooking a generation of bargoers on its boozy-tart-sweet melange of vodka, citrus and sugar. Oprah famously served one to Rachel Ray on her show.
Some mislabel the Lemon Drop a Martini. But the drink’s closest cocktail kin is the Crusta, a New Orleans invention that dates back to the 1850s and, like the Lemon Drop, is distinguished by its sugared rim. It’s tempting, while whipping up a batch of Lemon Drops, to skip this important step. Don’t. That first saccharine brush against the lips before the onrush of orange, lime and booze fill your mouth is the Lemon Drop’s calling card. If you don’t believe us, just ask Oprah.