The Best Lemon Drop Martini…has Vanilla Bean!


Lemon  Drop Martini from @creativculinary

This is a post I did a couple of years ago that I decided to publish again for a couple of reasons. I was reminded of this Lemon Drop Martini when my blogging pal John at Kitchen Riffs shared a post yesterday with the Lemon Drop Martini. It’s more the standard version I use and they are so good. But when I have a bit extra time I really crave this Lemon Drop and Vanilla Bean version. It is a fantastic blend of fresh citrus juice and rind with vodka and vanilla bean. A large number of readers have never seen it and that needed correcting; it is SO good. As important? When I went to check out the recipe I was hit with just how awful the photos were. Too awful to represent such a favorite. So I made a batch, took some photos and then invited my neighbor Amy over to share a cocktail with me on the back porch…win-win right?

It was 2012 when I was invited to join other local bloggers to participate in a tasting at Denver’s D Bar Desserts as a prelude to Tillamook Cheese Loaf Love Tour in Denver that year when four different restaurants featured a specialty burger using Tillamook Cheese. We sampled some Tillamook Cheese, were treated to a tasting of the burger that D Bar Desserts will be making and for me, the highlight of the evening? This oh my gosh it truly is the Best Lemon Drop Martini!

Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Keegan Gerhard & Lisa Bailey, D Bar Desserts was opened in May of 2008 and has been acclaimed every year since.  You might know Keegan from his many appearances on the Food Network Challenge programs as the moderator or a judge. It’s easy to see why he is successful in those endeavors; his comfort in front of our audience was evident. He was gracious and warm and spent time conversing with everyone there and definitely went out of his way to insure that everything was perfect; especially the food! I’m sure I speak for our entire group; we could not have been more impressed.

We started outdoors with appetizers including fresh fruit, samples of different types of Tillamook Cheese and a favorite item on the restaurant menu, some amazing Tillamook cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.  Cocktails were served and I am so glad I ordered the Lemon Drop Vanilla Bean cocktail I’m featuring. Many thanks to Keegan and his staff for being so gracious and sharing their recipe. They also turned me onto using cake decorating crystals for cocktail rims…so very pretty. Fair warning, those sugar crystals come in multiple colors and are sure to be gracing more of my cocktails down the road; I love them!

Denver Burger Week, which ran from June 23 to June 30 that year featured four local burger hotspots offering a unique burger special featuring Tillamook Cheese. One of my favorite things about the event? The ‘Loafster’ – the most adorable vehicle ever; a retrofitted 1960’s Volkswagen van. If I had known they made these mini versions I might have been scouring the country for one too!

We watched as Keegan prepared what he called the KGB 2.0; herbed, cheesy waffles serving as the ‘bun’ for what has to be the most innovative burger I’ve ever had. As he mixed and prepared the waffle mixture; it was the perfect opportunity to wrangle some insight from him on high altitude cooking and much of his theory solidified things I’ve been doing (higher heat is key). Do you want to know how much better I felt when he concurred that angel food cake is HARD to get right here (that of the EPIC fail). I’ll try it again now that I’ve got some tips from an expert who also knows the issues of high altitude; I’ll let you know how that works out. ;)

The waffle ‘bun’ was amazing but it was the combination of all of the elements that really took this burger over the top. Kobe beef, Applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese were fantastic. I loved it so much I recreated the KGB 2.0 too; if you’ve never had a waffle burger, this would be a good one to try for your first experience!

D Bar Desserts made it’s name with desserts; Chef Keegan is an award winning pastry chef so it made sense that his venture would specialize in desserts (though D Bar is more than ‘just’ desserts). Our dessert trio consisted of a luscious chocolate for dipping, a fried pastry that was lovingly referred to as a ‘Chia Churro’ (yes, that’s chia on top!) and an amazing mini creme brulee. That rich chocolate sauce for dipping didn’t hurt either. The creme brulee was fantastic. Much like my attitude towards cheesecake, I like them simple and not filled or flavored with a bunch of other ingredients; that perfectly crisp and lightly burned sugar topping should not have to compete and this one was just perfect.


LOVE the flecks of vanilla and grateful for the sparkling sugar tip for the rim!

An altogether fabulous evening filled with wonderful people, some new friends and great food. My thanks to both Tillamook and D Bar Desserts.

Lemon  Drop Martini from @creativculinary

This Lemon Drop really was a fabulous cocktail; unique in that lemonade is the base instead of lemon simple syrup and also in it’s inclusion of vanilla bean paste; both the taste and visual effect of floating vanilla flecks made for the best Lemon Drop I’ve ever had. Loved it. You will be thanking them too for sharing the recipe; this cocktail is divine!

UPDATE: Since the evening over 3 years ago I’ve been to visit D Bar Desserts again and left just as impressed. They’ve since moved into new digs and the new place was beautiful and a friend and I had a great time sampling their menu with other locals from the media. Of particular love for both of us were these Fried Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha and Honey Glaze; they were so amazing do make sure you check them out. I’m craving them now too doggone it!

Lemon Drop Martini
Prep time
Total time
Serves: Approximately 2 cups of lemonade mix
For the Lemon Drop Mixture:
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 & ½ tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 lemons
  • ½ lime
  • 1 & ½ - 2 cups cold water
For the Cocktail:
  • 3-4 oz of Lemon Drop Mixture
  • 1.5 oz of Vodka
To Rim the Glass:
  • Lemon slices
  • Sugar (The restaurant used larger granule cake decorating sugar and I HAD to have some. I found it at Michaels.)
To Make the Lemon Drop Mixture:
  1. Blend ¼ cup hot water, sugar and vanilla paste in food processor at low speed while you cut fruit in quarters. Stop blender, add cut fruit and cold water to taste (I had large fruit so used 2 cups). Pulse until no large pieces remain; approximately 5 or 6 times (do not over blend because it could create a sour taste). Strain into container and chill.
To Make the Cocktail:
  1. Rim the edge of a martini glass with lemon juice and dip in sugar.
  2. Combine the Lemon Drop Mixture with vodka in a cocktail mixer. Add ice and shake vigorously 10-12 times. Pour into glass and serve.
I didn't have any vanilla paste on hand so made my own vanilla bean syrup but you can buy the paste online or at Williams-Sonoma stores.

Here is how to make the syrup at home:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise & seeds scraped, pod cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp vodka (for preserving)

Combine the water & sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the vanilla beans and the pods and leave uncovered until cooled. Stir in the vodka and pour into a container with a lid and let steep.

Store in the refrigerator.



    • Creative Culinary says

      It adds a great element Doug and it’s sort of cool to see the beans floating throughout too; so a nice visual as well. Try it, bet you’ll like it! :)

  1. says

    I have ALL the ingredients on hand… right now…. Tonite’s cocktail – this Lemon Drop Martini!!!!! I think the vanilla will be brilliant, cannot wait to try it!!

  2. says

    Aw, thanks for the link love! And speaking of love, I definitely love the Lemon Drop! May be my new favorite drink for warm weather. Love the vanilla is your version — such an interesting idea. Fun looking recipe — definitely want to try it. Thanks!
    John@Kitchen Riffs Most Recent Post: The Lemon Drop Cocktail

    • Creative Culinary says

      I do love them and glad to hear you do too. Too many guys think of the Lemon Drop and the Cosmopolitan as ‘girly’ drinks yet…what? On a very basic level it’s lemonade with vodka; nothing girly there right?

  3. Carol Katayama says

    Looks so delicious! I’m going to try this for my cocktail party tomorrow night. The recipe calls for 2 cups of water but the instructions call for adding 3 cups water to make the lemonade?


    • Creative Culinary says

      Well son of a gun you are right! I got the recipe from D Bar Desserts and pretty much copied and pasted so not sure which is accurate now. I’m going to try and find that email but in the meantime…start with 2 cups of water and taste. You are basically making lemonade so it should taste like it…if too potent, then add the 3rd cup of water. Just be careful with the pulsing…so important that you ‘just’ get the pulp separated from the rind; the white pith can add bitterness. It was such a strange method but it turned out so good I’ll probably use it now just to make lemonade and limeade even without any booze!

      • suzanne says

        why don’t you remove the pulp from the rind and then blend it.I know that some of the rind gives flavor but you could also just grade some of it into the blender.

        • Creative Culinary says

          Mostly because I was following a chef’s recipe and was intrigued by his method; when the end result was so fantastic I didn’t think of changing it. The pieces of rind are quite large as you stop blending before they really get cut much; straining them out is pretty easy and leaves a fair amount of pulp in the drink.

    • Creative Culinary says

      You let me know when you’re ready Daria and I’ll make them FOR you! I actually stopped at Savory Spice Shop yesterday and bought some vanilla bean paste. Pricey stuff but I want to see if there is any difference next time I make them…maybe for you! Nice meeting you too; let’s do coffee sometime.

  4. Patty Latzke says

    I’m curious – the recipe for the lemon drop martini calls for vodka, but the steps include:
    To Make Cocktail:
    Sugar for rim
    3-4 oz of Lemon Drop Mixture
    1.5 oz of Tequila

    I think it would also be good with tequila… just want to clarify the instructions.

    • Creative Culinary says

      Not any more it doesn’t!!! I saw your comment and was ‘Ah ah, uh oh, what?’ – See what happens when you think it would be OK to have that martini you made in the AM before typing the post? But you’re also right…betting tequila would work! Thanks a bunch, now I will try to still my heart and start breathing normally again. :)

    • Creative Culinary says

      I love the flavor but having those vanilla beans floating in the cocktail was just plain fun too! What really sets this apart is that it is really a lemonade made in the most unusual way…with a bit of vodka. So good; wish I had one right now even.

    • Creative Culinary says

      Well all the credit goes to Keegan…I only get credit for being a bit tenacious in getting the recipe from them. :)

  5. says

    Wowy!! I am so impressed with this breathtaking cocktail! I love the flecks of vanilla floating in the drink. Simply gorgeous! This sounds like it was a great prelude. Wish I were in Denver this week.

    • Creative Culinary says

      Wish you were too! I halved the recipe and it’s gone; that was not a good idea was it? The lemonade alone is so good and I drank it today without the vodka…well, except for the last one. :)

  6. says

    Wow that burger looks amazing and the ingredients are making me swoon. Reason #439 for me to visit Denver!!! What an exciting and tasty event and I need to get me to the US!!! Happy you!

    • Creative Culinary says

      Truly a fabulous waffle/burger. I’m going to beg for the waffle recipe; cross your fingers I’m successful, OK? Denver is ready my dear. :)

  7. says

    What a great time. I wish I would have had a lemon drop. What great food. Tillamook cheese is the best. I can’t wait to start experimenting with some of that extra sharp cheddar.

    • Creative Culinary says

      Come on over any time…well, let’s wait til this heat wave dissipates…no sense in you leaving heat and humidity for heat. :)

  8. says

    1. Love the beautiful appetizers
    2. Want a little loafster myself
    3. Phenomenally innovative burger, so deliciously creative.
    4. Dessert…oh my!
    5. The cocktail…squeeling that it has vanilla beans in it, love the sugared rim and so envious of all your beautiful photographs…all of them!

    • Creative Culinary says

      Yes you made me chuckle out loud! Everything truly was divine but the cocktail is the only thing I had for breakfast this morning. Oh yes I did! :)

    • Creative Culinary says

      I’m glad you love them; that is certainly my intent and this one really, truly is to die for. I will be testing another momentarily. Yep.

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