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.
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!
- ¼ cup hot water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 & ½ tsp vanilla paste
- 2 lemons
- ½ lime
- 1 & ½ - 2 cups cold water
- 3-4 oz of Lemon Drop Mixture
- 1.5 oz of Vodka
- Lemon slices
- Sugar (The restaurant used larger granule cake decorating sugar and I HAD to have some. I found it at Michaels.)
- 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.
- Rim the edge of a martini glass with lemon juice and dip in sugar.
- Combine the Lemon Drop Mixture with vodka in a cocktail mixer. Add ice and shake vigorously 10-12 times. Pour into glass and serve.
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.