From Cosmos to Lemon Drops: 10 Recipes That Prove '90s Martinis Are Back

It's time to break out your cocktail shaker and V-shaped glasses.

meyer lemon drop martini
Photo: Photographer Bryan Gardner; Food Stylist Laura Rege; Prop Stylist Paige Hicks

What goes around, comes around—and that's particularly true for '90s nostalgia, which is huge right now. Browse any social media platform, and you'll spy plenty of cargo pants, low-rise jeans, crop tops, and tiny backpacks. Dunkaroos and Lunchables are back, and so are the trendy cocktails of that era.

There's an established theory of a 30-year pendulum, when pop culture trends tend to re-emerge. The reason for that? It takes about that length of time for young people—who were the consumers of culture—to become the creators of culture. Today's bartending stars grew up during the '90s martini craze, and while some of them may have been too young to imbibe back then, now they're putting their own stamp on those libations with delicious results.

A quick refresher on the martini fad of the '90s: These drinks didn't have much to do with the classic martini (a simple cocktail made with gin and dry vermouth). In the '90s, anything in a conical V-shaped glass could be dubbed a "-tini." Vodka dominated as the base spirit; it disappeared into the background and better showed off the colorful syrups and fruity liqueurs that characterized many '90s martinis, including the Appletini. And then came Carrie Bradshaw and company. When these pop culture icons started sipping Cosmopolitans on Sex and the City, those tuning in started going out to local bars and ordering a Cosmo.

As the '90s came to a close, so did the cocktails that were so iconic of the era. Bitter cocktails replaced the sugary sweet ones, gin came back, and bourbon drinks, like the old fashioned, became all the rage as speakeasy-style bars and the fascination with pre-Prohibition-era options swept the United States.

But it looks like cocktail drinkers are now craving the easygoing vodka-based drinks popular before the turn of the millenium. The first '90s cocktail to make a big comeback? The espresso martini. In 2021, Yelp's data science team reported a 300 percent increase in mentions of this buzzy cocktail, and in 2022, Nielsen reported that it had become one of the 10 most-ordered cocktails in the U.S. Other martinis emblematic of the '90s followed closely behind. Many of them have been re-imagined by bartenders who have access to fresher ingredients and more sophisticated liqueurs than the first generation of these drinks utilized.

Ready to take a sip back in time? Here are some of the '90s martinis we think are worth revisiting.

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Cranberry juice, lime juice, and orange liqueur combine with citrus vodka in this quintessential '90s sipper. The proper Cosmo has just a hint of pink color and should be more tart than sweet.

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Apple Martini

Green Apple Martini
Quentin Bacon

This recipe is a fresh reimagining of its neon-green, Jolly Rancher-inspired predecessor. You won't find any syrupy Apple Pucker liqueur here! Freshly juiced tart green apples give this cocktail a deliciously modern twist.

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French Martini

Emily Kate Roemer

This cocktail isn't French—but it gets its name from the French liqueur Chambord, which is made from black raspberries and is the key ingredient in this drink. When shaken with vodka and pineapple juice, the resulting concoction is frothy, fruity, and fun.

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Lychee Martini

Lychee Martini

Lychees are a juicy tropical fruit with a hint of floral flavor. This lychee martini brings their flavor to the forefront and is very easy to make. It uses the juice from a can of lychees rather than the fresh stuff. There's also vodka and a hint of dry vermouth for a touch of sophistication.

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Espresso Martini

espresso martini on bar counter
Courtesy of Maple & Ash / Jake Huke

This is the '90s martini that started the current renaissance—be sure to garnish yours with three espresso beans: they represent health, wealth, and happiness.

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Lemon Drop Martini

meyer lemon drop martini
Bryan Gardner

A little sweet, a little tart, with a sugar rim that makes this cocktail taste exactly like lemon-drop candies, this is a cocktail that goes down easy.

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Pomegranate juice gives a deep, tart flavor as well as a stunning color to this ruby-toned vodka cocktail. A little grapefruit and lime juice layers in added citrus for complexity.

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Shiso Martini

Shiso Martinis

If you're nostalgic for the Asian-fusion trend of the '80s and '90s, try this fresh, herbaceous cocktail. Also known as perilla or Japanese basil, shiso is an herb with pretty saw toothed-edged leaves and a slightly minty flavor. It's macerated overnight in gin for this martini.

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Blood Orange Martini

Blood Orange Martini

Just three ingredients are all you need for this gorgeous drink. It's made with citrus vodka, a little simple syrup, and blood orange juice. Blood oranges get their name because of their deep red pulp and juice. If you can't find them, use bottled blood orange juice, which can be found at many specialty markets.

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Dirty Martini

extra-dry martini
Paul Costello

If you prefer drinks that are on the savory side, the dirty martini is the cocktail for you. Olive brine makes this drink pleasantly salty. Try it with blue cheese-stuffed olives for a real '90s-steakhouse throwback.

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