This quick and easy lychee and elderflower martini is a smooth, floral, tropical drink that’s best served icy cold. My lychee martini recipe is a hit at Halloween parties with a creepy lychee eyeball garnish, but you’ll want to make these exceptional lychee cocktails for any special occasion… like Friday night.
What are lychees?
If you’ve had lychees before, I’m not surprised. They’re not a widely commercially available fruit and you probably won’t find a fresh display at your local supermarket, which adds an air of novelty to these lychee cocktails.
That’s because lychees are a subtropical fruit native to China, but found widely throughout the world in other hospitable climates like Australia, Thailand, India, South Africa and a few spots in the United States (Florida, Hawaii and California).
Lychees are closely related to rambutan and longan berries with a bumpy, leathery red skin and large, dark, smooth seed. The texture of lychee fruit reminds me of a peeled grape, but their floral flavor hints of roses and elderflower. This post breaks down the flavor of lychees.
Do I need fresh fruit for lychee cocktails?
No. Even if you don’t live in a place where lychees are grown, you can usually find canned lychees at the grocery store or in specialty markets. If not there you’ll definitely find them online. I used Roland brand canned lychees in heavy syrup for this lychee martini recipe.
Even if you’re not much of a martini drinker, this simple lychee cocktail might change your mind. Despite the combo of vodka, vermouth and elderflower liquor, it’s a surprisingly smooth and sip-able drink, and I’ve done enough research (ahem) to know.
Lychee martini recipe ingredients
- Canned Lychees in Syrup
- Elderflower Liquor
- Lemon Juice
- Lychee Garnish
Mixology trial and error
Cocktail experimenting is arduous. You wouldn’t believe how many variations I went through before settling on this balanced, sip-worthy recipe for my lychee elderflower martini. My first renditions were purely lychee fruit and vodka, but they fell flat. Most martini recipes include vermouth, so I added some and it got better, but not quite there. Lemon always brightens up a cocktail, so I added fresh citrus juice. It was an improvement to be sure, but again, something was missing… but what?
It was the lychees — their flavor didn’t quite pop in the lychee cocktail. Instead, it was more of an afterthought. Not what I was going for. So I closed my eyes, and took a deep whiff of the canned fruit. It reminded me of something… another whiff… “I’ve smelled this before...” Finally, it dawned on me. ELDERFLOWER. Or more specifically, elderflower liqueur.
Side by side comparison
To verify, I did a side by side “smell test”. First a whiff of lychees in syrup, followed by a whiff of elderflower liqueur. To my (admittedly) novice nose, the similarity was remarkable. A taste test confirmed it. Elderflower was the missing ingredient and it made all the difference. You can use St. Germaine, Côte Jolie, or other elderflower liquor for this recipe. Côte Jolie is what I had on hand and it costs about 1/3 the price of St. Germaine, just saying.
Mixing lychee elderflower martini by the glass
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Add the vodka, elderflower liqueur, vermouth, lychee syrup and lemon juice.
- Seal the shaker tightly with the lid and shake like a maniac for about 30 seconds until the outside of the container is icy cold.
- Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lychee.
Can I make lychee cocktails by the pitcher?
Yes. It’s easy to make a whole pitcher of this lychee martini recipe for parties. Instead of shaking the contents with ice in a cocktail shaker, mix them in your pitcher and chill them in the refrigerator for several hours. I have measurements for a pitcher-sized recipe in the recipe card below.
Lychee elderflower martinis can easily be transformed into a tasty/spooky Halloween cocktail by doctoring up the lychee garnish. I didn’t have blueberries on hand like they show in this (very realistic) tutorial, but halving a maraschino cherry makes a creepy looking eyeball to gild your spooky lychee cocktail for Halloween.
More unique fall and winter cocktail recipes:
- cocktail shaker
- martini glass or coupe
- 20 ounce can lychees in syrup
FOR ONE LYCHEE MARTINI:
- 1 ounce lychee syrup
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
- 1/4 ounce elderflower liquor such as St. Germaine or Côte Jolie
- squeeze lemon juice
- 1 lychee pitted
- maraschino cherries optional (for Halloween eyeballs)
FOR A SMALL PITCHER OF MARTINIS:
- 9 ounces vodka (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 9 ounces lychee syrup (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 4 1/2 ounces dry vermouth (1/2 cup + 1.25 tablespoons)
- 2 1/4 ounces elderflower liquor
- 1 1/2 ounces lemon juice
- lychees (and/or lychee eyeballs) for garnish
FOR EACH LYCHEE MARTINI:
- You'll need 1.5 ounces of lychee syrup for each martini. Set a strainer over a bowl or glass measuring cup and pour the lychees through the strainer. Reserve the syrup for the cocktail. (NOTE: One can of lychees should yield about 1 1/3 cups of lychee juice).
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the vodka, dry vermouth and lychee syrup to the shaker. Secure the lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is very frosty.
- Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass and garnish with a whole lychee fruit.
FOR HALLOWEEN LYCHEE MARTINI:
- For Halloween, cut a maraschino cherry in half and gently press it into the lychee, to resemble an eyeball. Skewer the "eyeball" with a cocktail pick and slip it into the martini. If you're hosting a party, you might want to pre-assemble the lychee and maraschino skewers next to a pitcher of pre-mixed martinis.
FOR A PITCHER OF MARTINIS (22.5 OUNCES – 6 SERVINGS)
- Combine the ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate for several hours or until very cold.
- Assemble 9 of the lychee eyeballs (if they're for Halloween) and skewer them with a cocktail pick. Serve eyeballs alongside the chilled pitcher of lychee martinis with coupe or martini glasses.