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Leap Year Cocktail Recipe – A Gin Sipper Rivaling Martini

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An interesting cocktail with a cool name, Leap Year is far older than it may sound. It dates back to 1928, and it’s actually one of the drinks that has a backstory that checks out. 

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Leap Year

What is the Leap Year ?

The Leap Year is a gin-based cocktail with a very old but simple history. It was originally created for London’s Savoy hotel’s leap year celebration, back in 1928. The connection between the ingredients and the name isn’t clear, but the name alone sounds interesting enough to make you consider ordering one even without knowing what’s in it. 

It’s a mix of gin, sweet vermouth, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. It’s a sipper and it’s regarded as an alternative to the classic Martini, if you’re looking for one. I for one enjoy it more than the Martini.

leap year 2

Leap Year Cocktail Recipe

Ioana Ciuraru
A really nice gin-sweet vermouth sipper that's gives Martini a run for its money.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1


  • 2 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 oz orange liqueur
  • 0.25 oz lime juice
  • lemon twist for garnish


  • In a shaker combine gin, vermouth, orange liqueur, lemon juice, ice. Shake well.
  • Strain into chilled coupe or small Martini glass.
  • Garnish with lemon.


  • Sweet vermouth is very noticeable in this, despite the small amount. Get one you know you like.

When is this drink best ?

Leap Year is more of an elegant sipper, so I’d see it on a menu alongside Martini, Cosmopolitan, Negroni, and other drinks where you should take your time drinking it. There’s also something so beautiful and elegant about cocktails meant for a Martini glass or a coupe that I can’t see any of them (including Leap Year) served at an event where you’re just looking to get a buzz. 

My thoughts on Leap year

I expected it to be more sour, but the orange liqueur balances the lemon juice. There’s an unmistakable citrus note to Leap Year that works very well with the sweet vermouth and the gin, and I think that’s one of the best things about this drink. 

Sweet vermouth is very noticeable and strong in any drink you use it, which I kind of like, and I think it rounds off gin’s sharper notes in a way other types of vermouth couldn’t. 

Overall a very pleasing, vaguely sweet but mostly dry gin concoction.

leap year making

If you like Leap Year, you might also like…

Classic Negroni – gin, sweet vermouth, orange aperitif make for a very strong drink 

Classic Martini – gin and vermouth, for a strong old-fashioned drink

Lucien Gaudin – similar to Leap Year but adds orange aperitif

Jasmine – a similar gin sipper, minus vermouth

Bronx – a gin and split vermouth sipper

Between the Sheets – a split base variation of the Sidecar

Notes, substitutes, and tips

Leap Year is very gin-forward, so use a gin you know and love; it’s going to be front and center.

Despite the small amount of sweet vermouth, it lends a lot of flavor. If it’s overwhelming express orange peel into the drink to tone it down.

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