Not lemon balm or lemon mint. Lemon verbena. This is a little woody shrub that only barely tolerates our chilly maritime winter, but if you can nurse it through one winter, you’re set. I love lemon verbena because it adds a bright citrus sparkle to drinks without making it overly acidic the way lemon juice does.
You’re looking for Aloysia citrodora, and you can probably find a small one in a four-inch pot at the garden center or farmer’s market. If you live inland and get warm summers, it’ll reach 6-8 feet after a couple of years. Give it some room or be prepared to cut it back every winter. It will also do fine in a large pot, and won’t object to whatever amount of clipping you impose upon it. Just be sure it gets plenty of sun, and be prepared to wrap it in a frost cloth, or even a sheet, in advance of a hard freeze its first winter. If it’s in a pot, just move it to a sheltered spot that doesn’t get hit by frost.
Muddle lemon verbena into any citrus-based cocktail, or cook up a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated to a boil so the sugar melts and allowed to cool) with the leaves. It works as a garnish too, of course: the clever bartender trick would be to wipe the rim of the glass with a leaf, and then drop a fresh, pretty leaf into the glass.