An electrical method is proposed for the microwave characterization of dual-drive Mach–Zehnder modulators based on heterodyne mixing. The proposed method utilizes the heterodyne products between the two-tone modulated optical sidebands and frequency-shifted optical carrier, and achieves calibration-free and bias-drift-free microwave measurement of dual-drive Mach–Zehnder modulators with high resolution electrical-domain techniques. Our method avoids the extra calibration for the photodetector and reduces half the bandwidth requirement for the photodetector and the electrical spectrum analyzer through carefully choosing a half frequency relationship of the two-tone modulation. Moreover, our measurement avoids the bias drifting problem due to the insensitivity to the bias phase of the modulator under test. The frequency-dependent modulation depths and half-wave voltages are measured for a commercial dual-drive Mach–Zehnder modulator with our method, which agree well with the results obtained by the conventional optical spectrum analysis method.