A Martini…for breakfast? Made with piquant marmalade, this brunch-ready cocktail is the perfect thing to roll out of bed to.
So beloved is the Breakfast Martini, that it’s easy to forget that this drink is a relatively recent addition to the cocktail canon – a zesty spin on a perfectly crafted classic Martini.
But first, a clarification: Despite its name, this drink is no Martini. Technically an altered gin sour with three additions of orange (Cointreau, orange zest, and, most importantly, a barspoon of Seville orange marmalade), the Breakfast Martini is a zesty, refreshing, and utterly delicious tipple. And while its moniker implies mornings, it tastes as delectable at midnight as it does at midday.
Legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese (who’s affectionately nicknamed “The Maestro”) is behind this modern classic. A key presence within London’s cocktail revival of the 1990s, Calabrese has logged time behind the stick at some of the capital’s most reputed haunts, including the Dukes Hotel Bar and The Playboy Club. But it was at the Lanesborough Hotel’s Library Bar that he first dreamed up the Breakfast Martini in 1996.
As the story goes, the Breakfast Martini’s creation was inspired by a breakfast of toast with marmalade.
According to Calabrese, the inspiration for the drink can be credited to his wife, Sue. As a true Italian, Calabrese says, he usually begins each morning with a steaming cup of espresso—nothing more, nothing less. But one fateful morning (after a particularly decadent evening out), his wife persuaded him to eat a little something alongside his coffee: toast slathered with marmalade.
It was while munching on his toast that the idea came to Calabrese: why not recast marmalade as a cocktail ingredient? With its bitter intensity, its depth of flavour, and its citric richness, marmalade is just the thing to add complexity to a serve. Following a few rounds of experimentation, the Breakfast Martini was born. Now—two decades later—the drink has never been more popular.
However, it turns out that Calabrese’s cocktail wasn’t the first serve to give marmalade a starring role. In fact, it was in Harry Craddock’s timeless and influential Savoy Cocktail Book that the recipe for a very similar Marmalade Cocktail was published in 1930. Featuring gin, lemon juice, and marmalade, it was described by Craddock as bitter-sweet and, therefore, “suited to a luncheon aperitif”. Additionally, the tradition of using jellies and preserves as cocktail ingredients can be traced to as early as the 1860s.
Whether at midday or midnight, the Breakfast Martini always goes down a treat.
To this day, Calabrese claims he was unaware of the predecessors. No matter—his early-morning stroke of genius has translated into one of British mixology’s greatest hits. Next time you crave a bit of pre-noon decadence, you know exactly what to mix up.
Recipe: The Breakfast Martini