Let’s start with what the Breakfast Martini is not: It is not a Martini you drink for breakfast.
While we admit a “Breakfast Martini” sounds like the classiest possible way to be a full-blown alcoholic, this is not actually a Martini, nor is it a morning drink. It can be—any drink can be an a.m. drink to the sufficiently motivated, and this one does as good a job as any—but it wasn’t conceived as such. No, the Breakfast Martini joins the Coffee Cocktail (no coffee), the Japanese Cocktail (not Japanese), and the Corn n Oil (containing neither corn nor oil) in the ignominious little coterie of misleading cocktails. The drink is not for breakfast, it’s inspired by breakfast. To explain:
The Breakfast Martini was created in 1997 by Salvatore Calabrese, a leading light of the London cocktail scene since 1980 and as celebrated a bar professional as you could possibly hope for. He is also, in his words, “very Italian”, and so “the first thing I do in the morning is always a coffee.” Every morning his wife tells him to eat breakfast. Every morning he politely declines, just coffee, thanks. “So one morning I must’ve looked worse than ever,” he says, and she insisted, handing him a slice of toast with marmalade, and commanded him to eat.
He starts chewing, and the wheels start turning. It’s tangy, it’s bitter, it’s zesty and flavorful. He’s a bartender—flavors are his job, after all—and he goes to work and brings the marmalade with him. Absolutely no one was using fruit preserves in cocktails at the time, but he had a vision. He riffs on it until he invents a cocktail he loves, essentially a White Lady with marmalade and calls it a Breakfast Martini, “a name everybody can recognize,” he says: Gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and a healthy dollop of orange marmalade, spooned right into the cocktail shaker and shaken along with the ice.
What he didn’t know at the time is that he was essentially recreating a cocktail from a previous era, one dreamed up by a different leading light of the city’s bar scene two generations prior. In 1930, Harry Craddock, lead bartender of the revered American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel, published the Savoy Cocktail Book, a tome of some 700 drinks. One of those is the Marmalade Cocktail, made of gin, lemon juice, and orange marmalade. That wasn’t all—Craddock also used apricot jam in the Apricot Cocktail, grapefruit jelly in the Grapefruit Cocktail, and peach preserves in the Sunset Cocktail—but it was before the internet, so Calabrese hadn’t seen the book and didn’t know any of that. He just followed his instincts, and in doing so created a modern classic.
Using jam or jelly has mostly left cocktail bars, seeing as the world is global and you can get most produce fresh all the time. As we noted with the Clover Club, some people still call for preserves in certain drinks, but fresh tends to be better. Still—while they may be sub-ideal for cocktail bars, they still have a tremendous value, for much the same reason they used to: You don’t always have fresh produce at home. A pint of raspberries starts molding on the drive home from the supermarket, but raspberry jam is nearly immortal. It’s a great way to add flavor to drinks without needing everything fresh all the time, and so a fantastic way to make a cocktail, at whichever time of day it most suits you.
- 1.5 oz. gin
- 0.75 oz. lemon juice
- 0.5 oz. orange liqueur
- 1 barspoon (about ½ tbsp) orange marmalade
- 1 tsp simple syrup (optional)
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and add ice. No need to stir, shaking will mix everything just fine. Shake hard for eight to 10 seconds and strain up into a chilled Martini or coupe glass, and garnish with an orange peel.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
Gin: In a video, Calabrese calls for Tanqueray 10 by name. I absolutely adore Tanqueray 10, but strangely, that was one of the few gins I used that I didn’t love here, because the extra citrus elements worked against the drink for me, not for it. This already has orange from the marmalade, liqueur, and garnish, so personally I found citrus forward gins to muddy the fruit element, not enhance it. Instead I gravitated toward gins that were a bit more classic in profile—Bombay Sapphire (which he uses in a different video), Plymouth, regular old Tanqueray, Sipsmith, really anything that isn’t too floral or weird works great.
Lemon Juice: The original recipe only called for 0.5oz lemon juice instead of my 0.75oz above, which I changed because I believe it benefits from a bit more of the push/pull from more acidity and more sweetness. 0.75oz tends to be the perfect amount of citrus to mask the alcohol heat while retaining the flavor. The original measurement will showcase a small amount more gin flavor and a large amount more gin heat, which you can do if you want to, but I personally don’t think it’s as good.
Orange Liqueur: Calabrese calls for Cointreau by name, and it does indeed make a delicious drink. Cointreau is oranges on a base of neutral spirits, so it’s a clean orange profile. Just as good, though very different, was to use a curacao, which is oranges on a base of brandy or Cognac, so it’s got orange of course but also Cognac flavor—oak, vanilla, and stone fruit. At the risk of the vanilla and orange combination coming across a bit like a creamsicle, I think I preferred the curacao approach, and of which the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao worked best for me.
The only other thing I’ll say about this is that Pierre Ferrand released a limited-edition Yuzu Dry Curacao, which if you can find a bottle works exceptionally well here, which is zesty and vanilla forward and combined with the orange profile to feel like a non-sweet cake.
Orange Marmalade: I admit I didn’t toggle this variable in my tests. You can immerse yourself in this world if you want to, and I think it might even be worth your time—marmalade is a major agent of complexity here, so different brands will absolutely produce different results. On the other hand, I feel the spirit of this cocktail is one of simplicity and ease, so I grabbed the Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade (the one with the red and white checkered cap) because that was the best looking one at my local store, and conducted all my tests with it.
Simple Syrup: The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but personally I like it with a touch more lemon juice, which necessitates a kiss of simple syrup to take the edge off, just a teaspoon or so. If you have particularly sweet marmalade or you just don’t mind, feel free to leave it out, but for me, without simple syrup, it was a touch austere.