The Breakfast Martini is a modern classic Martini Variant created by the great Salvatore Calabrese in 1996. It is effectively a White Lady enhanced by the addition of marmalade. Giving it a tangy, almost Sweet and Sour aspect. It has spawned numerous variants since its creation. I’ll be covering two in this post: the Earl Grey Breakfast Martini, introduced to me by top bartender and good friend Dan Miles; and my very own version, the Brunch Martini.
The Breakfast Martini has an interesting origin story, largely for its implications. The story goes that one morning Salvatore Calabrese’s wife sat him down for a breakfast of toast and marmalade. Like myself, Calabrese typically only drank a coffee for breakfast if he had anything at all. But the tangy orange marmalade captured his imagination and he took the jar with him to work – at the Library Bar of the Lanesborough Hotel in London. During the day he experimented with the marmalade and came up with what we now know as the Breakfast Martini.
However, a very similar cocktail can be found in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book published in 1930 called a Marmalade Cocktail. Yet it was only after Calabrese had created his Breakfast Martini that he discovered its existence. This is an important lesson to learn in our own cocktail experiments and when trying to determine the lineage of any given cocktail. Inspiration for cocktail experimentation can come from anywhere. And just because a chain of events seems obvious in hindsight doesn’t mean it really happened that way.
Both the classic Breakfast Martini and the two variants I’ll outline are gin based. Yet they also include an orange liqueur of some sort, freshly squeezed lemon juice and (orange) marmalade. So this is not a Dry Martini type scenario where we want to use the highest quality of gins with their subtle, delicate flavours. Instead we want to use a good solid London Dry Gin which can stand up to the other ingredients.
Naturally you have some options regarding the orange liqueur to use. Most recipes call for a quality triple sec, and therefore specify Cointreau. The clear cutting flavour and colourless nature of triple sec matches other ingredients well. However, when making variants which introduce some richer flavours and colours you might want to experiment with using Grand Marnier or Mandarin Napoleon instead. The Earl Grey Breakfast Martini goes this route.
Lastly, the marmalade. The original recipe calls for orange marmalade, as do all the variants I suggest. But since there are a wide array of marmalades and other preserves out there this is clearly a great area for experimentation. Whichever you choose to use you’ll need to shake it hard to hope to get it into solution. And accept that you’ll never get it all into solution. This can make it tough to get the correct Balance of Sour, but fortunately the Breakfast Martini still works across quite a range of the Sweet vs Sour axis.
The original Breakfast Martini was created by Salvatore Calabrese. It must be shaken, hard. And like all the others it is served straight up in a martini glass (or equivalent). Due to its ingredients and appearance, both it and its Earl Grey variant also belong to the Short and Serious taste profile, and share a flavour map.
The original recipe calls for two shots of gin; 15ml triple sec; 15ml lemon juice; and one bar spoon of marmalade. This is typically more alcohol than I tend to include per cocktail. And also runs into the perennial problem of “how much juice is in half a lemon?” Because you could only make this with freshly squeezed lemon juice. So unless you work in a place which squeezes and then bottles lemon juice every day, you’ll find 15ml freshly squeezed lemon juice hard to accurately measure quickly.
By my system I would alter this to: one and a half shots gin; half a shot triple sec; juice of half a lemon; and one bar spoon of marmalade.
Either way you’ll want to shake it hard, double strain into a martini glass and garnish it with a twist of orange zest.
Earl Grey Breakfast Martini
The Earl Grey Breakfast Martini was, in fact, the first Breakfast Martini I encountered, while working in London. It took me a while to understand that it was a variant and not the original. It was brought onto the menu by my (then) bar manager and good friend Dan Miles. Though it is definitely interesting and different, like earl grey itself, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
The idea behind its creation was to double down on the “Englishness” of the cocktail. So as well as adding gin and marmalade, why not go the whole hog and include some tea as well? The tea that proved best suited was earl grey, and the best method to introduce it was to infuse it into the gin itself.
This was very easy. When making a single cocktail just drop a teabag into your gin and leave it for a minute to infuse. Then pull it out and add your other ingredients. As we had it on the menu we made whole bottles of the stuff by adding half a dozen teabags to a bottle and shaking it up for a couple of minutes before fishing them out. We used Plymouth gin, and many people would ask us what that interesting golden Plymouth gin was standing between the regular and sloe Plymouth gins.
For this one we shake: one and a half shots earl grey infused gin; half a shot Mandarin Napoleon; the juice of half a lemon; and one bar spoon of marmalade. All other details remain the same as for the classic.
The Brunch Martini is my own personal variant of the Breakfast Martini that I developed in 2016. I was working the brunch shifts in a new place and a (crappy and inaccurate) Breakfast Martini variant had been included onto the brunch menu. Rather than making it as specified and suffer the inevitable customer complaints, I instead *interpreted* the owners’ wishes and initially made classic Breakfast Martinis instead.
However, the feedback from customers was that, though tasty and well made, these classic Breakfast Martinis were just too strong. Too alcoholic. At least for the majority of people looking for a cocktail during brunch. It should be noted that the other top brunch cocktail, the Bloody Mary, is not too strong either. So, since I had access to freshly squeezed orange juice for the brunch I experimented by adding some of this to the classic recipe. It went down very well, and has proved far more popular in this scenario than the original.
The Brunch Martini is also shaken. And is prepared, served and decorated just like the original. However, the addition of freshly squeezed orange juice shifts it into Neo-Martini territory.
The Brunch Martini consists of: one and a half shots gin; half a shot triple sec; the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon and half an orange; and one bar spoon of marmalade.