In the hedonistic early aughts, the late Douglas Ankrah created the Pornstar Martini, now a modern classic. Ankrah was the beloved bartender and consultant behind the now-shuttered venues London Academy of Bartending (LAB), a training ground for myriad industry talents, and the Knightsbridge bar Townhouse. It was the latter that brought fame to the sunny-hued Pornstar Martini, a cheerful mix of vanilla vodka, passion fruit liqueur, and passion fruit puree, buoyed by a palate-cleansing sidecar of sparkling wine (sometimes Champagne, often Prosecco), that in no way resembles a true Martini. The approachable ingredients, the swish presentation, and its cheeky connotations (originally known as the Maverick Martini, named for a Cape Town gentlemen’s club, it later evolved into the more risqué-sounding Pornstar Martini) resulted in a drink that embodied U.K. nightlife of the era.
The Pornstar Martini never took off in the U.S., which is surprising considering the early part of the decade was brimming with sweet vodka ‘tinis of countless other varieties, and the Cosmopolitan, splashing out of a dramatic, oversized glass, continued to serve as a symbol of chic nights out. But in the U.K., bars churned out the predictable order, and its popularity naturally spread to other cities in Europe. Inevitably, bartender malaise set in, especially as more intriguing libations made their way onto menus.
The appeal of the Pornstar Martini has yet to wane, even in today’s craft-minded cocktail world. But in Amsterdam, some bartenders have taken the tipple to new heights, reimagining it with Dutch ingredients that not only satiate customer demand but invite them to dive deeper into the local scene. “The Pornstar Martini is an interesting subject,” says Amsterdam bar consultant Thomas Doll-Datema. “On the one hand, bars love to hate on the drink, but at the same time they call it the rent-maker.” Although Doll-Datema notes that the Pornstar Martini has now seeped into the drinking culture of Amsterdam 20-somethings who seek it out by the liter at mid-end bars, cafes, and pubs, “there is a really nice subset of bars that worked on making it their own.”
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One of these is the moody Law & Order Cocktail Bar, a hideaway from the nearby touristy mayhem of Rokin where patrons drink Cognac Crimson Sours and Manhattans laced with beetroot and pecan. Co-owner Vitaly Alekseyev, who was born in Latvia and worked in London prior to landing in Amsterdam, is well acquainted with the Pornstar Martini’s hold on guests.
“Regardless of whether it’s on the menu or not, you cannot avoid someone requesting a Pornstar Martini,” Alekseyev points out. “In order to not be the bartender who tries to convince a guest to get something else, I just decided I was going to make it the way I want to. Now I’m proud to serve it.”
Alekseyev’s way is the Almost Hollywood Number 2. Law & Order’s best-seller, the elevated rendition unites Voerman Vieux Dutch Superior Spiced Brandy with a passion fruit-rose shrub, a touch of dry vermouth, and an ethereal ripple of Champagne-vanilla foam that surprisingly shuns cream or egg whites and “takes care of that customary shot of Prosecco,” adds Alekseyev.
Sins of Sal, in the Jordaan, is an industrial-tinged hotspot showcasing Latin street food, natural wine, and cocktails courtesy of Martin Eisma (he also handles the libations at sister restaurant Salmuera). Following Eisma’s tequila-mezcal Paloma with charred corn and dill, the Adult Entertainment, his take on the Pornstar Martini, is what most patrons clamor for off the list of seven revamped classics.
“Sins of Sal is all about the guilty pleasures,” explains Eisma, yet “as someone who focuses on making drinks that are elaborate,” he wanted his variation to provide an “option that’s reminiscent of what guests want, while also satisfying our own creativity. The Pornstar Martini is a tropical drink. Its flavors are easy to understand, but Adult Entertainment shows how it can be a little nerdier and super delicious while staying recognizable.”
Eisma’s adventurous drink is based on the clarified milk punch model, whipped up with local vegan milk, acidified passion fruit puree, and gin and Campari infused with tonka bean and aji mirasol chiles that are native to Peru and grown in the Netherlands. A white miso and pineapple cordial adds further complexity to the cocktail. “We can also top it up with a pet nat, so it makes it a bit more refreshing and incorporates an extra little wink to the original,” says Eisma.
At the heart of Leroy Soumokil’s Bar Mokum, in de Pijp, is a desire to educate guests on Dutch spirits through his twists on classics like the Caipirinha and Dark ‘n’ Stormy. “If I put a drink on the menu with different ingredients people might not order it because they don’t know the style, but if I list the style, they kind of know what they are getting even if they are surprised by the details, just like a chef’s steak,” says Soumokil.
The Pornstar Martini is no exception. Soumokil admits that it is not the most exciting of cocktails to him, but “it’s one of the most searched for, so if it is going to be ordered anyway, I would rather make our version of it.” He believes it is the nostalgia-inducing set of flavors “that take you back to that first time you tasted passion fruit and vanilla in a candy as a kid,” that is intrinsic to the longstanding success of the Pornstar Martini, and he replicates those feel-good vibes with his exalted riff.
Soumokil first opts for a base of Bols vodka, because “it’s subtle and allows the other flavors to jump together,” he points out. Layered with a from-scratch vanilla-passion fruit syrup, fresh lemon juice, a hint of orange flower water, and a texture-boosting egg white, it also stars peach liqueur “to soften the passion fruit,” he adds. “We always ask if they want the classic instead, but 85 percent of our customers choose this one. The original, I think, would be great to drink at a Turkish resort.” But in Amsterdam, the original is clearly ripe for reinvention.