Behind every great cocktail lies an equally captivating origin story. On that front, no tale is more star-studded than that of the Flame of Love, a Martini riff that’s laced with Hollywood A-listers, iconic landscapes, and a flamed orange peel for good measure.
The story begins at the Beverly Hills landmark restaurant, Chasen’s, with none other than “The King of Cool” himself, Dean Martin. Founded by comedian Dave Chasen in 1936, the hangout became known for its legendary chili — rumor has it Liz Taylor flew in several orders while filming Cleopatra in Rome — as well as being the go-to spot for Hollywood’s hottest stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and the Rat Pack when they were in town. The restaurant would later also become known for the Flame of Love cocktail after it was crafted by Pepe Ruiz, Chasen’s head bartender at the time.
The year was 1970 and Ruiz took it upon himself to create something special after overhearing Dino complain about drinking the same old Martini over and over again. With his inventive wheels turning, Ruiz decided to amp up the classic, adding fino sherry and flaming the essence from an orange zest over the glass.
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This wasn’t the first sherry-laced Martini spin doing the rounds in Los Angeles at the time, however, as industry legend Dale DeGroff shared in a recent episode of VinePair’s “Cocktail College Podcast”. According to DeGroff, that riff on the Martini owes much to Joseph Drown, the owner of the Hotel Bel-Air, who insisted on drinking his Martini with in a sherry-rinsed glass. Ruiz was probably inspired by this preparation when he came up with the Flame of Love, DeGroff says.
It’s not clear exactly how the cocktail then became famous. Though it was Martin’s signature drink, others credit its success to his pal Frank Sinatra. The legendary crooner is said to have bought a round for a whole bar after enjoying his own.
No matter which version you go with, there’s no denying the appeal of the cocktail. Read on to see how to make it for yourself.
Flame of Love Martini
- 2 ounces vodka
- ¼ ounce fino sherry
- Garnish: flamed orange peel
- Thoroughly rinse sherry in a chilled Martini or Nick and Nora glass.
- Discard the excess.
- Squeeze orange peel and flame oils into the glass.
- Stir vodka over ice in separate mixing glass.
- Flame orange peel over finished drink.
- Garnish glass.