The drinks world is in mourning as today we learned of the death of one of its legends, Douglas Ankrah, who is best known for inventing the Pornstar Martini.
There aren’t many bartenders who invent a modern classic, made the world over from the starriest hotels to ordinary pubs and pizzerias. There is Dick Bradsell, inventor of the Espresso Martini and the Bramble, but Douglas Ankrah’s creation, the Pornstar Martini, is probably now more ubiquitous.
Sadly, we learned today via a family member on Facebook that Ankrah died yesterday (16 August). She wrote: “The Legendary Douglas Ankrah of #PornstarMartini fame is no more. A mighty oak has indeed fallen. Our family is heartbroken. Our mum is inconsolable. Dee left us without saying goodbye.”
The story of the Pornstar Martini
Ankrah created his famous cocktail back in 2003 when he was working at the Townhouse in Knightsbridge. The name came about because “the cocktail was so sexy and looked like what a pornstar would drink”, he told us when we interviewed him in 2019. Ankrah also founded another legendary London bar, LAB (London Academy of Bartenders) in Soho, which opened in 1999 and finally closed its doors in 2016. It was here that the Pornstar Martini really took off.
Ankrah said, “when I first made it, I had no idea it was going to be neo classic.” Since then, Ankrah’s creation has regularly topped lists as one of the world’s favorite cocktails. We asked Ankrah why he thought it was so popular: “It has to be the name, the serve, and, of course, the Champagne shot on the side”, he said.
The Pornstar Martini became so huge that it turned into a business for Ankrah, including a bottled version. Part of the logic for launching his own product was because he was sick of tasting badly made Pornstar Martinis: “It’s like writing a great song that’s being covered very badly. It’s one of the reasons I bottled my creation. At least I have done it justice”, he said.
A bartending legend
Tributes poured in from the global drinks community:
American drinks writer Camper English described him as “hugely influential” while British bar veteran Angus Winchester said Ankrah was the “Father of the Porn Star Martini but far more significant than that to many London bartenders at an important time in the industry. And a top bloke.”
“Douglas was a pioneer of the modern cocktail renaissance and ballsy with it. As the first London bartender I knew to open his own successful venue, his tenacity was an inspiration to me – he of course influenced many others. I still remember his drinks at the LAB when it first opened: most had more than five ingredients, tasted like delicious candy and were to define a decade. Whilst he’ll most likely be commemorated for, and with, the Porn Star Martini, it will be Doug’s warmth, charm, quick laugh and easy smile that will be remembered and missed by myself and his countless other friends around the world.” Ben Reed from Cocktail Credentials.
Dawn Davies from the Whisky Exchange said: “My first memory of Douglas was 20 years ago in Townhouse. He was this person who was so full of life and fun and so generous with his time and friendship. The Townhouse was my first true experience of a great cocktail bar and set me on my journey in the world of cocktails and spirits for which I will be eternally grateful. We have lost a bright light and we will all miss him and his beautiful smile.”
Guy Hodcroft, buyer at Master of Malt, wrote: “Few people have been as influential on the UK drinks scene as Douglas, and yet he was one of the most humble, approachable people I think many of us have ever met. His legacy will live on through the people he inspired and the drinks he created, and I know I’ll be one of many people in the industry making myself one of his cocktails this evening, and raising a glass to our dear departed friend.”
The cause of death has not been revealed though we have heard from a friend that Ankrah did have a history of heart problems, and he went peacefully in his sleep. Ankrah is survived by his son. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family.
We’ll update this article with more tributes and news about Ankrah’s death.