Legendary bartender and inventor of the Pornstar Martini


o cocktail menu would be complete if it wasn’t for Douglas Ankrah, inventor of the Pornstar Martini. Last month, the Ghanaian-born bartender and entrepreneur unexpectedly died aged 51.

His family shared the sad news in a Facebook post, writing that “the legendary Douglas Ankrah of #PornstarMartini fame is no more. A mighty oak has indeed fallen.” He had a history with heart problems and went peacefully in his sleep.

Ankrah kicked off his career at London’s Hard Rock Café before creating LAB, the London Academy of Bartending, in the Atlantic Bar in 1996. Three years later, he co-founded the LAB bar in Soho, which quickly became an industry hub and training ground for leading bartenders. The success led Ankrah to open Townhouse in 2002. In the eight years of its existence, the Knightsbridge bar, famous for it’s 80-strong cocktail list, ended up on many ‘best bars in the world’ lists. 

One cocktail in particular turned out to be an undisputed classic. Douglas Ankrah’s original recipe consisted of vanilla vodka, passion fruit liqueur and passion fruit purée, shaken and served up with a sidecar shot of Champagne. “I created this in 15 minutes or less,” he said in an interview. “Like how Mick and Keith wrote (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in 10 minutes.” He initially called his creation the Maverick Martini, named for a club in Cape Town, later renaming it to the Pornstar Martini. The name just popped into his head. “I thought it was something that a pornstar would drink, there’s nothing sexual there.” Getting his clientele out of their comfort zone by ordering something bold and cheeky was his first and foremost goal. He passed with flying colours: in 2018 the Pornstar Martini was the most ordered cocktail in the UK and to this day remains one of the most popular cocktails.

In Ankrah’s life, bartending and entrepreneuring went hand in hand. His cocktail book Shaken & Stirred (2004) went on to sell over 100.000 copies. After LAB closed its doors in 2016, Ankrah launched a ready-to-drink version of the Pornstar Martini and worked as a consultant in the world of cocktails. His passing sparked an overload of sympathetic messages of colleagues and admirers on social media. John Gakuru, former bar manager of LAB said: “Doug lived life his way, much like LAB cocktail specs… with two bar spoons of vanilla sugar! He just made everything sweeter.”

Last year, we shared the recipe of the Rebellious Pornstar Martini, our version of Ankrah’s famous cocktail, and explained how to make your own at home. Next time you are enjoying this sweet and sour treat, whether it’s in a bar, a restaurant or your living room, tip your hat to its creator, Douglas Ankrah.