On the afternoon of August 16, the news of Douglas Ankrah’s death was announced. Though hardly a household name, among cocktail cognoscenti his greatest invention certainly was. Every obituary for the Ghana-born, London-based bartender noted his contribution to the modern cocktail canon: a bodacious combination of vanilla vodka, passion fruit liqueur and passion fruit purée served with a side of Champagne.
“Pornstar Martini inventor Douglas Ankrah passes,” wrote Oli Dodd for Drinks International.
“Lab bar co-founder Douglas Ankrah who invented Pornstar Martini cocktail dies at 51,” penned The Daily Mail.
Even his sister, Lily Naadu Mensah, began her Facebook tribute with the note, “The legendary Douglas Ankrah of #PornstarMartini fame is no more.”
And yet, his bawdily christened party starter, which he long claimed “looked like a cocktail a porn star would drink,” has gained immortality. According to certain metrics, its popularity is more global than Ankrah likely imagined.
“In 2018, the Pornstar Martini became the most ordered cocktail in restaurants, pubs, and bars in the UK,” wrote Dodd in Ankrah’s obituary. A similar claim was echoed in other accounts. In fact, just a few days before Ankrah’s death, swimwear company Pour Moi released an insanely viral 2021 Cocktail Report analyzing more than 100 million Google searches over the past 12 months. The report claimed that, with over 18.4 million global searches, the Pornstar Martini had almost twice that of the Piña Colada (10.5 million), and was officially the most searched cocktail on planet Earth. Furthermore, the report listed the Pornstar Martini as the second most searched cocktail in the United States—a smidge behind the Piña Colada—and the most searched cocktail in 11 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and the Dakotas.
“I feel directly responsible,” jokes Laura Newman, bar manager and owner of Queen’s Park and Neon Moon in Birmingham, Alabama. “I actually just ran a report after Doug’s passing, and we have sold more Pornstar Martinis than any other cocktail—almost 10,000 in under three years.” Newman admits that the menu placement is a strange outlier in Alabama, speculating that the South’s beloved Bushwacker is actually the state’s most popular cocktail.
What’s certain is that the Pornstar Martini was an immediate sensation when Ankrah put it on London’s trendy LAB menu in 2002, and that it experienced a revival after ample coverage in the Sun and Telegraph circa 2018. Yet the drink has never been as popular in the U.S., and not nearly as ubiquitous as the Piña Colada, Margarita, Daiquiri or even the Long Island Iced Tea, the last listed as the most popular cocktail in 13 states on Pour Moi’s survey. According to Nielsen data, the five most popular cocktails nationwide are the Margarita, Martini, Old-Fashioned, Mimosa and Moscow Mule. Yet, when I reached out to Nielsen, they had no insight on the popularity of the Pornstar Martini in America, which isn’t surprising; it’s never had a true foothold on cocktail menus stateside.
Global fame, however, is another story. According to Pour Moi, the Pornstar Martini is the most searched cocktail in the U.K., which makes sense. But it’s also the most searched in India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and much of the African continent. (It’s worth noting that Ankrah first conceived of the drink while working in Cape Town, South Africa, where it may have found an audience in the last two decades.) Even at Punch, the Pornstar Martini is the most clicked recipe year after year.
And if, from the get-go, you assumed the reason behind this curious phenomenon was fairly self-evident, well... you would be correct. One Brooklyn-based tech expert, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that if you type “pornstar” into Google, the only autocomplete that pops up is “Martini.” This is a result of SafeSearch, an option many users have turned on by default, which blocks X-rated autocompletes. Even if you type “porn” into Google, your autocomplete choices are limited to the Pornstar Martini and Pornpawee Chochuwong, a Thai badminton player. Of course, it tracks that the cocktail has dominated search trends over the past decade. As the anonymous tech expert speculated, the result is simple: “There’s just a couple million horny dudes seeing ‘Pornstar Martini’ and wanting to know what she looks like.”