rockefeller Photo by Rena Silverman via

Today we mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of John D. Rockefeller, notorious American-industrialist-turned-philanthropist, most well known as the founder of Standard Oil.

As a baptist, Rockefeller was a strict, life-long teetotaler, so it is odd to hear that he’s the center of one of the many, though likely apocryphal, stories surrounding the creation of the modern martini cocktail. This legend places him at the Knickerbocker Hotel (owned by fellow big-shot, John Jacob Astor) sometime around 1911/1912.There, bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia serves him up a mixture consisting of equal parts London dry gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth with a dash of orange bitters which was then “chilled on ice” and strained into a chilled glass with a lemon twist. America’s first billionaire reportedly enjoyed his drink so much that he quickly recommended it to all of his Wall Street cronies (one of them reportedly added the olive), and the seeds for the “three martini” executive business lunch were sown.

The number of problems with this tale are almost too numerous to count, and far more credible claims can between 1882 and 1910 when the combination of gin and vermouth becomes prevalent. Even Plymouth gin has a stronger claim when it is mentioned by name in 1896, one of the earliest known written recipe for the martini.

Though likely disproven, the Rockefeller/Martini connection doesn’t die there. Years later, in 1933, a scandal erupts when when John’s grandson, Nelson, has Diego Rivera’s newly completed Rockefeller center mural demolished for its depiction of Vladimir Lenin. Rivera would get his revenge by recreating his work at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, This time he included a depiction of Nelson’s father, John D. Rockefeller Jr. sitting in a night club with a martini in hand.

The “Rockefeller” Martini

  • equal parts: London dry gin and Noilly Prat Vermouth
  • a dash of orange bitters

Garnish: Lemon or olive

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or olive