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Houston’s Best Bargain Is Found Behind the Bar at Brennan’s

The tradition of lunch martinis at Brennan’s—for just 25 cents each—hasn’t changed much since 1967.

By Katharine Shilcutt May 31, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Brennan's most popular flavor? The classic gin martini, tied with the Cosmo.

The tradition of lunch martinis at Brennan’s—for just a quarter per glass—hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 1967.

Brennan’s of Houston may be treasured for its turtle soup and pecan-crusted Gulf fish, but nothing approaches the levels of fame achieved by its legendary 25-cent martinis, available every weekday at lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There’s no corner-cutting here, says longtime bar manager Richard Middleton. “We use exactly the same well liquor I’m serving at night,” he says. “The Brennan’s family would lose their hair if we tried to use cheap stuff.”

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Brennan’s uses a 3 1/2-ounce coupe glass for its lunch martinis.

Those martinis have a legacy even longer than Brennan’s itself, Middleton explains. “Years ago, Dottie”—sister to matriarch Ella Brennan—“was talking about ways to encourage people to come out for lunch at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and said, ‘Why don’t we try 25-cent martinis?’ When Brennan’s in Houston opened up, we went with the same tradition.”

Today, the cocktails come in a variety of flavors: standard vodka, standard gin, Cosmopolitan, melon and Commander’s Palace, which tastes of orange but looks blue thanks to a dose of Blue Curaçao. “The color matches the canopies at Commander’s Palace in the Garden District,” says Middleton.

There wasn’t always a three-martini limit at Brennan’s, recalls Middleton. “I had partaken of the 25-cent martinis when there was no limit on them in the 1970s. 1974 was my first time to come to Brennan’s, and we left in a taxicab. That all ended when Jimmy Carter was in the White House—he stopped the three-martini lunch.”

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