Houston's Best Bargain

By Alice Levitt, Katharine Shilcutt, Joanna O'Leary and Ellie Sharp

Bartender Christine mixes up 25-cent martinis

Photos by: Cooper + Ricca and Max Burkhalter

Part of "How to Deal" 

Houston's Best Bargain

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 the cheap stuff."

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 Curacao. "The color matches the canopies at Commander's Place in the Garden District," say 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." -KS

Katharine Shilcutt
Author: Katharine Shilcutt