The Curious Cinematic Backstory Behind the “Monkey Martini”

How the new movie "Trust" reinvigorated (and altered) an obscure real-life drink

monkey martini
The monkey martini, the drink of choice in the new movie "Trust"
Kat McNamara's Instagram

This is Best Shots, where we take a closer look at the intersection of spirits and pop culture. Today, we look at the centerpiece cocktail featured in a new film with an unusual backstory and ingredient list.

As someone who’s written about drinks for years, I get annoyingly distracted when somebody in a TV show or film brings up a cocktail. Questions abound: Who’s the sponsor? Is that a real drink? Why are they making it that way? Why do you prefer your martini shaken, Mr. Bond? (This is the opposite of my other drinks-related pop-culture pet peeve, which involves characters demanding “beer” or “whiskey” and letting the bartender magically determine what that vague command entails.)

Recently, I was drink-distracted during the movie Trust when a drink called a “monkey martini” arrived. Spoiler alert: The “other woman” that the male lead ends up sleeping with orders several of them at a bar.

While watching the film, I figured the Monkey Martini was a real cocktail, and tucked that thought away for later. Some next-day internet research suggested that … maybe it exists? I found a few recipes online with the same or a similar name, but no history and no consensus on the drink’s specifics, although the banana-flavored liqueur Creme De Banane appeared to be a constant.

I remained curious. As did my co-worker. “I had no idea what the drink was when I saw the film, but I thought, ‘Wow, that looks good,’” says InsideHook editor Kayla Kibbe. 

Figuring I was missing something important, I contacted the movie’s director, Brian DeCubellis. 

Some background on the movie, if you haven’t seen it: Trust is a romantic drama based on the play Push by Kristen Lazarian. It’s set against the backdrop of the cutthroat Manhattan art world, and you can stream it here.

The drink, or at least the name of the drink, comes directly from the play. “Kristen [the playwright] thinks of the Monkey Martini as a real drink, sometimes called a Chocolate Monkey,” he says. 

That drink:

  • 1.5 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Creme De Banane
  • 1 oz. Dark Creme De Cacao
  • .5 oz. Light Cream

“But it could be a take on the Dirty Monkey, a similarly named tipple with different ingredients,” DeCubellis adds, referencing a cocktail that calls for rum, pineapple juice and a ripe banana.

Additionally, for the movie’s premiere, the studio whipped up a tie-in drink called the Monkey Gland

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons grenadine, to taste
  • Dash of absinthe
  • Garnish: orange slice or flamed orange peel

Problem: It wasn’t a drink anyone would put front and center in a movie. “We all agreed that this drink was ruined by the grenadine,” he says. “But that one looked most similar to the on-camera version.”

But none of these drinks were really what the name implies: martinis. And so, inspired by our conversation, DeCubellis decided to make his own take on the movie’s cocktail that worked in gin and vermouth (though that martini staple didn’t make the final cut). “I thought if we used pineapple juice it would look just like the yellow drink in the movie,” he says. 

After some mixology experiments on a Saturday night, he wrote me back with the following:

“For the scenes in the movie, I wanted the drink to be bright yellow to pop against the blue background like the magic potion that it is. The props department did a great job of making a yellow drink based in pineapple juice. On set, of course, there is no alcohol in the drink. When we did the final color session at Technicolor, we dialed up the vibrancy of the yellow in the drink even more.”

So DeCubellis, in a roundabout way, turned a real drink that was made into something else for a play/movie back into a real-world but decidedly different cocktail. Life imitating art imitating life. 

For the new version, DeCubellis still borrowed ideas from the earlier cocktail recipes. “I also wanted to keep it tropical, make sure it looked like the drink in the film, and, most importantly, include gin.”

So we now have an official Monkey Martini recipe, created by Brian DeCubellis and inspired by the play Push by Kristen Lazarian.

The Monkey Martini

  • 1.5 oz dry gin
  • 1.5 oz coconut rum
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • Teaspoon of lime juice 

Shake with ice. Recommended: Slice a banana and rub to coat inside of martini glass before pour.

One quibble: I guess, much like Mr. Bond, we’re shaking this martini.


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