behind the bar: kevin buckley’s lemon chili marmalade

I’m not a drinker; in fact, I drink so rarely that I consider myself a teetotaler. However, I do try the cocktails featured on the column each month as I photograph them, and I admit that I really enjoyed this Lemon Chili Marmalade Cocktail by Kevin Buckley, head bartender at James Restaurant in Brooklyn. The story behind this cocktail’s development is fascinating and makes it that much more fun to taste. If you don’t have Meyer lemons, don’t worry. Regular lemons work just fine! — Kristina

About Kevin: Kevin is intrigued by the history and cultivation of liquor and spends much of his time creating new cocktails at home and trying them out at James. In his free time, he enjoys the pleasures of NY, which include drinking in bars and summer baseball games.

Find out how Kevin came up with the idea for the marmalade cocktail after the jump . . .

Please note: The following recipe makes approximately 6 cups of lemon chili marmalade, suitable for a large party. Please feel free to halve or quarter the recipe for much smaller batches.

Lemon Chili Marmalade

  • 6 Meyer lemons
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper chili flakes


Cut the Meyer lemons into thick slices and remove seeds. Combine all ingredients into saucepan and simmer on low heat for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, puree in a blender (VitaMix preferred) and cool. Pour into containers and refrigerate.

Lemon Chili Marmalade Cocktail

  • 2oz gin
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz of simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of Lemon Chili Marmalade
  • lemon twist to garnish


Shake and serve on ice.

Photography and styling by Kristina Gill. Square large citrus, square small milk, salt dishes wasabi, noodle bowl large citrus, dinner plate wasabi, square small citrus, square small yellow all by mud australia, napkin by Zara home

Why Kevin Chose This Cocktail

We took the classic idea of marmalade in cocktails and added a modern twist. Historically, when Irish church processions ended, men and women would go their separate ways. The men would drink their scotch and beer, and the women would gather to taste jams they had made throughout the week by mixing a spoonful into a glass of gin. At James, we’ve taken this idea and made seasonal jams including rhubarb-coriander, lemon-chili marmalade and berry-vanilla.

I am a huge fan of having a drink with some heat, and the lemon chili marmalade cocktail originated from that idea. The Meyer lemons’ tart juice and bitter rind pair with the chili’s sweet spice perfectly. It’s a surprisingly refreshing cocktail that will make you think differently about what ingredients can be used to make drinks.

  1. I love lemon drinks!! These look so refreshing. I’m definitely trying these out for the summer. :)


  2. Mr. Glitter says:

    I also love lemon drinks, and looking at these photos made me pucker!

    Delicious recipes and really nice photos…:)

  3. Tara Taronno says:

    I want one now!!! SO beautiful and refreshing!

  4. This sounds delicious… I got a flavour thesaurus for my birthday last week, so this might just set me of on all sorts of other flavour combinations for cocktails!

  5. Alicia says:

    Sounds inviting!! Great summer drink.

  6. I wish I could reach into my laptop and grab one right now! Perfect for a balmy day with tradewinds on Maui.

  7. katerina says:

    The absolutely summer drink! I’ll try it :)
    Thanks for having so great topics!

  8. Karen says:

    Sounds very nice!

  9. Annie Wu says:

    I will try it tomorrow :)) thanks

  10. oh my goodness, lemon cocktails are my absolute favorite this time of year…i’m trying these tomorrow, thanks! we made a these lemony refreshers for a picnic last week & they were a huge citrus hit too:

  11. Marigold says:

    I was just wondering what to do with the surplus of lemons from my over enthusiastic lemon tree. Problem solved!

  12. Mel McCarthy says:

    This is such an amazing idea. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

  13. Barina Craft says:

    This recipe looks easy to mix up at home behind your own bar and has a great story to tell to get the party started.

  14. Alex says:

    GREAT photos. Recipe sounds good, going to have to give it a try during my weekend sampling coming up. Keep up the good work and stop by my blog for a drink if you have the time. Cheers

  15. Sarah says:

    Trying this tonight!

  16. Geek+Nerd says:

    This sounds so delicious – and I enjoyed the mini-history lesson!

  17. Katie says:

    I love chili syrup in my drinks. Lemon + spicy syrup = my dream drink! So glad I happened upon this. Thank for sharing.

  18. JAM says:

    Just made it – looking forward to using it in developing a citric martini – Cheers :D


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