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behind the bar: kevin buckley’s lemon chili marmalade

by Kristina Gill

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.

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