Crafted with two liquors and a shot of espresso, the Espresso Martini may be the buzziest cocktail of them all. Discover the story behind the tasty tipple and learn how to craft one at home.
The Espresso Martini is a dream drink for multi-taskers. Not only does the popular cocktail look and taste divine, but its combination of alcohol and caffeine provides an effective punch that alleviates the necessity to chug a Red Bull at the end of the night.
Make no mistake – this caffeinated cocktail isn’t for lightweights or teetotalers. Instead, it’s a serious drink for people who like staying alert while getting a buzz. And the best part? The Espresso Martini is super easy to craft at home.
History Of The Espresso Martini Cocktail
Despite having ingredients associated with Italy, Mexico and Russia, the Espresso Martini doesn’t have roots in any of these countries. A fixture at Australian bars and pubs, it’s also not from down under. Instead, the United Kingdom gets credit for this caffeinated cocktail.
This drink’s origin story involves a London bartender and an early 80s supermodel who wanted a cocktail that would “wake her up and then f**k her up .” The bartender was Dick Bradsell and the bar was the Soho Brasserie. As for the thirsty model’s name, that remains a mystery.
Dick Bradsell invented a handful of cocktails including the Bramble, the Carol Channing, the Russian Spring Punch, the Treacle and the Wibble. However, the prolific bartender’s Espresso Martini is the one that has achieved icon status.
What Is An Espresso Martini?
Originally called a Vodka Espresso, the Espresso Martini is a modern cocktail that combines espresso with vodka and coffee liqueur to create double potency in a glass.
It goes without saying that the Espresso Martini is a caffeinated beverage since each shot of espresso has 64 grams of caffeine. And that’s not counting the caffeine in the coffee liqueur!
We use a Nespresso machine to make espresso at home which technically makes our cocktail a Nespresso Martini. Since it takes us just a couple minutes to pop a pod into the machine, we can be spontaneous when the Espresso Martini (or should we say Nespresso Martini?) craving hits us.
Beyond containing a solid amount of caffeine, the Espresso Martini also has a fairly high alcohol content. The good and bad news is that this cocktail doesn’t taste particularly strong. In other words, be extra careful not to over imbibe when you drink Espresso Martinis.
Espresso Martini Ingredients
We love crafting cocktails with ingredients we can count on one hand. The Espresso Martini fits into this category with the its concise ingredient list:
While some mixologists add simple syrup when they craft Espresso Martinis, our Espresso Martini recipe omits the liquid sweetener.
We don’t add sugar to our non-alcoholic coffees and flat whites and we follow the same approach here. We find that the coffee liqueur provides plenty of sweetness; however, you can add simple sugar to the ingredient list if you prefer more sugary cocktails.
We typically use Kahlúa and whatever vodka we have on hand when we craft Espresso Martinis at home. Most recently, we’ve been crafting this and other vodka cocktails with Absolut.
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Not only does Kahlúa taste delicious over ice, the dark Mexican coffee liqueur is also a key ingredient in Black Russian, White Russian and Mudslide cocktails. Other popular coffee liqueurs include Australia’s Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur and Jamaica’s Tia Maria.
While you could technically craft an Espresso Martini with regular coffee, don’t do it!
Not only does espresso have a specific flavor and consistency, but it also has a creamy element called crema. Without crema, your Espresso Martini won’t have a frothy top layer and your coffee beans will tragically sink to the bottom of the glass.
Chill freshly brewed espresso about 15 minutes before you craft an Espresso Cocktail. Otherwise, your hot espresso will melt the ice which will dilute the cocktail.
How To Craft An Espresso Martini
The first step in crafting an Espresso Martini is to measure the vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso. We like to use a Japanese jigger to both avoid spillage and ensure accurate measurements.
Pour the vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso into a cocktail shaker as you measure each. We like using a Boston shaker since it doesn’t leak and is dishwasher safe.
The next step is to vigorously shake the ingredients with ice for about 30 seconds until they are thoroughly mixed and chilled.
Don’t be wimpy when shaking this cocktail. If you do, you’ll end up with an equally wimpy layer of froth.
The final step is to strain the cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with three coffee beans.
While you could use a different number of beans, using three beans symbolizes health, wealth and happiness in Italy. That’s a good enough reason for us. Plus, a trio of beans looks snazzy on top of this cocktail.
Espresso Martini Alternatives
The Espresso Martini may be the world’s most popular espresso-based cocktail but it’s not the only cocktail to drink when you want an alcoholic pick-me-up. Consider the following caffeinated options If you feel like experimenting:
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The Espresso Martini is a modern cocktail that combines espresso with vodka and coffee liqueur to create double potency in a glass.
The Espresso packs a whammy since it includes both caffeine and alcohol.
Vodka, Coffee Liqueur, Espresso, Coffee Beans (garnish) and Ice Cubes (for shaking)
The Espresso Martini is shaken, not stirred.
We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.
Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.
Espresso Martini Recipe
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce coffee liqueur
- 1 ounce espresso (chilled)
- 3 coffee beans (garnish)
- ice cubes (for shaking)
- Combine vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso and ice cubes in a shaker.
- Shake vigorously for 30 seconds or until the cocktail is well mixed, chilled and frothy.
- Strain into a martini glass.
- Add coffee beans as garnish.
- Add a 1/2 ounce of simple syrup if you want to craft a sweet Espresso Martini.
- You can use coffee instead of espresso; however, you won't get the same frothy top layer.
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About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
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Original Publication Date: October 28, 2021