Espresso Martini

5/5 (6 Reviews)

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Created in 1983 by Dick Bradsell, the Espresso Martini is a modern classic and one of the most popular cocktails in the world. You could call it the perfect pick-me-up, after-dinner coffee, or the sophisticated drinker's 'Vodka Redbull.'
Espresso Martini cocktail

Ingredients:

Serve in a Martini glass

  • 1 1/2 oz (45ml) Absolut Vodka
  • 1/2 oz (15ml) Kahlua coffee liqueur
  • 1 oz (30ml) of freshly brewed espresso
  • 1/2 oz (15ml) simple syrup (or to taste)

Garnish3 espresso beans

How to Make:

  1. Add all the ingredients to your Boston shaker. Add the freshly brewed espresso last (just before adding the ice) to reduce dilution. 
  2. Add ice then shake hard for 15 – 20 seconds. Shake this cocktail hard is important. It will activate the espresso that creates that beautiful foamy top. The general rule is, if in doubt, shake again & shake harder.
  3. Fine strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.
  4. Gently drop the espresso beans in to garnish.

About

One of my personal favourites, the Espresso Martini is a modern classic that quickly became one of the most popular cocktails in the world. Some people go out just to drink them. I guess it’s not that surprising – when you combine two legally addictive and commonly consumed drugs, you’re bound to create something that goes wild!

As a drink, it’s a delicious bitter-sweet combination of vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso. When made properly, it’s sophisticated, edgy and unexpectedly strong.

It’s also suitable for almost any occasion. Whether you’re indulging in your night’s first cocktail, taking it as an indulgent after-dinner digestif, or throwing your office Christmas party, the espresso martini will take your night where it needs to go!

History

The story goes that Dick Bradsell came up with the Espresso Martini at the Soho Brasserie, London in 1983 when an up and coming supermodel came into the bar and asked for a drink that “wakes me up and then f***s me up.”

Side note: Bradsell claimed that this young model went on to become world famous. Some speculate that it was Kate Moss, others Naomi Campbell. But considering that they would have been aged 10 and aged 14 respectively at the time, I find these speculations unlikely! Bradsell has never revealed her real identity.

Bradsell’s solution to his patron’s problem was a strong combination of vodka, freshly brewed espresso, sugar syrup and coffee liqueur. According to Dick, he chose those ingredients because vodka was the rage at the time, “everyone was drinking it.” And because his work station was right next to the coffee machine so espresso was always on his mind.

Thus, the Vodka Espresso was born. Yep, you heard me correctly, the Espresso Martini was originally called a Vodka Espresso. It was later changed to profit from a more desirable name and to cash in on the martini revolution.

Believe it or not, Dick actually tried to change it once more in the late 1980s by calling it the ‘Pharmaceutical Stimulant’, which is essentially the same drink served on the rocks. But, this name never caught on.

The drink grew quickly in popularity through the 1980s and 1990s, until it eventually became a victim of its own success. Similar to frozen, watery margaritas and daiquiris, cheaper and pre-mixed versions were eventually created to profit from its name. Which, in the end, ruined the cocktail for many bartenders throughout the United States.

However, it wasn’t ruined everywhere and the Espresso Martini is just as sophisticated today as it was back then when made properly. Australians, in particular, have cultivated a love-affair with this modern classic.

In fact, it’s so popular that Mr. Black coffee started a festival around it called ‘Espresso Martini Fest’ around it. They held over 6 events in 2 years (2016 & 2017), across Melbourne, Sydney and London (yep, lot’s of Aussies in London!) and they were all completely sold out!

One of the reasons for the drink’s popularity is because of Australia’s love for freshly brewed espresso. In almost every bar, pub & restaurant, in Australia, you’ll find a well-looked after espresso machine and bartenders know how to use it. So instead of resorting to cheaper alternatives, they’re martinis were always made with fresh coffee and that vastly improves the quality of this cocktail.

Which brings me onto an important point.

Use Freshly Made Hot Espresso

This is the most important element to a well-made espresso martini – freshly brewed espresso. Because the coffee flavour & aromas are so prominent, using fresh espresso is crucial.

When you’re making it behind the bar, grind the espresso fresh and extract the shot just prior to pouring into the cocktail shaker.

If you don’t have access to an espresso machine, consider investing in one for your home like this one. For what you get, they’re relatively cheap.

If that’s not an option and you still want to make this drink, you’ll have to resort to a cold-brew alternative.

Whatever you do, please don’t use instant coffee :-). It’s not worth it!

Side note: When working with hot espresso, it’s important to add the coffee in last just before you shake it because if you add it too early, it will quickly melt the ice and dilute the mix.

Variations

This is a great drink to experiment with. You can change the base spirit for vanilla vodka, tequila, dark rum or even Irish whiskey. Each spirit will bring its own characteristics and complexities. One of my favourite variations combines an aged Caribbean dark rum with vanilla syrup, top with whipped cream, and then finished off with liquid ice – it’s incredible!

You can also experiment with the coffee liqueur used. For instance, you could swap out Kahlua for the less-sweet Tia Maria.

You could also use a different liqueur altogether. I once came across a variation that used Pedro Ximenez Sherry which gave it a sweet, raisiny characteristic. It worked really well.

How Strong Is the Espresso Martini?

It’s no secret that the espresso martini is one hell of a potent drink. This combination of alcohol & caffeine is particularly strong so you need to be careful when drinking it.

As far as alcohol % go, once shaken and diluted, it sits around the 20% ABV mark (around 40 proof).

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