Forget the classics like the Negronis, the Old Fashioned and even the vodka martinis, one of the most popular cocktails is the espresso martini. Favoured by everyone, whether it be a group of city workers having after-dinner drinks, or a group of girls out on the town, the espresso martini has uncontested appeal.
The clue is in the name, this is a coffee-flavoured cocktail through and through, with the addition of vodka and other sweeteners to give it its salivating-inducing taste. Despite it taking the ‘martini’ name, it technically isn’t one as it includes neither gin nor vermouth in its recipe, but is named after the glass it’s traditionally served in.
With its popularity reaching stratospheric levels, the espresso martini has been subjected to all manner of twists and variations. That means when you’re making yours, you don’t necessarily need to stick to a strict recipe. Of course, it pays to know the coffee cocktail in its most basic form, and fortunately, we’re in such a position to provide that knowledge.
Origin Of The Espresso Martini
Despite it having monumental appeal in the modern-day, the espresso martini can be traced back to the 1980s. Although there are several claims to its origin, the most frequented story suggests it was conceived by Dick Bradsell in the late 1980s, while he was working at Freds Club in London. It’s said he made the drink in response to a lady customers request for a drink that would “wake me up, and then f*ck me up.”
Bradsell says of that fateful night, “The coffee machine at the Soho Brasseries was right next to the station where I served drinks. It was a nightmare, as there were coffee grounds everywhere, so coffee was very much on my mind. And it was all about vodka back then – it was all people were drinking.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Espresso Martini Cocktail Ingredients
We’ve already mentioned there can be any number of variations of the espresso martini ingredients list, but there is a defined list as to the official recipe. No matter how you make yours, you’re ideally going to want to have access to fresh espresso shots.
- Vodka (Absolut Vodka is ideal or staying closer to home, Australian Archie Rose vodka would work equally as well. For something a little sweeter, try Absolut Vanilia. Many modern interpretations of the espresso martini use vanilla vodka instead.)
- Kahlúa (or Tia Maria)
- Sugar syrup
- Strong espresso
- Coffee beans for garnish
- Cocktail glass
- Cocktail shaker
Classic Espresso Martini Cocktail Measurements
The official recipe for the espresso martini is as follows:
- 50ml vodka
- 30ml Kahlúa
- As much or as little sugar syrup as you like, depending on how sweet you want it. We’d suggest 10ml.
- 30ml/1 strong espresso shot
How To Make The Espresso Martini
Making an espresso martini is incredibly easy as it follows the basic formula for the majority of other cocktails you should already be an expert in.
- Pour a fresh shot of espresso
- Put a scoop of ice in a cocktail glass to chill
- Pour all ingredients including the fresh shot of espresso into a cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake until well-chilled (shake as hard as you can to ensure you get a more pronounced crema on top)
- Tip ice out of cocktail glass and strain espresso martini into the now-chilled glass
- Foat three coffee beans on top to garnish
Expert Twist On The Espresso Martini
The recipe and ingredients listed above may be all well and good for the discerning amateur cocktail shaker, but if you really want to take your espresso martini up a notch, you’ll want to start experimenting with different ingredients and measurements.
One such ingredient you can add to your espresso martinis is Mr Black. Mr Black is a coffee liqueur made by hand at its coffee roasting distillery in Australia, just north of Sydney.
Martin Hudak, bartender extraordinaire at Sydney cocktail bar (and officially Australia’s best), Maybe Sammy says that because Mr Black is made purely from house-roasted coffee, Australian wheat vodka and a touch of sugar, “you essentially have an espresso martini in the bottle already.” With this in mind, it’s incredibly easy to make the cocktail yourself. You will need:
- 60ml Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
- 30ml Fresh Coffee (Nespresso pods work great, as does a Cocktail Mixer like First Press)
‘Mr Black Espresso Martini’
In addition to your drink ingredients, you’ll need a shaker, chilled martini glass or coupette, and plenty of ice.
- Prepare your shaker. A two-piece Boston/tin shaker will provide the best aeration of ingredients. If you don’t have a specialist shaker, then a clean pasta sauce jar will do the job.
- Always use ice straight from the freezer and bigger cubes are better. You don’t want to over dilute your cocktail.
- Start with 30ml fresh espresso/coffee in one part of the Boston tin without ice.
- Add 60ml Mr Black Coffee Liqueur to the coffee.
- Fill your shaker with ice, and close. Shake fast and hard until your shaker is cold and you can hear broken ice.
- Strain through a cocktail strainer or fine sieve to remove unwanted ice shards. Pour into a pre-chilled martini glass or coupette.
- Garnish with three coffee beans or grated chocolate.
Martin adds, “This bar quality Espresso Martini is much simpler than many people think, and you’ll be a star the next time your friends need a pick me up.”
Hudak is keen to flex his bartender muscles, however, and offers up a variation of the espresso martini we doubt you would have ever considered. According to Hudak, “coffee is an extremely versatile and complementary ingredient and mixes exceptionally well with citrus and tropical fruits.”
“This led to the birth of the ‘Espresso MarTIKI’. Using ingredients commonly found in tiki drinks (rum, pineapple, almond), this expert twist on the classic has proven exceptionally popular at Maybe Sammy.”
- 40ml dark rum (we use Plantation Pineapple at Maybe Sammy)
- 20ml Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
- 30ml pineapple juice
- 30ml fresh espresso
- 15ml orgeat
- Similar to the original, combine all ingredients with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a coupette and garnish.
How To Drink An Espresso Martini
Just like the lady customer who first ordered the delicious tipple, the espresso martini is capable of being a great stimulant when out. The combination of strong coffee and vodka is a potent one that can easily bring you back in the game if you feel like you’re slacking off a little compared to your friends.
Whether you order a round for the table at a stag-party, treat yourself to a sly one to keep your night alive or enjoy multiple over lunch, the espresso martini is a drink to be enjoyed regardless of the occasion.
Espresso Martini FAQ
If you do not have Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur, you can replace it with chocolate extract mixed with instant coffee. Add one teaspoon of each in two tablespoons of water and you are good to go. To avoid a watery Espresso Martini, cool your coffee first before combining it with the rest of the ingredients so it will not melt the ice. Likewise, the ice you add to the cocktail shaker must be straight out of the freezer to prevent melting. No. Espresso powder is very intense and concentrated compared to your average store-bought instant coffee. Your cocktail will not have the same darker, richer flavor if you use instant coffee.
What can I use instead of coffee liqueur in my Espresso Martini?
Why is my Espresso Martini watery?
Can you make an Espresso Martini with instant coffee?
If you do not have Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur, you can replace it with chocolate extract mixed with instant coffee. Add one teaspoon of each in two tablespoons of water and you are good to go.
To avoid a watery Espresso Martini, cool your coffee first before combining it with the rest of the ingredients so it will not melt the ice. Likewise, the ice you add to the cocktail shaker must be straight out of the freezer to prevent melting.
No. Espresso powder is very intense and concentrated compared to your average store-bought instant coffee. Your cocktail will not have the same darker, richer flavor if you use instant coffee.