An enthusiastic ensemble of vodka, liqueur and silky espresso.
The Espresso Martini is a contemporary classic. A tailor-made concoction that’s simplistic yet resilient, generous yet disciplined. A boozy, caffeinated celebration that has engaged coffee enthusiasts and exuberant vodka drinkers alike.
It’s a cocktail that will pick you up and drop you off with the same rhapsodic energy from start to finish.
When pinned against most time-honoured classics, the Vodka Espresso may seem immature. But the silky foamed pairing of bitter espresso and tireless spirit has ensured the concoction to become an esteemed staple on modern menus internationally.
40 ml Vodka
20 ml Coffee Liqueur
25 ml Fresh Espresso
5 ml Sugar Syrup (Optional)
Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Vigorously shake and double strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.
Garnish with 3 coffee beans.
Tips for how to make and Espresso Martini
Coffee – Although the Espresso Martini may seem simplistic in theory, the good, bad, and the ugly can be differentiated through the quality of your coffee. Many underestimate the power of fresh espresso, from concerns of over-dilution to its overwhelming strength. But don’t forget, coffee will immediately begin to oxidise once ground, which leads to unnecessary bitterness when left. Using pre-batched brews, or letting instant coffee cool over the ice, will kill the crema, disturb the texture, and over dilute your cocktail. The best method? Fresh espresso that is shaken straight away will not disappoint!
Shaking – The ‘crema’ (the frothy bit at the top of a coffee) doesn’t just rely on fresh espresso. To form that satisfyingly silky layer of tight foamy bubbles, so greatly expected from an Espresso Martini you’ve got to shake it till you make it! A hard vigorous shake is necessary for the natural oils in the coffee to combine with air bubbles to create that delicate froth, otherwise you will be left with loosely structured foam that will fizzle quickly after its settled. So, shake it till you shoulder hurts!
Vodka – Coffee aside, the supporting role rests on the quality of your vodka. The coffee and spirit need to work hand in hand to find that perfect balance between bitterness, strength, and flavour. Choosing a vodka that will complement the coffee and improve the flavour profile simultaneously, is a necessary component. Go for something with texture and depth.
Sugar – It all comes down to you. Just like your morning cuppa, not everyone is keen to put sugar in their coffee. Depending on the intensity of the espresso / brew, you may want to alter your amount. We suggest starting with 5ml of sugar syrup, as this will help soften the bitterness and balance the hit of alcohol. However, in the end it is all up to individual preference and for us – we don’t bother with it, instead, we like to through in a little bit of sea salt…
Garnish and Aesthetics – We wouldn’t skip on the coffee beans either! Three beans to form a petal that rests on top of the crema, will not only lend your cocktail an enticing aroma, but will preserve tradition in a contemporary outlook. It might be a faff, but just like the shamrock on a fresh pint Guinness, it’s part of the craft of making it just right.
A brief history of the Espresso Martini
Although now known as an Espresso Martini, the fashionable pick-me-up cocktail hasn’t always been influenced by the ‘V-shape’ nature of many Neo Martini’s. Originally conceived in 1983 at the Soho Brasserie by Dick Bradsell, the cocktail was made for a mysterious model who allegedly wanted a drink that would ‘wake her up and f*** her up’.
The iconic bartender’s daughter, Beatrice Bradsell, explains that she doesn’t know the secretive name of the model; ‘He took that to the grave, he loved the mystery that came with the unrevealed identity’.
In conversation with Difford’s Guide founder, Simon Difford, Bradsell disclosed: ‘the coffee machine at the Soho Brasserie was right next to the cocktail station, it was a nightmare, coffee grounds everywhere all the time. It was all about vodka back then – it was all people were drinking’. Bradsell mixed the alleged, mysterious model a creation of vodka, sugar, coffee liqueur and a shot of espresso. The original recipe called for both Tia Maria and Kahlua, however the main star of the show remained with vodka’s prominence from the 80’s, therefore the Vodka Espresso was born. It’s a story that has helped ‘retain an edginess’ alongside Bradsell’s more fruity cocktails. Bramble, Russian Spring Punch and Treacle to name a few.
The 90’s soon became the decade of the Neo Martini, coining any vodka concoction in a V-shaped glass, rightly or wrongfully, a Martini. Which meant that the Vodka Espresso naturally transformed into the Espresso Martini.
The garnish however, is one element that has survived all alterations. The three coffee beans arranged in a petal-like aesthetic in the centre of the crema, derives from the traditional serving of Sambuca in Italy where its authentic name, ‘con la mosca’ represents health, wealth, and happiness.