Espresso Martini: Best Cocktail Recipe + 7 Delicious Variations
Espresso martinis are a relatively recent invention, with the earliest claim being from the 1980s. With a unique blend of flavors and ingredients, it certainly provides a one-of-a-kind cocktail experience. Here you will learn the best espresso martini recipe.
It might sound like the espresso martini is just one drink — but in reality, this is an entire category of cocktail with a variety of subgenres and individual choices that can change your experience wildly. In this article, we’ll be looking at a variety of aspects of the espresso martini, including:
- What an espresso martini is, where it comes from, and what goes into it
- The best ingredients to use to create a perfect rendition of this cocktail
- A quick and easy espresso martini recipe for you to experiment and work with
- Food pairing options and the best ways to serve the drink
- Variations of the espresso martini and other cocktails you might like.
Ready for an intriguing explosion of caffeine and alcohol? Grab hold of your nearest coffee and bottle of vodka, because we’ll be exploring the wonderful treat that is the espresso martini.
What an Espresso Martini Is
When you hear the phrase “espresso martini”, you might think of George Clooney on his nights off, mixing a shot of coffee with a shot of vodka. While you wouldn’t be on the wrong track with that impression, an espresso martini is a bit more than just a slapdash combination of refreshments.
Even though they’ve been invented relatively recently, the creation of these cocktails requires quality ingredients and skillful mixing to truly shine.
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The making of the first-ever espresso martini is now largely attributed to the British bartender, Dick Bradsell. Although the true origins of the drink are cloudy, it’s said that Dick served the drink to a celebrity customer who wanted something to both wake them up and get them drunk.
To satisfy the unprecedented request, Dick used coffee grounds from a nearby cafe and mixed them with strong liquor. Since that first drink, the cocktail has experienced a surge in popularity and is now a very widespread drink across the globe.
This is particularly clear in countries like Australia, where it is one of most ordered cocktail in the nation.
As you might expect, espresso martinis have some espresso in them, as well as the classic vodka component typical of martinis. Depending on the recipe, you’ll also be adding some coffee liqueur and sugar syrup to round out the flavors.
And, of course, you can always be creative with your choice of ingredients if you want to — but note that the base mix of espresso, coffee liqueur, and vodka is universal.
Best Vodka Brands for Espresso Martini
It’s natural to hear the word “vodka” in a cocktail recipe and assume that any old bottle of the Russian liquor will do.
However, choosing the right vodka for your espresso martini is a key aspect of the recipe. Depending on which maker you go with, you can accentuate or flatten various flavors. Therefore, it’s best to understand your options as much as possible.
Ketel One Vodka
Deriving from a long family line with a strong affinity for spirits, Ketel One’s classic vodka offering doesn’t overwhelm your tongue with harsh and bitter alcohol.
Instead, pay attention to the subtle hints of citrus and sweet honey in the drink that leave a refreshing finish to an otherwise standard vodka taste. Thanks to these qualities, Ketel One Vodka is a great option for adding some tang to your espresso martini.
Grey Goose Vodka
Looking for a vodka base with a gentle greeting and bold exit? Grab a hold of Grey Goose, a bottle whose delicate floral notes point to the equally luxurious French spring water used for the drink.
This vodka soothes the tongue with sweet and complex flavors before leaving a strong finish – making it an extremely well-rounded option for cocktails in general. Jamie Oliver’s recipe for an espresso martini mentionss brand by name, so it comes highly recommended for the purpose.
Beluga Noble Vodka
Another equally strong contender for your vodka base comes from Beluga’s flagship drink — the Beluga Noble. This drink brings in elements of honey and oat to its flavor profile and has the added benefit of being brewed from barley malt, making it a great choice for a new martini flavor.
Take a sip of a chilled glass and savor the vodka’s light body that gives way to a lingering but refreshing dry finish. It’s a perfect drink both on its own and as part of a grander recipe.
With a strong Irish pedigree and an emphasis on quality, Boatyard Vodka is a unique companion that best suits more creative variations of the espresso martini.
This drink isn’t filtered, so it provides a complex range of flavors traceable to the fields where the seeds used for the spirit were grown.
Keep in mind that due to its unique flavor profile, you should choose other spirits if you’d like to make a more classic espresso martini.
Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka
One of the more unique options on our list, Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka is a drink made with milk as its sole source ingredient.
After cow’s milk has been turned into cheese, the whey that remains is turned into a smooth and creamy liquor that gives drinkers hints of the grass and herbs that the cows have consumed.
This milk-based vodka naturally pairs well with espresso, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better alternative for a coffee-centric cocktail.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Made right here in the US, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is an impressive drink that can hold its ground whether you’re a neat drinker or a creative who loves to experiment.
Tito’s Vodka is made from corn, giving the drink a naturally sweet scent. It also has the added benefit of being gluten-free, so it’s the ideal choice for people with dietary restrictions.
The drink’s sweetness translates to the subtle flavor notes of the vodka, which are accompanied by a silky smoothness and a bold finish. Because of these traits, Tito’s grants you a good base for your espresso martinis while allowing you to support a local manufacturer at the same time.
Recipe – How to Make an Espresso Martini
Since there are a variety of recipes for espresso martinis, the right choice will depend on what ingredients you choose to add to the drink.
However, we’ve gone ahead and combed through a variety of recipes so that you can produce something that’s consistent even with a variety of sources.
Check out the following recipe; it’s not only straightforward, but also gives you plenty of room for creativity as well.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 parts vodka with 1 part espresso. Most recipes tend to recommend 50 ml or 1.7 fl oz of vodka and a corresponding 25 ml or 0.85 fl oz of espresso. The espresso fills about one shot.
- Add the coffee liqueur if you have it on hand — some recipes don’t include this, but most do. The amount of coffee liqueur to add also varies, but it’s roughly equal to the amount of espresso used (or sometimes just a touch more). You should always be adding less coffee liqueur than vodka, however, to ensure that you don’t overwhelm the cocktail with coffee flavors.
- Add ice and shake until you can feel the exterior of the cocktail shaker becoming cold. You should make sure not to choose ice that has been sitting out of the freezer for too long as this can produce excess water that’ll dilute the martini excessively.
- Remove the ice and decant the martini into your glass of choice. Garnish with coffee beans if you’re feeling fancy.
Here’s a tip for an even better-tasting espresso martini: Make sure to use freshly-brewed espresso as a base for the drink. Using this instead of stale coffee provides added complexity to the cocktail as the taste will blend excellently with the coffee liqueur.
Besides, using stale coffee will vastly reduce the overall flavor of the drink, and you’ll risk introducing the taste of day-old, flat coffee water into the mix.
How to Serve and Drink an Espresso Martini
Any experienced cocktail drinker knows that while the drink is a pleasure in and of itself, it’s the little things that really make it stand out. It’s no different for an espresso martini.
Choosing the right time, occasion, glass, and food pairing can really take this popular drink to the next level.
Time & Occasions for Drinking an Espresso Martini
An espresso martini combines a touch of class with the decadence of any vodka-based cocktail. Because of this, it’s at home in almost any environment and occasion.
While it may have originated in a London bar, the espresso martini is right at home at a fancy awards show or a formal dinner party. An espresso martini fits right into its birthplace too, so if you’re feeling fancy on a night out with friends it’s a perfect selection.
The espresso martini can be enjoyed at any time of day, but most people tend to have it in the evening, often after (or with) a formal dinner.
While you might be worried about the caffeine keeping you up late if you have one in the evening, this isn’t too much of a concern seeing that there’s quite a small amount of coffee in the average espresso martini.
Espresso martinis go very well with a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory, which is great news especially if you’re looking to have one at a dinner party.
In particular, chocolate desserts or cheesecakes are great choices to complement the flavors of an espresso martini, as are meat, cheese boards, or similar savory ideas.
The ability to pair perfectly with a huge variety of food options adds even more versatility to an already flexible drink; for example, an espresso martini plays equally as nicely with pizza at a casual get-together or a posh tiramisu at a formal gathering.
Best Glass to Serve an Espresso Martini
As you might expect, a martini glass is a perfect choice for an espresso martini. If you don’t have one of these on hand, you could also go with a coupe glass.
While martini glasses have that classic, almost-triangular profile, coupe glasses have more of a U-shape to them – so it’s up to you which aesthetic you like more. Just keep in mind that coupe glasses tend to be slightly smaller than their martini glass compatriots.
Variations of Espresso Martini
An espresso martini isn’t just a one-and-done cocktail — there’s so much more you can do with the drink. From switching out the principal alcohol base to adding new flavorings, regional ingredients, and more, there’s an espresso martini variant to suit just about everyone.
Let’s take a look at some of these options.
Chocolate Orange Espresso Martini
A chocolate orange espresso martini unsurprisingly adds just those two ingredients — chocolate and orange. Specifically, you’ll add the zest of an orange and typically some kind of chocolate sauce, as real chocolate will obviously not mix with an iced cocktail.
For presentation, garnish with an orange slice to give your drink a bit of character.
Greek Espresso Martini
Greek espresso martinis add in a splash of Tsipouro, a high-alcohol (45 percent) liquor of Greek extraction made by pressing grapes.
While wine and cocktails aren’t necessarily drinks you’d immediately associate with each other, they come together here to make a unique and enjoyable flavor profile. A couple of drops of salt water are also added to bring a hint of sea air to the drink.
An espresso daiquiri replaces the vodka content of an espresso martini with white or golden rum in its place. This substitution provides an additional sweetness to the drink that complements the flavors of espresso beautifully. If you’re a Daiquiri fan in general, this might be more up your street.
Italian Chocolate Martini
Italian chocolate martinis add in a splash of Amaro Averna, a classic Sicilian liquor, while removing the vodka base from the drink.
While this might seem like a choice that’d create issues, the overall outcome is a drink that’s more coffee than it is alcohol – which just might make for a more pleasant drinking experience depending on your alcohol tolerance.
Absinthe Espresso Martini
Also known as a Flying Frenchman, the absinthe espresso martini is just what it sounds like — an espresso martini with absinthe rather than vodka.
You’ll want to drop down the ratio of alcohol to espresso with this one, owing to the stronger nature of absinthe compared to vodka. You might find it tricky to get your hands on absinthe, but it’s widely legal to purchase in the US today.
Hot Cross Bun Martini
Getting its name from the way it’s characteristically topped (which, unsurprisingly, resembles the classic Easter treat), the hot cross bun martini can be made using a variety of recipes, each with different ingredients.
Typically, an extra spirit is added to the mix, such as fireball whiskey or applejacks, and the top is dusted with cinnamon to create the hot cross bun backdrop while the cross is made by drawing lines in the cinnamon dusting. There are often also notes of citrus added to the cocktail.
Grappa Espresso Martini
A grappa espresso martini is traditionally served in a coupe glass, unlike the usual martini glass that you’ll see in most of the other varieties in this article. The vodka base is replaced with grappa, an Italian spirit made from the byproducts of wine-processed grapes.
Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy
Even if an espresso martini is your favorite cocktail ever, eventually drinking the same thing over and over will start getting a bit boring. To make sure you have the time to rekindle your love for the drink, it’s always a good idea to explore alternatives that you can enjoy instead for a little while.
And why not pick something that’s already similar to the espresso martini? Here are some of our top picks for similar cocktails that you might enjoy.
A Lazarus cocktail takes the idea behind an espresso martini and runs with it, adding brandy to the mix to provide an extra kick and a fuller flavor profile. It’s also, naturally, a stronger tipple.
A Kahlua martini isn’t so different from a regular espresso martini, bar the explicit addition of the branded coffee liqueur. While not all espresso martini recipes call for a coffee liqueur, its addition can help tie the flavor together more strongly – and a Kahlua martini does just this.
If you’re looking for a South American twist to your espresso martini experience, this is another great combo. Adding a portion of tequila definitely brings more of a kick to this cocktail, arguably more than that provided by the extra brandy in a Lazarus.
Baileys is widely enjoyed all over the world, so it’s only natural that someone has experimented with adding it to a martini.
The unique flavor profile of the drink combined with the traditional martini background provides something similar to an espresso martini in terms of contrast and complexity (but without the simple replication of the coffee flavor).
Turkish Coffee Cocktail
A Turkish coffee cocktail combines the unique flavor profile of Turkish coffee with the alcoholic component of a cocktail. While still hitting the spot for coffee fans, it provides a significantly different experience compared to the espresso martini due to the different nature of the coffee.
Several martini espresso recipes utilize a sweet component, traditionally a kind of
sugar syrup or sweeter alcohol. The lotus espresso does this as well with a touch of maple syrup. If you’re craving something from north of the border, this just might be the perfect pick.
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