How to Make the Perfect Espresso Martini Recipe

How Do You Make An Espresso Martini?

Christopher Menning

Christopher Menning

Founder & Managing Editor
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The Espresso Martini.

This caffeine-fueled cocktail can be traced back to 1983. 

Legendary bartender Dick Bradsell created the espresso martini at the Soho Brasserie, London for a female guest when she asked for a drink that would “wake me up and F*CK me up”.

When asked how he came up with it, Bradsell explains that at the time Vodka was all everyone was drinking. 

His station at Soho Brasserie was next to the coffee machine so coffee was very much on his mind. He threw the ingredients together with the addition of two coffee liqueurs. 

His original recipe named the ‘Vodka Espresso’ called for vodka, sugar syrup, freshly made espresso and two types of coffee liqueur. Kahlua and Tia Maria. 

As the 90’s approached, and almost every cocktail was a ‘tini in a V-shaped glass. 

That’s why we now have the renamed ‘espresso martini’ and a classic was born. This cocktail is, of course, a family offshoot of the queen of cocktails, the martini, which we wrote about here.

Table of Contents

espresso martini infographic

Ingredients for an Espresso Martini.

The espresso martini is a shaken cocktail served up, usually in a coupe or martini glass. The cocktail calls for fresh coffee but cold brew can also be used. Just don’t go for the instant!

Let’s take look into each individual element.

Which Vodka To Use?

We don’t need to break the bank with this. Just a good quality vodka here that can be used as the base of the drink. We tend to use Ketel One for ours.

You want to use vodka with a bit of weight, something with presence and overall mouthful.

If you have a sweet tooth, you could also look at a flavoured vodka, nothing too crazy mind. Stolichnaya vanilla is a good choice or maybe even their salted caramel?

Which Coffee Liqueur To Use?

mr blacks coffee liqueur
Mr Black, Coffee Liqueur limited edition bottle in response to the Australian fire relief.

Kahlua was the go-to choice for many but there are now a lot of options on the market which are worth taking a look at. For coffee purists, we highly recommend Mr Blacks coffee Liqueur

The Australian born liqueur source top grade Arabica coffee, giving the flavour profile notes of caramel and cacao. There claim is that each bottle has ‘half the sugar and ten times the coffee of old-world liqueur‘.

Another option is Patron XO. Patrons base is their silver Tequila so the ABV is higher at 35%. It’s a dryer choice but works great with this cocktail. We suggest upping the sugar syrup slightly if you use this one.

Which Coffee To Use?

If you have access to an espresso machine, which every restaurant/ bar will have, make a ‘ristretto’ for your espresso martini. 

A ristretto uses a normal amount of ground coffee, with a finer grind, but is extracted with about half the amount of water in the same amount of time. 

This produces a more concentrated shot of coffee. 

Why use a ristretto? The actual chemical composition and tastes are different from espresso. 

Chemical compounds found in coffee dissolve in hot water at different rates. The balance is different in a ristretto due to a greater proportion of faster-extracting compounds, with relatively fewer typical characteristics of over-extraction.

Compared to full-length shots, fewer total coffee compounds are extracted, an important factor for dilution, this contributes to less bitterness than espresso. 

There is also less acidity so a ristretto is not as astringent.

 

Cold Brew Coffee 

Cold brew is a great choice for those at home because it can be kept in the fridge and is relatively easy to make. 

The process of making cold brew is to steep coffee beans in cold water for 12 – 24 hours. There are a ton of benefits to drinking cold brew over hot extraction coffee but the most important factor for your cocktail is that there is less acidity.

 When pressured under heat, flavours and compounds become volatile, however, with a cold steeping process, you will achieve a softer and more rounded taste.

Nitro Espresso Martini

Using an ISI cream whipper with nitrous oxide (N2O) cartridges is a great way to up your cocktail game. The whipper is a metal pressure vessel, that essentially pressurises gas into a liquid.

Bubbles from N2O are tiny and give a sweet taste and creamy texture to the drink. This is also a great way to rapidly infuse ingredients or add carbonation into a drink.

Add all your ingredients to the whipper, charge with one cartridge and shake about 8 times. Dispense slowly into the glass.

If you are going to use a whipper buy one from the ISI company. They are more durable than others and have a ton of safety features built-in.

espresso martini classic cocktail recipe

Espresso Martini

This caffeine-fueled cocktail can be traced back to 1983. Legendary bartender Dick Bradsell created the espresso martini at the Soho Brasserie, London.
Prep Time 6 mins
Cook Time 6 mins
Total Time 6 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine Cocktail
Servings 1 glass

Equipment

  • Shaker
  • Jigger
  • Tea Strainer
  • Hawthorn
  • Coup Glass

Ingredients
  

  • 45 ml Vodka Chase
  • 30 ml Ristretto
  • 25 ml Coffee Liqueur Mr Blacks
  • 12.5 ml Sugar Syrup

Instructions
 

  • Add all your ingredients to a cocktail shaker
  • Shake hard for a good 10 - 12 seconds
  • Double strain into a chilled glass
  • garnish with three coffee beans and serve!

Notes

Remember to chill your glass in the freezer before making your cocktail
Keyword coffee cocktail, espresso martini, martini
Espresso Martini Variations

There are many variations for the espresso martini which can be as simple as adding one more ingredient. Typically most of the twists you will find tend to lean towards desert cocktails, with the addition of baileys or chocolate liqueur.

We tend to prefer to swap out the base alcohol for a new concoction. One of our favourite twists is to swap the Vodka with Tequila or Mezcal, then change the sugar syrup for agave to bring it all together.

Martin Hudak, the Global Coffee Ambassador of Mr Blacks Coffee Liqueur makes a Tiki inspired espresso martini using Espresso, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Mr Blacks, Almond, and Tropical Juice.

Interestingly there was even a cocktail listed in a recipe book, Drinks, published in 1914 by Jacques Straub calling for, Cognac, kirschwasser (clear cherry brandy), and cold coffee, served with a sugar rim. This drink was called the Black Jack and the recipe was recently updated by the New York bar, PDT.

Below is a list of our favourite twists, why not make them all and leave us a comment to say which one was best?

espresso martini at le cafe des stagiaires
Espresso Martini Chocolate

Smokey Espresso

This agave led twist will give the whole drink a smokey and boozy edge! The additional sweetness of the cold brew will help cut through the higher ABV.

  • 40ml Mezcal
  • 10ml oloroso sherry
  • 10ml Patron XO
  • 30ml Cold brew
  • 1 spoon of agave syrup

 

Mr. Black

Mr. blacks is vodka-based and at around 23% ABV this is a great low abv choice.

  • 40ml Mr Blacks
  • 30ml Fresh coffee
  • 10ml sugar syrup

 

After Eight

A sweeter choice with the Fernet Branca adding a minty touch. With the addition of the chocolate bitters its very reminiscent of the after eight chocolate slices!

  • 40ml Bacardi light rum
  • 5ml Fernet Branca
  • 3 dashes chocolate bitters
  • 40ml cold brew

Conclusion

Now you know how to make the perfect espresso martini recipe it’s time get the cocktail equipment out and start shaking! For our next recipe guide we will be looking at the pisco sour so be sure to sign up to our email newsletter to stay updated.

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