Espresso Martini

Difford's Guide
Discerning Drinkers (434 ratings)

Serve in

Martini glass

Garnish:

Lemon zest twist (discarded) plus float coffee beans arranged in a petal formation floating in the centre of the drinks creamy surface. The floating of three beans comes from the traditional serving of Sambuca in Italy where the floating beans are called con la mosca, meaning 'with the fly'. Three beans represent health, wealth and happiness.

How to make:

SHAKE all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.

1 1/2 fl oz Ketel One Vodka
1 fl oz Espresso coffee (freshly brewed & hot)
2/3 fl oz Galliano Espresso Coffee liqueur
2 drop Saline solution 4:1 (20g sea salt to 80g water) (optional)
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Review:

Likened to a Vodka & Red Bull for the discerning, the caffeine-loaded Espresso Martini consists of generous shots of vodka and espresso with coffee liqueur. Although far from a true Martini, the Espresso Martini is perhaps the best-known of the contemporary classic cocktails to emerge from the 1990s.

Like every cocktail, an Espresso Martini is only as good as its ingredients. So you'll need a decent vodka and freshly made espresso coffee. The crema (creamy foam) on top of the coffee is key to the success and appearance of the finished cocktail. It may seem perverse to pour a steaming hot shot of espresso coffee into a shaker and then immediately shake with ice, rather than using cold/iced coffee, but let the coffee cool so the crema dies and you'll kill the cocktail.

As with an espresso coffee, the amount of sugar required to balance this cocktail is very much down to the tastes of the individual drinker but Dick Bradsell's original recipe included sugar syrup. I've omitted the sugar but depending on your coffee you may want to add 2.5ml (half a bar spoon) or even 5ml (1/6oz) of rich (2:1) sugar syrup. Ideally, use a brown, muscovado or demerara syrup or even honey which can add an extra dimension. And if you are using a very dry/bitter coffee liqueur, then added sweetness becomes more necessary than optional.

In addition to garnishing with a trio of coffee beans, I also like to express a lemon zest over the surface of the drink and then discard the zest. The lemon oils don't negatively affect the foam but the lemony aroma adds considerably to the drink.

Variant:

Some prefer the simpler equal parts version of the Espresso Martini but I think the recipe above is better balanced.
20 best riffs on an Espresso Martini

History:

The cocktail we know today as the Espresso Martini started life as the far more fittingly titled Vodka Espresso and served on-the-rocks. Created circa 1983 by the legendary bartender Dick Bradsell at the Soho Brasserie on Old Compton Street, London, for a customer, said to be a "top model," or at least an American model who asked for "Something that's gonna wake me up, then fuck me up."

When asked as to exactly why he settled on that drink that day, Dick told me: "The coffee machine at the Soho Brasserie 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."

There's been much speculation over the decades as to the identity of the sleep-deprived "model" whose order to alleviate the affliction led to Dick making the first Vodka Espresso. Some say it was Kate Moss, others Naomi Campbell, but Moss was only nine at the time and Campbell was 13 years old and not American! Dick followed traditional bartending convention, believing that folk should be able to go into a bar, relax, have a good time, drink a bit too much, and, ideally, tip well. And importantly, what they did or said in that bar should stay there. He kept his guests' secrets. The probable truth is, the model in question was far from being a "supermodel." That said, Marie Helvin, as rumoured locally, is a more likely contender.

As the eighties turned into the nineties people were still drinking vodka but this was the decade of the Neo Martini - any cocktail served in a V-shaped glass and based on vodka was considered a "Martini", and such Neo-Martinis were what bar-goers wanted and ordered. Hence, in 1997, when Dick was working at Match bar on London's Clerkenwell Road, a fellow bartender named Vasco (who Dick referred to as the "Portuguese sea captain") served Dick's Vodka Espresso straight-up in a Martini glass. As Dick said, "it needed adjustment. I used the ratio behind the Brandy Alexander as a template (espresso to vodka with 3 flavours in between)."

Espresso Martini/Pharmaceutical Stimulant
Into empty shaker glass
50mls good vodka
5mls cane sugar syrup
5mls Tia Maria
10mls Kahlua
25mls double strength espresso (and the better the coffee the better the drink!)
Add ice, shake, strain into prechilled glass.
3 coffee beans as garnish
And if you can see through it or it is brown not black, it's wrong.

Dick Bradsell, 2010s

Finally, to complete his trilogy of coffee cocktails, in 1998, Dick renamed his creation Pharmaceutical Stimulant to fit a list of cocktail names provided by Damien Hirst for the menu at his new Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill where Damien Hirst artwork hung, and Dick was bar manager (the site on Notting Hill Gate is now a Waitrose store).

Alcohol content:

  • 1.4 standard drinks
  • 20.36% alc./vol. (40.72° proof)
  • 19.4 grams of pure alcohol
Difford's Guide remains free-to-use thanks to the support of the brands in green above. Values stated for alcohol and calorie content, and number of drinks an ingredient makes should be considered approximate.

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Buy direct from
the_whisky_exchange store logo
£ -.--

Makes a minimum of ... cocktails
Just £ -.-- per cocktail*

* This list may not include all required ingredients.
Price per cocktail is an estimate based on the cost of making one cocktail with the available ingredients shown above and does not include any postage charges.
Buy direct from Difford’s Guide
Difford's Easy Jigger
£8.72 £8.72 exc VAT
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