Espresso Martini Recipe: Dark, Intriguing and Coffeelicious!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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Craving the perfect caffeinated pick-me-up and wind-me-down in a single glass? Why, say hello to my espresso martini recipe!

Craving the perfect caffeinated pick-me-up and wind-me-down in a single glass? Why, say hello to my espresso martini recipe!

This dark, alluring cocktail, full of delicious flavors and aromas, blends rich, fresh espresso, coffee liqueur and premium vodka to perfection. It’s hands down THE drink to awaken your taste buds and jazz up a lack-luster day.

So, are you ready to up your mixology game with this boozy, caffeinated sensation? Let’s make this stylish and delicious recipe!

What Is an Espresso Martini?

Before I go on a deep dive into an espresso martini recipe, what exactly is it?

The espresso martini is a stylish cocktail that combines the rich flavors of espresso with the sweetness of coffee liqueur and the smooth intensity of vodka.

In essence, it’s the perfect blend of caffeine and alcohol. This makes it the evening (or even morning, why not?) drink of choice. Java heads who enjoy the occasional boozy coffee especially favor this drink.

This cocktail originated in 1980s London at the height of Thatcherism. Britain was experiencing a boom. Having a good time and Gordon Gekko-like “greed is good” attitudes were the norm.

Legend has it that a now-famous model asked bartender and espresso martini recipe inventor, Dick Bradsell, for a very special drink one evening. She wanted a drink that would both, as she put it, “wake me up and f**k me up.” And thus, the frothy espresso martini was born!

So how do you serve this dark beauty? Espresso martinis typically come in martini glasses. If you don’t have these at home, coupe glasses or any other cocktail glass are acceptable substitutions.

And how does it taste? In a word, heavenly! As a cocktail, the espresso martini is a sumptuous combination of flavors. The rich coffee with bitter notes of espresso, warm intensity of creamy vodka and sweet, velvety touch of the coffee liqueur work marvelously well.

The looks don’t let it down, either. This intense coffee cocktail has a dark, enticing appearance with a creamy, frothy layer on top. In fact, it resembles a just-brewed espresso shot with crema, hence its name.

No wonder this cocktail has become a favorite among booze and coffee enthusiasts alike! In fact, I’d say Ian Fleming’s James Bond would be proud.

Do I Need an Espresso Machine?

Breville Barista Express Pulling Espresso Shot Close

As a coffee-mad person myself, I encourage having an espresso machine at home for instances such as these. But, no, you don’t need a machine to make a classic espresso martini recipe.

Manual espresso makers make espresso good enough for this recipe. The espresso may not be as high end as a barista or Italian machine-brewed shot, but it’ll do.

You could also throw caution to the wind and substitute the espresso in the recipe with a store-bought or homemade cold brew concentrate. While the taste may differ – you won’t have the luxury of crema with cold brew – you’ll amp up the caffeine levels with this substitution.

What if you can’t get your hands on either espresso or cold brew concentrate? Does it mean you get to miss out on this delicious treat? Heck, no!

If all else fails and you need a quick coffee base for your espresso martini recipe, I’d suggest using moka pot coffee. It’s by no means authentic, but it’ll give you a good, strong coffee for your cocktail.

What’s the Best Alcohol for an Espresso Martini?

Most bartenders use premium unflavored vodka as the alcoholic component in an espresso martini recipe. High-quality vodka stands up to the strong, robust flavor of espresso pretty well. Plus, it has a pretty crisp, clean taste, so it won’t compete with the rich coffee flavors of your specialty espresso beans.

From New York to LA, enthusiasts are willing to experiment with this classic coffee cocktail. Of late, gin, whiskey and even the “Green Fairy” absinthe, are gaining popularity as alcoholic substitutions across America.

However, these are niche tastes and vodka still comes out on top. High-quality brands that’ll work well include Grey Goose, Ketel One and Belvedere. Others that also hit the mark are Tito’s Handmade, Absolut Vodka, Smirnoff No. 21 and Stolichnaya. But, remember, if using Absolut Vodka, avoid the flavored variety.

Another alcoholic ingredient in an espresso martini is coffee liqueur. Kahlua is the firm favorite with many bartenders and coffee aficionados. It adds a delicious depth, sweetness and complexity, which complement the rich flavors of fresh espresso.

That’s not to say there aren’t other equally kickass brands out there. The next time you make an espresso martini (which I hope you’ll do immediately after reading this) try using a coffee liqueur other than Kahlua. Mr. Black, Caffè Borghetti, NOLA and Tia Maria would do nicely.

Espresso Martini Recipe

Pouring Espresso Martini

A frothy espresso martini is the perfect after-dinner drink, or, dare I say it, breakfast accompaniment. If the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson can serve one in her 2006 “Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen” TV special, so can you!

Espresso martinis are especially suited to folks who appreciate the fusion flavors of rich coffee and intense spirits. For folks conscious about nutrition and calories, it has 302 calories and approximately 20% alcohol by volume. Caffeine content varies from as little as 40 milligrams to as much as that in a cup of drip coffee (74 milligrams).

Here’s how to make one espresso martini better than at your local coffee shop or bar:

What You’ll Need

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for my espresso martini recipe:

  • 1 ounce (30 milliliters) freshly brewed espresso, well-chilled or at room temperature. If you don’t have a means of making espresso, by all means substitute this ingredient with a high-quality cold brew concentrate

  • 1.7 ounces (50 milliliters) of your favorite vodka

  • 0.5 ounces (15 milliliters) of quality coffee liqueur (Kahlua is the preferred choice)

  • 0.5 ounces (15 milliliters) simple syrup or to taste

  • Ice cubes

  • Optional: whole coffee beans (preferably espresso beans) to garnish

And here’s the equipment you’ll need:

  • Espresso machine or manual espresso maker

  • Espresso cup or shot glass

  • Cocktail shaker

  • Cocktail glass (martini glasses or coupe glasses work best)

  • Mesh strainer

Directions

  1. Place your cocktail or martini glass in the freezer. If you prefer, you can fill it with ice water to chill.

  2. Next, prepare simple syrup. Place equal amounts of white sugar and cold filtered water in a small saucepan.

  3. Heat the sugar and water mixture over medium heat on the stovetop. Stir continuously until all the sugar dissolves.

  4. Cool the hot syrup to room temperature, then pour it into a Mason jar before sealing and refrigerating.

  5. Grind your espresso coffee beans and brew an espresso shot. Then, allow it to cool to at least room temperature. To chill the hot espresso quickly, place it in the fridge for a short while.

  6. In a cocktail shaker, add the vodka, coffee liqueur, well-chilled espresso shot and simple syrup.

  7. Remember, you may substitute the fresh espresso for cold brew concentrate if you don’t have an espresso maker. It’ll certainly give your espresso martini recipe that extra kick of caffeine!

  8. Now, add ice cubes to the cocktail shaker. The ice cubes will not only chill the ingredients further but also help to create a frothy drink with a nice foam on top.

  9. Place the lid on the cocktail shaker, twisting to secure it. Then, give the cocktail shaker with the espresso martini mixture a hard shake for at least 30 seconds.

  10. The outside of your cocktail shaker should be frosty at this stage. Taking the time to do this step helps create a great foam for this espresso martini recipe.

  11. Remove your martini glass from the freezer or discard the ice in it if you had chilled your cocktail glass this way.

  12. Double-strain using a mesh strainer and pour the shaken mixture into the chilled cocktail glass. It should have a nice froth on top and a deep, dark layer at the bottom. 

  13. Lastly, garnish your espresso martini with three coffee beans on top for a visually appealing touch. If you’re wondering why three, not one or two coffee beans, there’s a reason for this. Besides looking stunning, it’s said that these beans represent health, wealth and happiness.

Espresso Martini Recipe Variations

Espresso Martini Recipe Variations

As with every recipe, the classic espresso martini recipe has many variations. These have evolved over time to meet tastes around the world.

Some of the more popular recipe variations include:

Chocolatini

A delicious variation of the espresso martini recipe. This delectable version swaps the traditional coffee liqueur for a chocolate liqueur to enhance the chocolatey taste. 

Hotel Chocolat, Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao and Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Cream are examples of some top-notch choco liqueurs you can use.

For that extra chocolate hit, garnish with grated dark chocolate instead of espresso coffee beans. You could also go all out and use chocolate covered espresso beans. Yum!

Espresso Rumtini

Did someone say “Pirates of the Caribbean?” They may as well with an espresso rumtini! 

As this cocktail’s name suggests, it’s a variation that uses rum instead of vodka for a devilishly delicious flavor. In addition, some recipes add a dash of cocoa bitters to highlight the bitter tones in the espresso.

A premium white or gold spiced rum like Captain Morgan, Kraken, Las Olas or Bacardi is excellent in this recipe. It’ll certainly complement the deep flavors of the coffee liqueur.

Irish Espresso Martini

Alcoholic Coffee Drinks Espresso Martini

The Irish take on espresso martinis is deep, smokey and intensely delicious. 

Substituting the vodka for a good Irish whiskey, such as Jameson (their Stout Edition is especially good), Tullamore D.E.W, Glendalough or Lamby makes for an intriguing alternative.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, why don’t you add a touch of Baileys? Creamy and delicious it will certainly add more color and foam on top of your cocktail.

Amarula Espresso Martini

Go all African with this recipe by using espresso from Ethiopian coffee beans and the famous creamy Baileys-like liqueur Amarula. I mean, it’s your drink, after all!

This sweet, creamy liqueur from South Africa uses the fruit of the Marula tree as a base flavor. You know – the one that gets all the wildlife drunk on those National Geographic specials.

This version is slightly fruity, nutty and vanilla-y; all flavors that compliment espresso well.

Italian Espresso Martini

Italian Espresso Martini

Another variation of the classic espresso martini recipe that really delivers is the Italian espresso martini.

Instead of vodka, this version uses Amaro, a centuries-old Sicilian liqueur with herb and citrus notes that pair well with the slightly bitter notes in espresso.

Another option would be to use sambuca in addition to the coffee liqueur. The Italians do it all the time when they make caffè corretto. This coffee drink typically has a dash of sambuca or grappa, the perfect digestif after a big meal. So, doing this makes total sense.

Greek Espresso Martini

Fancy a wildly different take on the espresso martini? Why not try the Greek version!

A grape marc distillate liqueur, Tsipouro, takes the place of vodka in this espresso martini recipe. The pine or cedar-like liqueur Mastika, made from the resin of the mastic tree, also works well.

In addition, the Greeks use brown sugar syrup instead of a simple syrup for a nice caramel hit. They also add a few drops of an 80% saline solution to cut any bitter notes.

Virgin Espresso Martini

Not all coffee lovers drink booze. Thus, there’s a huge demand for the alcohol-free version of this exciting recipe. A virgin espresso martini or espresso martini mocktail hits the spot for them.

Making this variation is super easy! All you need to do is leave out the vodka and coffee liqueur. You may enhance this virgin recipe by adding a little bit of honey, vanilla bean paste or even heavy cream for a delicious, creamy finish.

Final Thoughts: Espresso Martinis Are the Ultimate in Coffee Indulgence 

So there you have it – the perfect espresso martini recipe! I hope you’ll give this iconic coffee cocktail a try whether you’re treating yourself to a moment of indulgence or impressing guests at a soirée.

A frothy espresso martini is the ultimate in espresso indulgence, a delightful fusion of espresso and booze. Cheers!

Fire up your inner coffee god and make yourself an espresso martini recipe! I’d love to hear your opinions and feedback, especially on any tips you feel I may have left out.

Espresso Martini Recipe FAQ

An espresso martini recipe consists of espresso coffee, coffee liqueur, vodka and simple syrup. The classic recipe also calls for three coffee beans as a garnish.

A premium, unflavored vodka is the best liquor for an espresso martini.

A classic espresso martini uses 1.7 ounces (50 milliliters) of premium vodka and 1 ounce (30 milliliters) freshly-brewed espresso coffee or cold brew concentrate. Other ingredients include 0.5 ounces (15 milliliters) of coffee liqueur and 0.5 ounces (15 milliliters) of simple syrup, mixed in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

To make an espresso martini as a bartender does, combine vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso coffee and the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and top with ice. Seal and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds to develop a froth. Then, double-strain this mixture into a chilled martini glass before garnishing with three coffee beans.

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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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