An Espresso Martini can definitely give you a boost when you're having a night out and getting tired. The caffeine combined with alcohol will revive your energy levels.
The History of the "Vodka Espresso"
The Espresso Martini is iconic. Its inventor is one of the leading cocktail masters of England who also created the Bramble Cocktail: Dick Bradsell.
He first mixed the drink in 1983 when a model approached him, allegedly asking him for a cocktail to "wake me up, then fuck me up".
However, the original name was not as catchy as it is now. Bradsell merely sold his creation under the somewhat unimpressive name "Vodka Espresso". But that changed when he realized how well-received the drink was.
The Classic Espresso Martini Recipe
The beauty of the Espresso Martini is that it doesn't require many ingredients. It can take as little as a quality espresso, coffee liqueur, Vodka, and a little attention to detail. That's it.
Freshly made espresso plays a crucial role. The quality of your espresso has a big impact on the taste of your cocktail, and it is responsible for that beautiful foam on which you can put the obligatory three coffee bean-garnish.
For the coffee liqueur, Kahlúa is the classic choice. It is a beautiful coffee liqueur made of the finest arabica coffee beans. This Mexican liqueur is famous for many years and has contributed heavily to the success of this coffee cocktail -as you can see on this old poster ad.
Kahlúa is a relatively sweet liqueur that often makes additional sweeteners such as syrup redundant. The cocktail is already nicely balanced without syrup, which makes the recipe even more straightforward.
However, adding just a tiny bit of simple syrup makes this drink perfect for me. If you use another, less sweet coffee liqueur like Tia Maria, you can increase the amount of syrup slightly.
Vodka is the third main ingredient for an Espresso Martini. With its neutral taste, the clear spirit mixes well with the coffee without distracting from it. That creates a cocktail boozy with full-on rich coffee flavor.
The measurements for the classic recipe widely differ. Kahlúa, for instance, suggests an equal-amounts approach for an Espresso Martini. While this certainly works, I'm leaning toward the official IBA recipe:
- 50ml Vodka
- 30ml Kahlúa
- 10ml Simple syrup
- one strong espresso
Can I replace Kahlúa?
You absolutely can. You can use other renowned brands like Tia Maria or any other favorite you might have. Kahlúa is often the default choice as it is good value for money and because it was first.
Invented in 1936 in Veracruz, Mexico, Kahlúa is still the bestselling coffee liqueur. It reached the US in 1940 and, from there, conquered the world.
Since then, a large number of coffee liqueurs have entered the market, offering possibilities to substitute Kahlúa. They all have different flavor profiles. -And so will your Espresso Martini, depending on your choice.
One of my favorites for an extra vicious Espresso Martini is Co'Ps espresso liqueur. This delicious espresso liqueur is pretty high in alcohol (30% ABV), and it contains the amount of caffeine of single shot espresso. - Which Kahlùa does not. In fact, the caffeine concentration is almost 20x less.
How to make the perfect Espresso Martini
There is no one size fits all approach for an Espresso Martini. Well, at least not when we're talking about perfection. The recipe below, so far, has worked for everyone I know, and it's certainly my favorite.
Still, some like it sweeter, while others prefer a more bitter, coffee-forward version of this cocktail. But you can only find your favorite by experimenting.
The base, a high-quality shot of espresso, is non-negotiable, though. So we're left with two to three more ingredients to tweak: the coffee liqueur, the spirit, and potentially the simple syrup. And here it gets interesting:
One of the best Espresso Martinis I ever had was in one of my favorite bars in Prague, the Shrinks Office. The bartender asked if he could serve me something different from the classic Espresso Martini recipe, and what I got was outstanding.
He didn't reveal the recipe to me, but he told me that he used Diplomatico Rum as the base spirit. For me, this is a game-changer. So, I highly recommend, at least once, trying a Rum-based Espresso Martini.
How much caffeine is in an Espresso Martini?
The original recipe of an Espresso Martini has only slightly more caffeine than a regular espresso. As mentioned, the caffeine content in Kahlúa is very, very low.
To get an idea, a shot of espresso has 212mg of caffeine, and one of Kahlúa (1.5oz) only has 4.5mg. That's the same as 1.5oz Coca-Cola.
When using a caffeine-forward coffee liqueur like Co'Ps, it becomes a different story. The impact is immense, and you will also feel that. If the standard recipe is already waking you up, making one with Co'Ps will be like waking up by a foghorn.
How much alcohol is in an Espresso Martini?
Ultimately, it depends on the ratios you prefer, the coffee liqueur you choose, and whether you add simple syrup or you don't. And also, the Vodka brand can make a difference, as not all Vodka clocks in at 40% sharp.
Yet, having said that, on average, a proper Espresso Martini will be around 19-25% ABV.
- 1.5 oz Vodka
- 1 oz Kahlúa
- 0.5 oz Simple syrup
- 1 shot Espresso (chilled)
- Add all ingredients into a cocktail with plenty of ice.
- Shake until well-chilled.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.