The Espresso Martini is currently the most popular coffee-based cocktail in the world. This blend of vodka, espresso, and coffee liqueur will definitely give you a boost when you're having a night out. The caffeine combined with alcohol will revive your energy levels.
Quick Facts Espresso Martini
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: bittersweet coffee
- How to serve it: straight up
- Best glassware: Martini or coupe glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 16% ABV, 20 grams of alcohol per serving
- 1.5 oz Vodka
- 1 oz Kahlúa
- 0.25 oz Simple syrup
- 1 shot Espresso
- Add all ingredients into a cocktai shakerl with plenty of ice.1.5 oz Vodka, 1 oz Kahlúa, 0.25 oz Simple syrup, 1 shot Espresso
- Shake for about 15 seconds until well-chilled.
- Strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass.
Ingredients of the Classic Espresso Martini
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, a little attention to detail, and a dash of simple syrup, if you like:
- Espresso: Freshly made espresso plays a crucial role. The quality of your espresso has a big impact on the taste of your cocktail. It also is responsible for that beautiful foam on which you can put the coffee bean garnish.
- Coffee liqueur: Kahlúa is the classic choice. It is a beautifully sweet 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 in this old poster ad.
- Vodka: This is the third main ingredient for an Espresso Martini. With its neutral taste, the clear spirit mixes well with the coffee without taking away from it. We like to use quality mid-shelf products like Absolut for this recipe.
- Simple Syrup: Adding just a 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.
Is Kahlúa the best option for an Espresso Martini?
Kahlúa is the standard option for an Espresso Martini - if it's the best depends on personal taste, though. It is relatively sweet and might make additional sweeteners such as syrup redundant.
So, when using Kahlúa, the vodka cocktail is already nicely balanced without syrup, which makes the recipe even more straightforward. Plus, it's great value for money.
Yet, you absolutely can replace it with other coffee liqueur. You can use other renowned brands like (the less sweet) Tia Maria or any other favorite you might have. There are many possible substitutes for Kahlúa. All have different flavor profiles, and so will your Espresso Martini, depending on your choice.
One of our favorites for an extra potent Espresso Martini is Co'Ps espresso liqueur. It is comparably high in alcohol (30% ABV), and each shot contains the amount of caffeine of single shot espresso. - Which Kahlùa does not. In fact, the caffeine concentration is almost 20x less.
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 - negligible basically.
To get an idea, 100ml (a little less than 3.5oz) of espresso have 212mg of caffeine, and one of Kahlúa (1.5oz) only has 5mg. That's the same as 1.5oz Coca-Cola.
With a caffeine-heavy coffee liqueur like Co'Ps (1.5oz has 80mg of caffeine), it's a different story. The impact is immense, and you will also feel that. If the standard recipe already gets you going, a version with Co'Ps will totally wake you up.
How Much Alcohol is in an Espresso Martini?
A proper Espresso Martini will clock in around 16-20% ABV. Ultimately, it depends on the ratios you prefer, the coffee liqueur you choose, and whether you add simple syrup or you don't. Even the vodka brand can make a difference, as not all vodka has an alcohol content of 40%.
Our recipe has the mentioned ABV of 16%. If you omit the simple syrup, you get 18.5%, and with syrup but a higher ABV coffee liqueur (30% instead of 20% ABV), the overall alcohol content is at 18%. -All these numbers include the dilution caused by the melting ice during shaking.
Tips to Make the Drink Perfect
The base, a high-quality shot of espresso, is non-negotiable. Brew it shortly before you plan to mix your drink and add it to your shaker while it's still warm - not hot, but properly warm. -The ice cubes in your shaker will cool it down quickly.
Coffee that cools down slowly turns bitter and unpleasant - and this taste would transfer into your cocktail. You certainly don't want that.
Also, since the Espresso Martini comes straight up, you best cool down your glass in the fridge or the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing. Alternatively, you can fill it with ice cubes while prepping your drink and remove them before you pour it.
The measurements of the recipe can widely differ. Kahlúa, for instance, suggests an equal-amounts approach for an Espresso Martini. This certainly works, yet, we lean more toward the official IBA recipe:
- 50ml Vodka
- 30ml Kahlúa
- 10ml Simple syrup
- one strong espresso
Apart from measurements, you can also experiment with the ingredients. As mentioned, you can try different coffee liqueurs and a variation without syrup. - And then you can substitute the vodka too:
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 give me the recipe but revealed he used Diplomatico Rum as the base spirit. For me, this is a game-changer. So, I highly recommend trying a rum-based Espresso Martini.
The History of the Vodka Espresso
The Espresso Martini is iconic, and 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 sold his creation under the somewhat unimpressive name "Vodka Espresso". He changed it when he realized what a firestarter the drink was.
You are into Martini cocktails? Why not try one of these recipes:
- The Vesper Martini, invented by the famous Ian Fleming.
- The French Martini, made with Chambord and pineapple juice.
- The Dill Pickle Martini, made with pickle juice.
Or another of the list of the most popular Martini riffs.