As a close relation to the classic Martini, the Espresso Martini is presumably the most popular coffee-based cocktail in the world. The only drink coming close to it could be the Irish Coffee. Having one can definitely give you a boost when you're having a night out and getting tired. The caffeine combined with alcohol will boost your energy levels. So read on to find out how you can create the best Espresso Martini.
The History of the "Vodka Espresso"
The Espresso Martini is iconic. Its inventor is one of the leading cocktail masters of England who also create the Bramble Cocktail: Dick Bradsell. He first mixed the drink in 1983 when a model approached him asking for a cocktail to "wake me up, then fuck me up".
However, back then, the 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 popular the drink was.
The recipe is so simple that it offers plenty of opportunities to create riffs. But even within the traditional recipe, there are wide variations. Some ask for equal proportions of the three base ingredients. Others are more spirit-forward versions. So let's have a look at the classic Espresso Martini.
The Classic Espresso Martini Recipe
Making an Espresso Martini doesn't require a large variety of ingredients. What you'll need for the classic version is a quality espresso, coffee liqueur, and Vodka.
The freshly made espresso plays a crucial role. It's adding a deep and rich coffee flavor and also improves the drink visually. It's responsible for that beautiful foam on top of the cocktail that usually carries three coffee beans as the cocktail's 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. They even had commercials celebrating and promoting their product as an element of the Espresso Martini cocktail (see image below).
Kahlúa is a liqueur that, in most cases, makes additional sweeteners such as syrup superfluous. The cocktail is perfectly balanced without syrup, which makes the recipe even more straightforward. Nonetheless, many recipes recommend adding syrup. Even the one from the International Bartender's Association (IBA) - see recipe below.
Vodka is the third and final ingredient for an Espresso Martini. As Vodka itself doesn't have a strong taste, it mixes well with the coffee notes without detracting from them. That makes the cocktail boozy without ruining its smooth and rich coffee flavor.
The measurements for the classic recipe widely differ. Kahlúa suggests using equal proportions to make an Espresso Martini. That is certainly a valid option and will taste perfectly fine. However, I'll stick with the official IBA recipe. According to them, the measurements are the following:
- 50ml Vodka
- 30ml Kahlúa
- 10ml Simple syrup
- one strong espresso
What is Kahlua? And how can I replace It?
Invented in 1936 in Veracruz, Mexico, Kahlúa is the most popular coffee liqueur on the market. Only four years later, in 1940, it reached the US and, from there, conquered the world. The beginning of a huge success story. But even though Kahlúa is one of the main ingredients of a classic Espresso Martini, it can be replaced to create a twist of the original recipe.
Today, more and more coffee liqueurs come to the market that pose possibilities to substitute Kahlúa. You can basically take any coffee or espresso liqueur and try to mix up an Espresso Martini with it. And depending on your choice, the drink will have a slightly different flavor profile.
My personal recommendation to make an extra vicious Espresso Martini is using Co'Ps espresso liqueur. This delicious espresso liqueur is pretty high in alcohol (30% ABV), and it contains the amount of caffeine of an espresso in a single shot. Talking about waking up, here's your alarm signal.
How to make the best Espresso Martini
Deciding on the best Espresso Martini recipe is challenging. There are many ways to make twists and riffs on the classic. And each time creating something truly delicious gets created. That means, making the best Espresso Martini will ultimately depend on your taste buds.
So you will only find out your best version of the coffee cocktail if you start experimenting. The base is self-evident: a high-quality shot of espresso. I don't recommend modifying that part of the recipe. So we're left with two more ingredients to tweak: the coffee liqueur and the spirit. For the coffee liqueur, I already gave a recommendation, Co'Ps espresso liqueur. The alternative for the Vodka will follow suit.
The best Espresso Martini 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, naturally, I gladly agreed. And what I got was outstanding. Rich in coffee flavor but with a much more intense and balanced flavor profile. Although he didn't reveal the exact ratios, he told me that he used Diplomatico Rum as the base spirit. For me, this is a game-changer, and I highly recommend mixing your next Espresso Martini with Rum instead of Vodka.
Caffeine in an Espresso Martini?
The classic recipe of an Espresso Martini has only slightly more caffeine than a regular espresso. Kahlúa coffee liqueur also contains caffeine, but the amount is very, very low. To get an idea, a shot of espresso has 212mg of caffeine, one of Kahlúa (1.5oz) only has 4.5mg. That's so low that it hardly impacts the total caffeine level.
When using Co'Ps, it is a different story. The impact is immense, and you will also be able to feel it. If the normal cocktail is waking you up, making one with Co'Ps will be like waking up by a foghorn.
How much alcohol is in an Espresso Martini?
The alcohol content of an Espresso Martini depends. If you're using more Vodka, your cocktail will be higher in alcohol. If you're using an equal-parts approach, it will be slightly lower. On average, a serving of 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.