The Espresso Martini

The Espresso Martini is a relative newcomer to the cocktail world and was invented in a London bar for a supermodel who, after a long day during London Fashion Week, requested a drink that would wake her up and £*&# her up.

It has quickly carved its niche into the cocktail. It is certainly not a classic martini, nor even a variation, but it has made its stamp so quickly and successfully that it would be wrong not to include it in our list of martini variations.

It is one of the martinis where you genuinely need a cocktail shaker. It involves a mixture of vodka, kahlua and espresso, shaken vigorously with ice to generate a layer of foam as much as to chill down the drink. You then strain it into a martini glass, wait for the foam to form and garnish it with some coffee beans (usually three).

Despite being quite different from a classic martini it is still a favourite of mine, particularly, like the supermodel, if I have had a long day and have a big night ahead of me. The basic trick of the espresso martini is to balance the sweetness of the liqueur with the savoury coffee and neutral-but-strong vodka. Too much liqueur and you overpower the coffee and find yourself with a sickly-sweet drink. Not enough liqueur and the drink becomes overpowering to the palate.

Kahlua is created in the mountains of Veracruz, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. The drink combines arabica beans with sugar cane to create a rich, sweet liqueur. There are several other coffee liqueurs out there but this I would say is the standard. The etymology of the word Kahlúa comes from the indigenous Nahuatl language, meaning ‘the house of the Acolhua people’.

Kahlúa also contains rum. You might like to add a dash of dark rum to an espresso martini to give it even more of a kick and flavour. I would recommend a darker rum for this.

A ‘cobbler’ cocktail shaker with an in-built strainer

How to make an Espresso Martini

You will need:

  • A cocktail shaker
  • Ice cubes
  • Vodka (that has ideally been kept in the freezer for 6 hours)
  • Kahlua (or an alternative coffee liqueur), preferably chilled in the fridge for a few hours
  • Espresso

How to make

  • Add 4-6 ice cubes to the cocktail shaker.
  • Pour over 1 shot of espresso, 1 shot of Kahlua and two shots of vodka.
  • Close the shaker and shake well for about 20 seconds.
  • Strain into a martini glass (use a sieve if you don’t have a cobbler shaker but the main objective is to prevent the ice cubes from getting into the glass).

You can adjust the ratios of the kahlua to vodka to get more sweetness and less alcohol, or more alcohol and less sweetness. You could even use a double shot of espresso for a larger, more caffeinated drink but I tend to recommend against this at nighttime.

If you have shaken the drink well enough an attractive, thick white foam should form over the surface. Garnish it with some coffee beans (three appears to have become customary).


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