What is an Espresso Martini? And How to Make One


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The Espresso Martini is a delightful cocktail that has stood the test of time, with its captivating blend of strong coffee and smooth vodka.

Originally known as a vodka espresso, this caffeinated alcoholic beverage has become a popular choice for those looking to add a buzz to their drink menu. Not only does it pack a punch, but it also has a rich, velvety flavor, making it the perfect indulgence for coffee lovers and cocktail enthusiasts alike.

This classic concoction was born out of the ’80s and ’90s, when bartenders were asked to create something that would “wake up” their patrons. So the espresso martini was born, combining vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso in a perfectly balanced mix.

Over the years, its popularity soared, becoming a staple on cocktail menus and sparking countless variations and twists on the original recipe.

What is an Espresso Martini

Key Takeaways

  • The espresso martini is a popular caffeinated cocktail that combines vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso.
  • Originating in the ’80s and ’90s, this drink has become a classic, with many variations available.
  • Known for its rich flavor and energizing effect, the espresso martini is a favorite among coffee and cocktail lovers.

The Origin of Espresso Martini

The Espresso Martini’s origin can be traced back to London in the 1980s, when it was first created by a legendary bartender named Dick Bradsell.

The buzzing story behind this sophisticated drink goes like this: one evening, while Bradsell was busy working at Fred’s Club in London, a customer (believed to be a well-known so-called “celebrity”) walked in and made a special request. She wanted a concoction that would wake her up and, well, let’s say, enliven her spirits.

Quick-witted and ingenious as he was, Bradsell took up the challenge and crafted a cocktail combining bold espresso, smooth vodka, and coffee liqueur. The result was an instant hit and, voila, the Espresso Martini was born.

Initially, it was known as the Vodka Espresso, but over time, it evolved to be more widely recognized by the martini moniker we know today.

how to make an espresso martini

How to Make an Espresso Martini

An Espresso Martini is a delightful cocktail that combines the flavors of coffee and alcohol to give you a delicious and invigorating drink. So here is the best espresso martini recipe (it must be the best as it is THE recipe).


First, let’s go through the core ingredients you’ll need for your Espresso Martini:

  • 2 ounces vodka: You can use your favorite vodka brand for this cocktail.
  • 1 ounce espresso: Choose a freshly brewed, cooled espresso or cold-brew coffee for a smooth flavor.
  • 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur: Kahlúa is a popular choice as the coffee liqueur, but you can use any other suitable brand.
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup: This is optional, but it adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the coffee.
  • Garnish: Coffee beans are the perfect finishing touch to this decadent drink.


Now that we have our ingredients, let’s actually make it:

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker (or a mason jar with a lid) three-quarters full with ice cubes. This will ensure that your drink is well-chilled and properly mixed.
  2. Pour the vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, and simple syrup (if using) into the shaker. Make sure you measure each ingredient accurately for the best results.
  3. Once all the ingredients are in the shaker, give it a good shake to mix everything well and get the cocktail chilled.
  4. Strain the mixture into a chilled elegant cocktail glass. This will give it a professional appearance and keep the drink cool as you sip.
  5. As a final touch, it is customary to garnish with 3 beans in Espresso Martini. This will add a touch of elegance to your drink, as well as a subtle hint of coffee aroma.

You are now ready to enjoy your very own Espresso Martini. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment a little with the quantities or brands of ingredients used to find the way you like it the most.

3 beans in Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini Variations and Alternatives

When it comes to espresso martinis, there are several delicious variations and alternatives that you can try. For a unique twist, substitute the traditional vodka with gin. The botanicals in gin can make for a fascinating combination with the rich coffee flavors.

  • Espresso martini without Kahlua: If you are not a fan of Kahlúa, you can easily use other coffee liqueurs such as Tia Maria instead. Just remember to adjust the sugar content accordingly, as Kahlúa tends to be sweeter than other options.
    • In Australia, they substitute Kahlúa with the local coffee liquor to make the Mr Black Espresso Martini.
    • How about a Tequila Espresso Martini? It sounds awful to me after a not-so-memorable night at college involving Tequila.
  • Add egg white: For those who enjoy a bit of froth or foam, adding egg white can provide texture and air bubbles, creating a silky-smooth top layer on your drink. To achieve this, just shake the egg white with your other ingredients until the mixture is well-emulsified.
  • Espresso martini with cold brew coffee: You can substitute the espresso in your martini with cold brew or cold brew concentrate for a refreshing twist. This can help add depth and an even stronger kick of flavor to your cocktail.
  • Use strong brew coffee: If you don’t have access to an espresso machine or cold brew, don’t worry – you can still use a strong freshly brewed coffee or even an instant espresso to create a delicious espresso martini.
  • Add dairy: Instead of simply using vodka and coffee liquor, try incorporating milk or cream for a creamy espresso martini and an added touch of elegance to the drink.
  • Add sweetness: Incorporate some sweetness to balance the coffee’s bitterness by adding ingredients such as Irish cream, which also gives your cocktail a velvety texture. You can also play with other sweet liqueurs, syrups, or even chocolate shavings to put your unique spin on this delicious dessert cocktail.
  • Espresso Martini as a Dessert Cocktail: Imagine indulging in Tiramisu with a little boozy twist, and you’ll understand the appeal of an Espresso Martini. It’s the perfect balance between coffee and a smooth cocktail, making it an excellent option for pairing with desserts or even serving as a standalone treat.

When to Serve an Espresso Martini

If you’re planning a brunch or looking for a midday drink with a caffeine boost, an espresso martini is an excellent choice. The caffeine in the espresso will invigorate your guests and liven up the gathering.

An espresso martini is also a superb option for late-night events or parties that extend into the early hours. The combination of alcohol and caffeine makes it an ideal choice for guests who need a pick-me-up to keep the energy going.

It’s worth noting that the foam on an espresso martini is not only visually appealing but is a crucial part of the drink’s structure. The foam adds a velvety texture and smoothness, making each sip a delight to savor.

Espresso Martini FAQs

Do Espresso Martinis Have Caffeine?

Espresso martinis do contain caffeine. The amount of caffeine in an espresso martini can vary depending on the ingredients and the size of the drink. As a general rule, espresso martinis usually contain around 35-50mg of caffeine per serving.

Are Espresso Martinis Vegan?

Espresso martinis can be vegan, depending on the ingredients used. A traditional recipe usually consists of vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, and simple syrup. Kahlua Coffee Liqueur is not vegan-friendly as stated on their FAQ page, whereas the Vegaloco brand creates vegan-friendly espresso liqueurs.

Are Espresso Martinis Gluten-Free?

Espresso martinis are typically gluten-free, making them a delightful choice for those following a gluten-free diet. This popular caffeinated cocktail is made with ingredients that are naturally free of gluten such as vodka, espresso coffee, coffee liqueur, and sugar syrup.

Is an Espresso Martini a Night Drink?

Actually, an espresso martini can be enjoyed at different times of the day, with lunch, after a long day or during a night out

Do Bartenders Hate Espresso Martini?

Hate may be a strong word but as they need a fresh shot of espresso they are certainly more long-winded to make than the majority of cocktails.

Do Espresso Martinis Sober You Up?

Although they may contain a shot of espresso, an espresso martini also contains two shots of liquor, so far from sobering you up they are likely to make you even more intoxicated.

What Do the Three Beans in An Espresso Martini Mean?

The three beans in an espresso martini are purely there as a garnish. Some say they represent health, wealth and happiness but really they mean nothing.

How Many Espresso Martinis Should I Have?

I presume you are an adult so you shouldn’t need me to tell you how many espresso martinis to drink!

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