Espresso Martini: Recipes, History, and Pairing Tips

The Espresso Martini began in the 1980s. British bartender Dick Bradsell created it at Fred’s Club in London. Bradsell combined espresso, vodka, and coffee liqueur to fulfill a patron’s request for a drink to “wake me up, then f**k me up”. The original name was the “Vodka Espresso.” It gained popularity quickly, especially among those seeking both a caffeine boost and a sophisticated cocktail experience. Over the years, it became a staple in bars worldwide, recognizable for its rich taste and energizing effects.

Key Figures in Its Development

Dick Bradsell played a crucial role in the Espresso Martini’s creation. Known for his innovative cocktails, Bradsell’s contribution to mixology is significant, with the Espresso Martini as one of his most famous inventions. The drink’s adaptation and varying recipes have been influenced by other bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts. While Bradsell initiated the trend, many mixologists have since incorporated their own twists, keeping the Espresso Martini relevant and beloved in contemporary cocktail culture.

Key Ingredients

Espresso: The Heart of the Cocktail

Espresso provides the essential flavor in an Espresso Martini. Freshly brewed espresso adds richness and depth, creating a robust base for the drink. For the best results, use high-quality coffee beans and extract the espresso just before mixing. This ensures optimal flavor and aroma, enhancing the overall experience of the cocktail.

Vodka and Coffee Liqueur: Supporting Spirits

Vodka and coffee liqueur complement the espresso in an Espresso Martini. The vodka adds a smooth, clean finish, balancing the boldness of the espresso. Use a premium vodka for the finest smoothness.

Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlúa, introduces sweetness and complexity. The liqueur’s rich flavor bridges the espresso and vodka, resulting in a well-rounded cocktail. Ensure the proportions are balanced to maintain the drink’s harmony, typically using equal parts vodka and coffee liqueur.

How to Make the Perfect Espresso Martini

Choosing the Right Equipment

Selecting the right equipment ensures quality for each element of the Espresso Martini. Use an espresso machine, a cocktail shaker, a jigger, and a strainer. An espresso machine delivers strong, rich coffee. A cocktail shaker blends ingredients thoroughly. A jigger provides precise measurements, a crucial step for balance. A strainer helps achieve a smooth texture by filtering excess ice or grounds.

Step-by-Step Brewing and Mixing Guide

Follow a detailed process to make the perfect Espresso Martini:

  1. Brew Espresso: Make a fresh shot (30ml) of high-quality espresso using your espresso machine. Fresh, hot espresso provides the rich base flavor essential in this cocktail.
  2. Measure Ingredients: Use your jigger to measure 30ml of vodka, 30ml of coffee liqueur, and the brewed espresso.
  3. Mix Ingredients: Add vodka, coffee liqueur, and hot espresso to your cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice to maximize cooling and dilution control.
  4. Shake Vigorously: Shake the mixture for 15-20 seconds until the shaker feels ice cold. This step ensures a well-blended, frothy texture for your martini.
  5. Strain into Glass: Use your strainer to pour the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Maintain a smooth texture by filtering out ice shards and grounds.
  6. Garnish: Top the cocktail with three coffee beans, traditionally symbolizing health, wealth, and happiness, adding visual appeal and a hint of aroma.

By following these steps and using the right equipment, you create an Espresso Martini that balances richness, sweetness, and smoothness.

Variations of the Espresso Martini

Classic vs. Modern Twists

The traditional Espresso Martini includes vodka, coffee liqueur, and fresh espresso. Bartenders often serve this drink in a chilled martini glass, garnished with coffee beans. This classic combination gives you a balanced mix of richness, sweetness, and smoothness.

Modern twists on the Espresso Martini add unique flavors or use different spirits. For instance, some recipes swap out vodka for rum or tequila. Other variations include ingredients like flavored syrups (e.g., vanilla or hazelnut) or different types of coffee liqueurs to alter the drink’s profile. These innovations provide fresh takes on the cocktail while maintaining its core components.

Different regions have put their own spin on the Espresso Martini, resulting in diverse recipes.

  1. Italian Affogato Martini: Incorporates a scoop of vanilla gelato, adding richness.
  2. Australian Flat White Martini: Uses a flat white brew instead of espresso, offering a milder coffee flavor.
  3. Northern Hemisphere Norwegian Espresso Martini: Utilizes aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit, replacing vodka for an herbaceous taste.
  4. Japanese Matcha Espresso Martini: Blends matcha powder with the espresso, infusing a green tea note.

These variations reflect local influences and provide unique ways to enjoy the classic Espresso Martini. Each version highlights the adaptability of this beloved cocktail, ensuring something for every palate.

Food Pairings

Best Bites to Complement the Espresso Martini

Pairing the right food with an Espresso Martini enhances the overall experience. Choose foods that either complement the coffee and vodka notes or contrast them to create a balanced flavor profile.

  • Dark Chocolate Desserts: Items like brownies, truffles, and chocolate fondue pair perfectly with an Espresso Martini. The rich, slightly bitter taste of dark chocolate enhances the complex flavors of the cocktail.
  • Cheese Platters: Varieties like aged gouda, blue cheese, and manchego provide a savory counterbalance to the sweet, bold notes of an Espresso Martini.
  • Pastries: Think croissants, biscotti, and tiramisu. The light, buttery texture of pastries pairs well with the smooth texture of the cocktail.
  • Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans offer a crunchy texture and a slightly sweet, oily flavor that complements the coffee and vodka blend.
  • Fruity Desserts: Consider serving berry tarts, fig chutney, or poached pears. The natural sweetness and acidity of fruit-based desserts pair well with the coffee’s bitterness and the drink’s sweet notes.
  • Savory Snacks: Items like prosciutto-wrapped melon or smoked salmon canapés offer a savory, slightly salty contrast that enhances the Espresso Martini’s flavors.


Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or a curious newcomer, the Espresso Martini offers a unique blend of flavors that’s hard to resist. Its rich history and versatility make it a staple in any cocktail repertoire. By focusing on quality ingredients and experimenting with different variations, you can create a drink that’s perfect for any occasion. Pair it with complementary or contrasting foods to elevate your experience even further. So go ahead and shake up your next gathering with this iconic and sophisticated cocktail.

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