The Espresso Martini is basically a Vodka & Red Bull for grown-ups. Created by Dick Bradsell back in 1998 for a customer who asked Dick for a Cocktail to “Wake them up”. It’s hard to imagine now, but back then, this was deemed a pretty crazy cocktail invention. However, many never understood why, as even back in the mid-90s, Irish Coffees were all the rage. And not a million miles away from this!
Back then, Dick’s recipe was somewhat complicated compared to many of the riffs flying around these days. It was 5 Ingredients. Vodka, Kahlua, Tia Maria, Espresso and Sugar Syrup. However, it's worth noting that in the past 25 years, ingredients have come on leaps and bounds. And some have even deteriorated. Let’s take Kahlua for example, we’re now on the 4th different ABV, compared to what it used to be. It’s now a lot, lot, lower. However, to the other extreme, Coffee back in those days isn’t anything compared to what it is now. And it's that Espresso that can make or break this Cocktail.
These days the recipe can be just 3 simple ingredients. Vodka, Coffee Liqueur and Espresso. But it’s vital those ingredients are the best they can possibly be. A great shot of Espresso will take this cocktail from a 6/10 to a 10/10.
The liqueur is also one to pay attention to. Everyone has a different palate these days. Some are sweeter than others. Many prefer to always use a less sweet Liqueur, as you can always add sweetness if need be, but you can never take away. (It’s worth noting the likes of Kahlua are a lot sweeter than the 90s/00s version!)
Now we’re not going to preach about exact recipes. Even with 3 simple ingredients, you see many different ratios. However, our personal preference;
However, we frequently see recipes that show 50ml of Vodka and just 25ml of Liqueur and 25ml of Espresso. The truth is, there’s no right or wrong, only your preference! So, get practising.
Here at Drinkstuff, we love giving you some inspiration! It’s like Cooking. Everyone loves tinkering and adding their own twists. So here we go…
Vodka is obviously the standard. But even staying with Vodka, why not try Vanilla or Toffee Vodka! Those 2 ingredients add a great riff. We’ve even used Orange Vodka before. Coffee and Orange are a great combo. But what if you want something more exciting. Well, if you know your after dinner Coffee, you’ll realise most spirits work! Rum, Spiced Rum (An office favourite!), Brandy, Whiskey, Tequila. They all Work.
Assuming you stick with a Coffee Liqueur (bearing in mind Tia Maria and Kahlua will be sweeter than Mr Black) you can add in other liqueurs to put a fun twist on the Cocktail. A Cacao or Chocolate Liqueur is amazing. Amaro adds a great depth of flavour. An Orange liqueur like Triple Sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier is lovely. But a really fun and quirky one, especially with Rum; Banana! Yup Banana Espresso Rumtini’s are divine!
Now be really careful here. This is where Steve says he advocates for Mr Black over Kahlua because Mr Black allows you to add sweetness. Whereas adding sweetness to Kahlua could make the Cocktail too sweet for some. But great flavoured Espresso Martinis include Vanilla Syrup, Maple, Brown Sugar, Muscovado, Praline, Hazelnut, and another 15+ from Monin, ODK or William Fox. But probably the most popular by a long shot, Caramel or Salted Caramel! Salted Caramel Espresso Martini (Maybe with 15ml of Banana Liqueur), AMAZING!
The addition of Salt in an Espresso Martini can also be great for those that love that vibe. As people get older, they appreciate just a touch of salty salinity in drinks. Not too much, but just a tiny amount really accentuates flavours! You can just add a pinch of salt. But a great trick is Saline Solution. 5g of Rock Salt to 25g of Water. Let it dissolve. It’ll last for weeks in a fridge. Then simply add 5-15 drops to your cocktail, depending on taste. Remember the golden rule. You can always add more, but you can never take it away. So don’t dive in with the full 15 drops. Work up to it, tasting as you go.
The Garnish for an Espresso Martini is traditionally 3 Coffee beans signifying Health, Wealth and Happiness. But you can do all kinds of weird and wonderful garnishes. Cacao Powder is very popular. You could use Cinnamon or Nutmeg Powder. Powdered Dehydrated Fruit like Raspberry or Orange Dust. And a great one for Colour, Beetroot Powder. There’s nothing like a Bright Purple lid!