It’s the buzziest drink in cocktail culture right now.
Even if you haven’t tried an Espresso Martini, you’ve probably seen the coffee concoction served in long-stemmed coupe glasses on your social media feeds. It has become a staple in major metropolitan areas, particularly among the late-night crowd, and always looks good at an elegant cocktail bar or restaurant. Made with espresso and vodka, this popular ‘90s cocktail is the elevated (and much tastier version) of the Vodka Red Bull. Based on the booming popularity of this drink, requests for Espresso Martinis don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
While the famous drink’s origins are rooted deep in London and New York culture, it’s not just a U.S. or European trend — this drink is worshiped worldwide, particularly in the Land Down Under. Australians love good coffee and Espresso Martinis are a crowd favorite, especially in the Melbourne area. After just one sip, you’ll see why it’s no surprise a drink made of coffee, coffee liqueur, and vodka is a smash hit.
Drinking one (or two if you're feeling dangerous) prevents late-night yawns while serving up a buzz for all-night partying. It’s a great pick-me-up and the perfect balance of coffee break and happy hour wrapped all into one.
WHERE DID IT BEGIN?
The origins of this cocktail are a little fuzzy, but cocktail legend attributes bartender, Dick Bradsell, as the creator of this sweet and caffeinated drink in the mid 1980s. He was asked by a model at the Soho Brasserie in London for a drink that packed a punch, both with caffeine AND booze. Bradsell mixed fresh espresso with vodka, but it was the addition of coffee liqueur that took his drink to the next level. He used a shaker to get the creamy top, and garnished the finished product with three espresso beans in the foam. With that, the Espresso Martini was born.
WHY IS IT SO POPULAR NOW?
Even though the Espresso Martini was likely created in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that this drink really took off. Cocktail historians claim this is because the drink was changed from the name Vodka Espresso to the now famous “Espresso Martini” due to the booming martini craze in the ‘90s.
But what does the ‘90s have to do with now? Obsession with this decade is back in full force, from style cues by fashion designers to reality television references. The Espresso Martini is no exception, and is another way to pay homage to this ever popular era.
HOW TO MAKE AN ESPRESSO MARTINI
Coffee liqueur and espresso (or cold brew) are fundamental to this drink. Place a bottle of high-quality vodka in the freezer and bring out whenever the craving for an Espresso Martini hits. If you’re hoping to add an aesthetic flair, pour the drink from the shaker into a long-stemmed coupe glass and have a jar of coffee beans ready for the garnish.
The internet is crowded with recipes for this caffeinated cocktail, but the simpler, the better. Use high-quality ingredients and your Espresso Martini will turn out rich and creamy, just like Bradsell intended. For an Espresso Martini made with real espresso, this one by Difford’s Guide has all the right ingredients and over 100 good reviews. But if you don’t have an espresso machine, stick to the cold brew adaption like this simple recipe from Liquor.com. For visual learners, the YouTube channel How To Drink offers step-by-step instructions (and a laugh or two) for both types of recipes.
What are you waiting for? Put on your barista cap and break out your bartending tools — and try an Espresso Martini before heading out for a late night with friends.
Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.