What Is An Espresso Martini?

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what is an espresso martini

Mixing coffee and booze is ideal for a Friday night out. But what is an espresso martini exactly? Let’s find that out today.

What do coffee lovers drink on a night out? The cocktail that’s perfect for anyone who loves both coffee and alcohol is – the espresso martini.

An espresso martini is a vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso cocktail.

Today, we’ll review everything related to this drink, from origins and variations. Plus, I will give you instructions on how to make the best espresso martini.

And if you are a fan of alcoholic coffees, check out our barraquito recipe after this one!

Let’s begin.

The Origin Of Espresso Martini

Throughout the years, many bartenders tried claiming espresso martini as their invention. However, the real honor goes to British bartender Dick Bradsell. Nicknamed “the cocktail king,” Bradsell is well known as the person who changed the face of London’s drink scene in the 1980s.

And one of his most famous inventions is the espresso martini. Supposedly, the idea for this drink came about when a young supermodel entered Fred’s Club (the bar where he worked at the time) and asked for something that would “wake me up and then f**k me up.” 

While Bradsell never mentioned who the supermodel was, some speculations involved Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, two of the most fabulous British supermodels. However, since both women were under 14 years old at the time, we can safely assume those speculations are fake.

So, how did Bradsell come up with this odd but delicious drink? Well, vodka was everywhere during the 1980s. From Blue Lagoon and sex on the beach to Long Island iced tea and woo-woo, vodka was an irreplaceable ingredient in cocktail recipes. 

The espresso machine in Fred’s Club was right next to the drink serving station, so naturally, all Bradsell had in mind when making cocktails was coffee. So when he received the unusual request, he immediately thought of mixing the two.

The drink was an instant hit. Over the next decade or so, the word spread, and everyone worldwide was drinking it. In the case of Australia, it quickly became the most-ordered cocktail, which is a reputation espresso martini still holds today.

The rave about this drink subdued in the last twenty years, but it had a surge in popularity a few years ago. And who are we to thank for that? None else than the pandemic.

After a year of lockdown, the line between working hours and leisure was a bit blurry. And well, so is the line between coffee and alcohol. After a long shift, you’re tired but want to go out? As you can see, booze and caffeine can combine into a single drink.

What Does Espresso Martini Taste Like?

woman drinking espresso martini
The espresso martini is creamy and velvety with a layer of froth on top

The first time I heard about the drink, I only thought, “espresso with gin and vermouth doesn’t sound like a tasty combo!” I was right, but it doesn’t matter because this cocktail includes neither of those alcoholic drinks.

Instead, what goes in is vodka. So why is it called a martini, then? In the 90s, it was trendy to name every cocktail served in a v-shaped glass a “-tini.” So that’s why we have French martini, breakfast martini, saketini, appletini… And none of them have gin or vermouth.

Bradsell isn’t the one responsible for the name of the drink. He first named it “vodka espresso” and tried changing it to “pharmaceutical stimulant” later, but the latter never stuck.

Now, the real question is – what does this coffee cocktail taste like? Well, you can feel authentic bitter notes of the coffee flavor from espresso and Kahlua, but the slight sweetness balances that out. Vodka also gets toned down, so you mostly feel a slight booze aftertaste. 

As for the texture, the drink is creamy and velvety with a layer of froth on top. Usually, an espresso martini is topped with a few coffee beans as a garnish, which sit nicely on the foam.

Making An Espresso Martini – A Step-By-Step Guide

Ready to test out your bartender skills? Making an espresso martini at home is pretty easy as long as you have:

  • Espresso coffee machine
  • Shaker
  • Cocktail glass (coupe or martini glass)

Theoretically, you could make this drink even if you don’t own an espresso machine. Brewers like AeroPress and Moka Pot give you similar results regarding concentration and flavor. However, neither of them gets you the lovely crema that sits on top of the cocktail.

If you are new to espresso making and want to get it right, check out the best espresso machine for beginners we picked for you.

As for the actual recipe, it can differ from bar to bar. The one we’re talking about today is the recipe the International Bartenders Association claims is the original. You’ll need:

  • 1.7 ounces of vodka
  • 1 ounce of Kahlúa (or a similar coffee liqueur)
  • 0.33 ounces of simple syrup
  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1 cup of ice

The espresso martini recipe is pretty simple. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Shake well for about 10 seconds. The shakes don’t need to be aggressive, but you want to ensure the ice is agitated from the top to the bottom of the shaker and vice versa.
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Mixing hot espresso with ice might sound counterintuitive. But forget what your intuition is telling you! If you let espresso cool before making a cocktail, it will lose crema, and you won’t get that frothy layer essential for a good espresso martini.

Now, you don’t want to use pebble ice. It’s small and will melt when it comes to hot coffee. As a result, you’ll get a mushy and not-so-appealing drink. Instead, go for larger cubes. Many bartenders use 1-inch cubes, but those 2.5-inch whiskey cubes will also work.

Nutritional Aspects Of Espresso Martini

One of the many reasons I love coffee so much is that I don’t need to worry about calories. But of course, that’s not the case with an espresso martini. This cocktail, aside from espresso, contains a few other ingredients. And all of those ingredients have calories.

A serving of espresso martini has about 239 calories, like five Oreo cookies. It also has about 12 grams of carbohydrates from simple syrup and Kahlua.

Espresso Martini Variations

glasses of delicious espresso martini
Cold brew martini doesn’t have that slight bitterness like espresso martini

While the classic espresso martini is already great, many bartenders try to make it even better by putting their twist on the cocktail.

One of the more popular variations is the hazelnut espresso martini. As the name suggests, this drink has a nutty flavor due to the addition of Frangelico, which is hazelnut liqueur. It also features a shot of Baileys, which gives it an even more velvety texture.

Then, we have the Irish espresso martini. As you might have guessed, this cocktail has Irish whiskey instead of vodka. Because of that, it has a smokey and nutty flavor profile.

For those who find espresso too strong, cold brew martini is a great cocktail to try. It doesn’t have that slight bitterness like espresso martini, so it’s more subtle in flavor.

Finally, we can’t forget about the espresso martini mocktail for those who might want to avoid alcohol. The key to an excellent mocktail is a good non-alcoholic spirit and a hint of maple syrup for additional sweetness.

Espresso Martini Recipe Box

espresso martini

Espresso Martini Recipe

Prep Time 5 minutes
Mixing time 1 minute
Total Time 6 minutes


  • Espresso machine
  • Shaker
  • Cocktail glass


  • 1.7 ounces of vodka
  • 1 ounce of Kahlúa (or a similar coffee liqueur)
  • 0.33 ounces of simple syrup
  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1 cup of ice


  • Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Shake well for about 10 seconds.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass.

Final Thoughts On Espresso Martini

Whether enjoyed as an after-dinner treat or a revitalizing brunch drink, the espresso martini is a true emblem of modern mixology, combining the essence of a cafe and a cocktail bar in a single sip.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise why it’s one of the most popular cocktails nowadays. Whether you order it at your local bar or make it at home, you’ll surely love this modern and enticing concoction.

Looking for coffee for your espresso martini? Pick some of the best espresso beans from our list!

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.