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A quick guide to the Espresso Martini

The Espresso Martini is a classic, modern cocktail with a history almost as fascinating as the drink itself.

A must-have in every UK bar and popular amongst coffee enthusiasts, the Espresso Martini is a unique combination of vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso. 

The History of the Espresso Martini Cocktail

Let’s take a wander back in time to the invention of the Espresso Martini. The year is 1983 and your name is Richard Arthur “Dick” Bradsell.

Bradsell happened to be working the Soho Brasserie on Old Compton Street London when a well-known model approached him and requested that he concoct a cocktail that would wake her up. Bradsell was serving drinks in close proximity to the coffee machine at the time, giving him the stroke of genius that was mixing coffee with vodka.

He coined it the Vodka Espresso, but later decided to rename the drink ‘Espresso Martini’ because at the time the term "martini" referred to any mixed drink that was served in a V-shaped glass. The drink was then rebranded in 1998 to the lesser known Pharmaceutical Stimulant at the Pharmacy Bar in Notting Hill where Bradsell was then working.

Today people across the world refer to the cocktail by any one of these three names, although the ingredients may vary slightly depending on the region.

How to make an enticing Espresso Martini

Since its creation there have been numerous adaptations to the recipe however the true recipe, according to the mixologist mastermind Bradsell, uses “the ratio behind the Brandy Alexander as a template (espresso to vodka with 3 flavours in between).”

Bradsell later shared that the original Espresso Martini/Pharmaceutical Stimulant recipe requires an empty shaker glass, 50ml good vodka, 5ml cane sugar syrup, 5ml Tia Maria, 10ml Kahlua, 25ml double strength espresso, ice, and 3 coffee beans for a garnish. He elaborated that it's wrong if people can see through it or if it's brown instead of black – so take note if your Espresso Martinis are coming out a murky brown colour.

If you’re not confident about how to create the perfect espresso, check out our articles ‘Master the Basics of Making Coffee for CocktailsandHow to make Great Filter Coffee in a Busy Bar'.

An easy Espresso Martini recipe

  • Ice cubes
  • 25ml vodka
  • 35ml Tia Maria/other coffee liqueur
  • 35ml espresso
  • Coffee beans as a garnish

   1. Place your martini glasses in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before serving.

   2. Pour the ice in a cocktail shaker.

   3. Add the vodka, then the liqueur, and finally the coffee.

   4. Taste, and if additional sweetness is desired, add more liqueur.

   5. Give it a good 20 second shake.

   6. Pour through a strainer into the cold glasses, and then top with coffee beans.

   7. Serve straight away.

Additional tips for a great Espresso Martini

    1.  Use fresh espresso – Quality is key, always ensure your espresso is fresh.

    2.  Shake hard – Create a foamy layer on top of the cocktail by shaking the mixture vigorously.

    3.  Get ready to suit different tastes – Not all people have a sweet tooth so feel free to adjust the amount of sugar you add.

    4.  Use a good brand of vodka – Vodka is the biggest part of this drink. We recommend opting for something a slightly more luxury for a clean taste that will bring out the other flavours.

    5.  Utilise your best cocktail presentation –  Whether you opt for the classic coffee beans or an alternative garnish, take the time to get creative and add appeal, see our expert tips.

    6.  Experiment! There are no rules when it comes to creating an Espresso Martini and your way will always be the best way.

The Espresso Martini and ready to drink (RTD)

Although an unusual combination of flavours the Espresso Martini creates the perfect bitter-sweet mix. The espresso, vodka, coffee liqueur, and sugar that go into making this cocktail are arguably unremarkable on their own, but when put together create the perfect coffee cocktail. 

Nowadays you can even get pre-mixed Espresso Martinis, ensuring you get the perfect cocktail every time. Brands like Tom Savano Cocktails, Tails Cocktails, Climpson & Sons and more all offer their own ready to drink (RTD) version of the Espresso Martini. The benefit of this of course is that it takes away the necessity for having all the ingredients to hand (great for if you don’t happen to have a coffee machine), and also means you get a smooth, balanced drink with the perfect proportions of vodka and espresso. 

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