Perk up with an Espresso Martini! It’s a classic dessert cocktail made with just four ingredients: fresh espresso, coffee liqueur, vodka and simple syrup.
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Espresso Martini recipe
After a nice dinner out, when the server asks if you’d like an after-dinner drink, do you always say yes?
I’m a dessert person, so of course, I say yes! I love seeing what options are on the menu, but when in doubt I order an espresso martini.
These coffee cocktails are the perfect sippers after a great meal. I prefer one of these to a big cup of coffee.
If you’re a fan of Irish coffee, you’ll love this tasty coffee cocktail.
Why you’ll love this recipe
The Espresso Martini is a coffee lover’s dream cocktail!
- With a strong coffee flavor and a jolt of caffeine, the Espresso Martini is the ultimate dessert cocktail.
- Made with just four ingredients, it’s easy to put together.
- You don’t need a fancy espresso machine to make an espresso martini. (But if you have one, great!)
Enjoy one as a nightcap or serve a round after a dinner party. They are extra elegant to cap off a holiday meal, like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
What is an Espresso Martini?
The classic Espresso Martini is a dessert cocktail made with coffee liqueur, vodka and real espresso.
According to GQ, the drink was invented by London bartender Dick Bradsell in 1983.
Bradsell claims a future supermodel that is now world-famous (rumored to be either Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell) came into his bar and ordered a cocktail that would “wake her up,” and he served her a drink made with vodka, sugar, coffee liqueur and espresso.
In 1983, the drink was called a Vodka Espresso, but in the 1990s it adopted the “martini” moniker, like other sweet drinks of that era, including the Appletini and the P*rn Star Martini. (Though a true martini is a savory drink made with gin or vodka!)
For an espresso martini, you want the titular ingredient to shine, so fresh-brewed espresso is best.
Though espresso and coffee come from the same beans, espresso is different from coffee. Coffee uses a coarser grind of coffee beans, whereas espresso is ground more finely. Espresso is also usually brewed with a pressurized brewing method.
In a pinch, you can use strong coffee or cold brew concentrate instead, but espresso will have the best, smoothest flavor. Use instant espresso or instant coffee as a last resort!
Feel free to use decaf espresso if you’re serving this one after 3 p.m.
Sweet and smooth, coffee liqueur brings these beloved qualities to the espresso martini.
Coffee Kahlua, Tia Maria and Mr Black Coffee Liqueur are some of the most well-known brands out there. There are also a few coffee tequilas out there you can use to make a tequila espresso martini.
If you’re up for it, making homemade coffee liqueur is worth it. You can make it with your favorite coffee beans and vodka and it’s so easy to do (though it does take a little time).
Quality vodka will make a massive difference in your espresso martini. Always use the best ingredients you can afford! Tito’s, Deep Eddy, Reyka, Grey Goose and Absolut are all solid choices.
Cheap vodka can taste cheap and will stand out in your drink — and not in a great way — so stick to the $15-20 range if you can!
If you’d like to know more about vodka, dive into my Vodka 101 crash course.
Since coffee can be dark and bitter, a bit of sweetener helps. Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener made with sugar and water that does wonders in cocktails.
You can use as much or as little simple syrup as you like in your cocktail — or omit it entirely if you want a stiffer drink.
Though you can buy simple syrup, I always recommend making your own. It’s much cheaper, so very easy and only takes a few minutes! It will make a big difference in putting together the perfect after-dinner drink.
Variations and substitutions
Make the espresso martini all yours with one of these twists:
Decaf espresso martini: Feel free to use decaf espresso or coffee instead of the caffeinated stuff. Coffee liqueur doesn’t contain much caffeine.
Chocolate espresso martini: Shake the cocktail with crème de cacao instead of vodka for a strong mocha flavor.
Vanilla espresso martini: Go for vanilla vodka instead of regular vodka or use vanilla syrup instead of plain simple syrup.
Caramel espresso martini: Use caramel vodka instead of regular vodka or use caramel syrup instead of plain simple syrup.
Baileys espresso martini: Try adding Irish cream liqueur instead of coffee liqueur for a creamy coffee twist.
Non-alcoholic espresso martini: Use a non-alcoholic coffee liqueur instead, such as Lyre’s Coffee Originale, and skip the vodka.
How to make espresso
Espresso can be made with and without a fancy coffee maker.
If you have the room and think you’d use it a lot, espresso machines are a great thing to have. My husband and I were given a Nespresso machine for a wedding gift and we love it. It makes for a lovely and quick latte in the mornings! (And I love that the pods are recyclable.)
For the best result, buy whole-bean coffee and grind it finely for any of these options.
How to make an Espresso Martini
Get out your cocktail shaker and let’s mix up espresso martinis!
First, brew up some espresso and let it cool a little bit. (Give it a quick chill in the fridge to speed things up!)
Fill your cocktail shaker with ice and then dump in the vodka, coffee liqueur and a shot of espresso (that’s been cooled).
Shake it up well, and then a little more. Shaking is important to invigorate the foam layer.
Then pour into a martini glass or coupe glass. If shaken enough, a foamy layer will form on top.
Garnish with a couple of coffee beans!
Tips and tricks
Use fresh espresso if at all possible. See these ways to brew espresso without an espresso machine.
Brew your espresso and let it cool off a little bit before mixing. Otherwise, you will melt the ice in the cocktail shaker, which you need to create friction while shaking and develop that key layer of foam!
Shake really well for a solid minute. The act of shaking with ice cubes will create the foamy top.
The espresso martini has a strong black coffee flavor but is cut with sweetness from sugar syrup and coffee liqueur. If you like black coffee or Irish coffee, you’ll enjoy this coffee cocktail.
When brewed properly, espresso naturally forms a foamy layer known as crema. When aerated in a cocktail shaker with vodka and coffee liqueur, the crema thickens and floats to the top when it’s poured into a martini glass.
Yes! You can use Irish cream instead of coffee liqueur in the Espresso Martini. It makes a lighter cocktail and has a sweet, creamy flavor. It is definitely worth a try!
More dessert cocktails
- 4 ounces vodka
- 2 ounces espresso, cooled
- 1 ounce coffee liqueur
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- coffee beans, for garnish
- To a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the vodka, cooled espresso, coffee liqueur and simple syrup.
- Shake vigorously. (Shaking well is important to create the foam layer.)
- Pour into a martini glass or coupe glass. If shaken enough, a foamy layer will form on top.
- Carefully place coffee beans on top for a garnish.
Use fresh espresso if possible. In a pinch, you can use strong coffee instead, but espresso will have the strongest, smoothest flavor. Cold brew concentrate and strong coffee would work fine. As a last resort, you can use instant espresso or instant coffee.
After brewing your espresso, let it cool off a little bit before mixing. Otherwise, you will melt the ice in the cocktail shaker, which you need to create friction while shaking and develop that key layer of foam!
Shake really well for a solid minute. The act of shaking with ice cubes will create the foamy crema layer on top.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 210Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 0g