Espresso Martini: The History of the Best Way to Drink Coffee

Espresso Martini Cocktail Recipe

If you enjoy coffee and alcohol, chances are you’ve tried an Espresso Martini. In the grand history of cocktails, it’s a fairly recent invention. Even so, it’s become popular on cocktail menus across the world thanks to its combination of strong vodka and smooth espresso.

To celebrate this great drink, let’s take a look at its history, a recipe, and different ways you can celebrate with it.

Cocktail Critters

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The History of Espresso Martini

Dick Bradsell, Bartender

The Espresso Martini was theoretically invented in the 1980s in London, UK. Compared to other cocktails, this is a fairly recent creation, especially considering how long we’ve been drinking coffee (and alcohol).

Cocktail king Dick Bradsell is credited with designing the drink. He was known for reviving the London cocktail scene in the 80s, as visitors switched from dance clubs to cocktail bars. Along with the Espresso Martini, he invented the Bramble, the Russian Spring Punch, and the Carol Channing.

Dick’s story goes that a customer asked for a drink that would “wake me up and then f**k me up”. Apparently, the bar’s coffee machine was right next to his cocktail station, so combining the two seemed like a logical choice.

“wake me up and then f**k me up”

However, Dick’s claim isn’t the only one. As usually happens with something so popular, plenty of bartenders have made claims of inventing the drink. Dick’s is the most widely-believed claim, though, considering how influential he was in the 1980s’ cocktail scene.

Espresso Martini Recipe

Luckily, making an Espresso Martini is pretty simple. You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 60ml (2oz) Vodka
  • 15ml (1/2oz) Coffee Liqueur*
  • 30ml (1oz) Fresh Espresso
  • 10ml (1/3oz) Sugar Syrup (optional)
  • Garnish: Espresso Beans

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with 3 espresso beans.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur

Kahlua or Tia Maria are the most common, but don't skip on local/boutique brands; even your café next door might be making their own. And if you want to add your own twist, here's a simple recipe to follow:

  • 300ml (10oz) Vodka
  • 300ml (10oz) Water
  • 90g (3oz) Your favorite ground coffee
  • 300g (10oz) Granulated Sugar

Start by adding your ground coffee to the water. Stir and allow it to sit for 12 hours, and strain out the grounds with a coffee filter. You've just made a cold brew! Next, add your granulated sugar (white or brown) and stir until its dissolved in the cold brew. Finally, add your vodka (~40% ABV) and you're done!

At-Home Alternatives

Although you can buy premade Espresso Martini, it’s never going to be the same. Either find a local bar that does one or make it yourself with our recipe above. Don’t worry if you don’t have an espresso maker at home because you can use instant coffee.

Mix 2 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee with around 30ml/1oz of boiling water and stir well. Although it won't taste as good as fresh espresso, it'll definitely wake you up and get the job done!

Where to Find the Best Espresso Martini

Caffe Dante, NYC

Finding the best Espresso Martini in the US is a difficult task, least of all because everyone has different tastes. That said, NYC is a good place to start thanks to its vibrant bar culture. According to one article, there are 13 bars in NYC that serve a top-tier Espresso Martini.

But Punch Drunk went a step further and ran a competition for the best Espresso Martini in the country. The top prize went to Patrick Smith of The Modern in Manhattan. You can check out his recipe here.

Final Thoughts on Espresso Martini

So, there we have it, a brief history of a coffee lover’s favorite cocktail. Next time you’re out enjoying one, why not show your love with some of our great Espresso Martini themed accessories? Throw on an Espresso Martini enamel pin or face mask and let everyone know your feelings about the drink (and cute dogs, of course).

Espresso Martini Enamel Pin by Cocktail Critters