With a history that’s almost as rich as the drink itself, the espresso martini is a staple on any cocktail menu worth it’s salt.
The espresso martini is a cocktail name familiar to all, but it wasn’t always known as such. Invented by Dick Bradsell back in the 1980s during his tenure at London’s own Soho Brasserie, it was originally christened the “Vodka Espresso”. Cocktail legend has it that a young, future supermodel sidled up to the bar and asked Dick to make her a cocktail with the fabled quote, “Wake me up, and f*ck me up!”.
He mixed her a drink using vodka, sugar, coffee liqueur and a shot of fresh espresso. It’s a story that has helped the drink retain an edginess that many modern cocktails have failed to replicate. Dick was the shining light of the London bar scene in this decade, and you might recognise his other creations; Bramble, Russian Spring Punch and Treacle.
It was soon renamed as the Pharmaceutical Stimulant during Dick’s time at London’s bar – The Pharmacy, and then back to Vodka Espresso when Dick became Match Bar EC1’s opening Head Bartender. However, drinks have a life of their own once they become popular, and the tendency in the late nineties for giving anything in a martini glass the suffix – martini, meant that it soon passed into the public consciousness as the espresso martini.
THE PERFECT ESPRESSO MARTINI
The perfect espresso martini is the very first one that Dick made. Of its time, completely original, ephemeral and unique. BUT we can come pretty damn close with this recipe and five important tips:
- 40ml Ketel One Vodka
- 20ml Coffee liqueur (We recommend Mr. Black’s Coffee Liqueur)
- 25ml Fresh espresso (We recommend Hej’s Carnival blend)
- 5ml Sugar syrup (or alt. sugar options, e.g. Agave)
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, or watertight container.
- Fill with fresh, cubed ice and shake hard.
- Double strain into a chilled coupette or cocktail glass of choice.
- Garnish with three coffee beans.
TIP 1: FRESH ESPRESSO
I cannot stress how important a good quality; well-made shot of espresso is to this cocktail. You can allow the coffee to cool down slightly, as this will prevent too much ice dilution from piping hot liquid, as well as pressure build-up when shaking!
TIP 2: SHAKE WELL
The most satisfying part of a good espresso martini is the crema; the foamy, silky layer of tight bubbles that sit on the head of the cocktail, through which you must sip the rest of the drink. The natural oils in the coffee must combine with air bubbles to form the delicate froth, and the best way to achieve this is to aerate it with a good shake.
TIP 3: BE FLEXIBLE WITH SUGAR
Not everybody likes sugar in their coffee. 5ml of syrup will be fine for most palates, but if you like your coffee very strong tasting, then feel free to leave it out or look to substitute sweeteners such as Agave nectar. Alternatively, add a little more if you’re that way inclined. The perfect espresso martini is the one your customer enjoys most.
TIP 4: USE A QUALITY VODKA
Obviously, as the biggest sole ingredient, vodka has a large part to play in the espresso martini. You need a quality vodka that can to stand up to the coffee, and to bring something to the flavour profile other than just alcoholic strength. The clean taste of Ketel One vodka with its subtle hints of citrus and cream make it a great choice to use in an espresso martini.
TIP 5: PRESENTATION IS KEY
It’s rare to see an espresso martini served in an actual martini glass these days, as the inward curve on the rim of a coupette is a much better way to showcase the crema and is less likely to spill over the edge if you have filled your glass to the brim. This isn’t the way that Dick would have served it originally, but progress can sometimes be a good thing. You taste with your eyes first, so there’s one tradition we shouldn’t overlook here, it’s the garnish. Three coffee beans, delicately placed on the crema to form a petal arrangement and add to the great coffee aroma in the cocktail – each one symbolising health, wealth and prosperity.