The espresso martini is back.
Without a drop of gin or vermouth, the espresso martini became a classic of modern times. The rich and creamy cocktail is a simple mix of vodka, coffee liqueur and a shot of espresso. It’s a kickstarter of a drink that reached a level of ubiquity in the 1990s and, like the adage “everything old is new again,” it’s back in full force.
Created in the 1980s at London’s Soho Brasserie, it was originally called a vodka espresso by bartender Dick Bradsell. He never divulged her name, but a famous model wanted something that would both wake her up and get her tipsy. In the United States, it hit its heyday in the ’90s then swiftly faded into obscurity.
Just like cropped tops and bubblegum pink, espresso martinis are making a comeback. Bartenders use fresh, high-quality espresso, interesting coffee liqueurs and vodkas. Easy new ways bring the boozy throwback into modern times, too.
What about those trademark beans floating on the surface? Bradsell realized his drink needed something to take it over the top. He incorporated the Italian tradition for garnishing Sambuca. Three coffee beans placed con la mosca, “with the fly,” represent health, wealth and happiness.
At the new Amalfi Cucina & Mercato, the bar experts keep it classic with a little flair. Their martini stirs together Ketel One Vodka, Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur and cold brew espresso topped with three beans. Salute!
La Grotta’s espresso martini is among the best in Atlanta. In addition to the top-notch service and cozy interior with brick archways, the staff serves up a dreamy concoction with Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka, Grand Brulot Cafe Liqueur, Kahlua and a freshly brewed J. Martinez Jamaican coffee and a splash of cream. It’s a stunning complement to a crème brûlée or tiramisu, or as a dessert on its own.
New liqueurs make shaking up an espresso martini tasty as well as easy, even without an espresso maker. Taco Mac bartenders are quick to craft an Espress Yourself with just Tito’s Handmade Vodka, homemade simple syrup and Caffè Borghetti Espresso Liqueur. Made with Italian espresso, the 160-year-old recipe for Borghetti is rich and intense with the full-bodied taste of fresh espresso.
At Storico Fresco, Beverage Director Jose Pereiro takes the espresso martini into new territory with interesting ingredients as well as tossing it on nitro draft. “This recipe was originally made with vodka as the main spirit, plus Borghetti espresso liqueur, Hoodoo chicory liqueur, Danesi espresso and Demerara sugar,” says Pereiro. Though guests loved it, he wanted to bring up more of the coffee notes and make it different from other espresso martinis out there. “I decided to add Santa Teresa 1796 Rum from Venezuela,” he says. “Venezuela is known for cultivating excellent coffee, cacao and sugar cane, so using the rum expressing its terroir into our espresso martini is what took it to the next level.” The Nitro Espresso Martini is also on tap at Forza Storico in Westside.
It’s easy to shake up an espresso martini at home with freshly pulled espresso or cold brew concentrate found in grocery stores or local coffee shops. Even easier: ready-todrink espresso martinis. Local Post Meridiem Spirits launched Into the Night Espresso Martini in 100-milliliter cans this summer. “It took two years to get it right,” says company Co-Founder Andrew Rodbell. Made with vodka, coffee liqueur and 100% Arabica cold brew, they are rich, creamy and balanced. And all it takes is opening a can and shaking with ice to impress at home. Coffee and cocktails never go out of style.
AMALFI CUCINA & MERCATO
LA GROTTA RISTORANTE ITALIANO
POST MERIDIEM SPIRITS
STORICO FRESCO ALIMENTARI
Drinks columnist at Simply Buckhead. Food, spirits, and culture writer.