A Mixologist Breaks Down How To Make The Perfect Espresso Martini

A Mixologist Breaks Down How To Make The Perfect Espresso Martini
Photo: Courtesy of Row 34.

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What’s not to love about an espresso martini? It has the decadence of a dessert combined with the pick-me-up power of a latte, making it the perfect pre- or post-dinner pick. Whether you’re looking for a quick energy boost at brunch or a rich nightcap to end your dinner date on a sweet note, this classic drink never fails.

So, it makes sense that espresso martinis are the official drink of 2021: According to Yelp data, review mentions for this particular cocktail are up by 63 percent this year. But perhaps the best part about an espresso martini is that it’s surprisingly easy to make at home.

According to Van Hongthong, beverage director for Row 34, there are multiple ways to make an espresso martini, ranging from bold, darker takes to lighter, creamier versions. The former only requires three simple ingredients: vodka, espresso and simple syrup.

The latter requires a few extra items, but nothing you can’t find at your local liquor store. Most creamy espresso martinis use Bailey’s or similar liqueurs, but lactose-intolerant drinkers will be glad to know that Hongthong’s recipe is completely dairy-free. We love to see it!

By the way—if you don’t have an espresso machine at home, Hongthong says you can still whip up a similar cocktail using cold brew concentrate. He recommends making your own batch using a ratio of 3/4 cup of coarsely ground coffee beans to 3 cups of water. After combining the ingredients in a jar, shake well and then let the mixture rest overnight or up to 12 hours.

You could also use a coffee-infused spirit, like the Tia Maria Cold Brew Liqueur—this full-bodied cold brew liqueur, made from 100% Arabica coffee beans, provides all the intensity your cocktail needs.

Ready to shake, strain and sip your way to caffeinated bliss? Read on for the step-by-step instructions on how to make two different takes on the iconic espresso martini.

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The Classic

Courtesy of Rebecca Strong.

Courtesy of Rebecca Strong.

Tools:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Jigger
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Tea strainer

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz espresso

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to the shaker and fill with ice.
  2. Shake the contents until well chilled.
  3. Double strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass.

The Creamy Dream

Courtesy of Rebecca Strong.

Courtesy of Rebecca Strong.

“Amarula is a cordial made from the fruit of the marula tree,” says Hongthong. “It has flavors of vanilla, caramel and some spice. The best part about it is they have set up a trust to help with elephant conservation through environmental or educational programs.”

Note: since I don’t have any Amarula on hand, I swapped it out for Disaronno Velvet, a luxuriously creamy liqueur that lends subtle flavors of almond and vanilla. Hongthong’s recipe is amazing, but my swap works in a pinch!

Tools:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Jigger
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Tea strainer

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to the shaker and fill with ice.
  2. Shake the contents until well chilled.
  3. Double strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass.

Van’s Pro Tips

STYLECASTER | Espresso Martini Recipes

Courtesy of Row 34.

  • Measuring your ingredients keeps everything in balance, says Hongthong, so don’t try to be a hero and eyeball it.
  • Don’t be afraid to put a little muscle into it: If you don’t shake vigorously enough or long enough, you won’t get that velvety foam you’re looking for. If using ice from your home freezer, Hongthong advises shaking for six to seven seconds. Keep in mind that the metal on the outside of your cocktail shaker should feel very cold when you’re done.
  • If you want to amp up the flavor in your espresso martini, try using vanilla vodka. You can also add a 1/2 oz of oat milk for an even creamier, frothier result.
  • Not a vodka fan in general? White rum works well as a substitute.
  • Sometimes, you may not have the patience to wait for your espresso to cool down—and that’s OK. Rest assured that Hongthong has made this cocktail with hot espresso and hasn’t noticed a difference in taste—so long as you use plenty of ice in the shaker and shake well, it shouldn’t compromise the flavor or consistency.
  • Hongthong himself is anti-garnish for this particular cocktail, but feel free to drop in three coffee beans or a dusting of ground espresso powder for an Instagrammable finish.

 

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