History of the Espresso Martini

Before we had even heard of Vodka Redbull, there was another alcoholic cocktail credited with keeping partygoers awake until the early hours. The Espresso Martini combines kahlua, vodka and hot espresso coffee with a generous amount of sugar syrup to create a thick, decadent cocktail that is as moreish as it is revitalizing. Just be careful not to drink too much, or you won’t sleep for a week!

Who Invented the Espresso Martini?

Featured on cocktail lists all over the world, the Espresso Martini is a modern classic cocktail, so
the history is not as long and complicated as some of the other classics. It
was actually originally called the Vodka Espresso and was created in 1983 by
the bartender, Dick Bradsell, who worked at the Soho Brasserie. According to
the story, a customer asked for a drink that would wake her up and fuck her up.
Vodka was the most popular spirit at the time and the bartenders’ cocktail area
was located right next to the espresso machine – the combination was obvious.

Bradsell’s variation is slightly different to the drink we know and love today. As well as vodka and
espresso, he also added Kahlua, Tia Maria and sugar syrup, making for an incredibly
rich, overpowering coffee taste. The first recipe stayed until the 1990s, when
Bradsell adjusted his recipe to suit the martini-drinking crowd. He changed the
name and adapted the ingredients to suit the fashions of the time.

In 1998, the drink was slightly adapted again, when Bradsell began managing The Pharmacy in Notting
Hill. It was really only the name that changed, to suit his new surroundings,
but it was the Espresso Martini that stuck.

Variations of the Espresso Martini

Apart from the three drinks mentioned above, there have been numerous takes on the classic Espresso Martini. The Espresso Daiquiri, for example, replaces vodka with rum, while the Cuppa Joe incorporates hazelnut liqueur. If you are not a fan of Kahlua, you might want to try the Flat White, which uses Irish Cream liqueur in its place, or an Irish Espresso’tini, which also adds vanilla vodka. The possibilities are endless with this drink, thanks to the variety of ingredients, but for a particularly naughty variation, you might like the Lotus Espresso, which replaces sugar syrup with maple syrup for a thicker finish. Whichever cocktail you chose, it is not an Espresso Martini unless it has been garnished with three coffee beans – one to represent health, one for wealth and one for happiness.

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Bartender's top tip

Experiment with cocktails for the season. Try ice-cold, citrussy or sparkling cocktails in warmer seasons and spicy, warm or creamy cocktails for the colder months.

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