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Don’t threaten me with a good time: Espresso Martini Edition

Espresso Martinis might just be my very most favorite cocktail - they’re boozy, they’re caffeinated, and they’re the perfect way to end a meal. Here’s the thing, I make such a damn good one at home that I follow a strict set of criteria before I even think of ordering one out in the wild. Here are a few tips for making an incredible espresso martini in the comfort of your own home, and how to find one out in the world.

Dick Bradsell, career bartender and father of the “cocktail revival” developed the Espresso Martini in the 80s while at the helm of Fred’s Club in London. Legend has it that a woman at the bar asked him for a drink to "Wake me up, then f*ck me up" and let’s be honest, that’s the level of badassery we’re all trying to achieve.

The basics.

Cocktails, like meals, are only as good as the ingredients used.

Coffee liqueur - I was delighted to discover that the Saxton’s River Distillery in my hometown of Brattleboro, VT makes a topnotch coffee liqueur called Perc - not surprising since they use locally roasted coffee beans from another Brattleboro mainstay, Mocha Joe's.

Vanilla vodka - When a bottle of vodka is below the halfway mark I throw a vanilla bean (split lengthways, but otherwise untouched) into a vodka bottle, give it a shake every couple days, and remove the pod after a week or two. Voila! Vanilla vodka without any added sugar. I find that using vanilla vodka softens the pointy edges that even the most high quality vodka innately has - it’s the nature of the beast. No I don’t want to do a vodka taste test with you.

Espresso - NYC apartments are not conducive to espresso machines, so I have to take a bit of a shortcut here - Medaglia D'Oro Instant Espresso is the move. Easy to find in your local grocery, and it’s the perfect workaround (bonus! If you’re ever baking with chocolate, add a pinch of this to your recipe to enhance the chocolate flavor, you’ll never go back.) I prefer a short espresso, which means there’s a smaller water to powder ratio - intense espresso flavor without the extra (unboozy) volume. Make your espresso as your first step, so that it starts to cool down before making a watery mess in your shaker. I like to make my espresso into a pyrex-style measuring cup - it pours easily out of the spout and there are units of measure right there on the glass.

The method.

I’ve given some approximate measurements, but they’re meant to be just a guide. Espresso martinis are like your morning coffee, you know how to season it to your taste. I also use ingredients that have lower sugar content than more mass produced products, so you might need to adjust as necessary to suit your tastes.

Purists might scoff at the addition of heavy or Irish cream, but I like to add a splash to soften the texture of the cocktail especially if you aren’t using a vanilla vodka. I also prefer to use heavy cream over Irish cream since A. I always have it in my fridge, and B. it doesn’t have any added sugar. If your drinking buddy prefers their cocktail sans cream element, just wait to add it to your shaker until after you’ve poured their serving so that everyone’s happy.

The Recipe (for two)

5oz Vanilla vodka

1 oz Coffee liqueur

2 oz Espresso (2tsp powder to 2oz boiling water)

Splash of simple syrup (to taste)

Splash of heavy cream (optional)

Add all ingredients to a shaker full of ice.

Shake it like you mean it, and then shake for five more seconds.

Strain and pour into your glassware

Three coffee beans on top for look and luck

Here’s a traditional and cream added pic for ya. You can see that I strayed from the traditional martini glass here, and a keen observer might also notice that there’s a giant cube in there too… variety is the spice of life y’all.

And finally, my very Official and Scientific rules for ordering an espresso martini at a bar outside the comfort of your own home:

  1. Only order from a place that has an espresso machine (which means I’m most likely ordering these at a restaurant bar vs. a bar bar

  2. Cocktail bars are of course a safe bet, but often my espresso machine rule takes them out of the running

  3. If it’s on the menu, make sure to read the ingredients! They might take the opportunity to dress it up a bit and if you’re a purist, you might not like the addition of an orange or hazelnut liqueur

Go forth and martini!

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