How to Make an Espresso Martini with the Classic Frothy Top

Updated: Jan. 17, 2024

Here's how to make a simple and sophisticated espresso martini at home—a drink that will delight cocktail aficionados and coffee lovers alike.

If you enjoy cocktails, then you’ve probably heard of an espresso martini. It soared in popularity in 2021 and demand for the drink grew into a full-on craze during 2022—similar to other drinks of the moment like the Aperol spritz and the Negroni sbagliato.

On TikTok, videos about the drink have been viewed more than 806 million times. Food + Wine recently declared that it “reigns supreme” among cocktails. Bartenders often comment that when a group of people sees one person order an espresso martini, suddenly everyone wants one.

What is an espresso martini?

A classic martini is a blend of gin or vodka with dry vermouth. An espresso martini keeps the vodka but then takes a dark turn, with bitter espresso and a shot of coffee liqueur like Kahlua. The ingredients are shaken with ice and when poured into a glass, develop a light brown layer of foam at the top. Three coffee beans garnish the attractive drink.

The espresso martini is a relatively young cocktail, created in 1983 by a legendary London bartender named Dick Bradsell. He created it for a young model at his bar who requested a cocktail that would “wake her up.” It was reportedly the drink of 1990s supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.

Why is the espresso martini so popular right now?

There are a couple of possible reasons why the espresso martini returned to the spotlight in recent years. Overall 1990s nostalgia could be one reason. Some claim a paparazzi photo of Timothée Chalamet drinking espresso martinis with Larry David also helped fuel the trend.

Regardless, according to research firm CGA by Nielsen IQ, the caffeinated concoction entered the top-10 list of most-ordered cocktails at U.S. bars, displacing such classics as the Manhattan. Liqueur company Pernod Ricard noted that sales of Kahlua (one of the drink’s key ingredients) hit a new record, growing by double digits globally.

Ingredients in an Espresso Martini

  • Vodka: Though a classic martini can be made with gin or vodka, vodka is the best base liquor for an espresso martini because it has a more neutral taste that mixes well with bitter espresso.
  • Espresso: Good quality espresso will make all the difference here. If you’re pulling a fresh shot of espresso for this cocktail, allow it to cool slightly so it doesn’t crack your martini glasses from thermal shock.
  • Coffee liqueur: Made from rum and coffee beans, coffee liqueur adds sweetness to an espresso martini and also deepens the coffee flavor.

How to Make an Espresso Martini

This recipe makes one drink, served cold.

Ingredients

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  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce brewed, cooled espresso or cold-brew coffee
  • 1/2 ounce Kahlua, or other coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup, optional
  • 3 coffee beans

Directions

Step 1: Add ingredients to a shaker

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Fill a cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice cubes. Pour in the vodka, cooled espresso, Kahlua and simple syrup, if using it.

Step 2: Shake and strain

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Secure the shaker cover, and then shake it for about 10 to 15 seconds, until condensation forms on the outside of the container. Strain the liquid into a martini glass or a cocktail glass.

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Step 3: Serve

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Add three coffee beans to the drink; they’ll float in the layer of froth above the dark drink below. Serve the drink immediately.

Espresso Martini Variations

  • Swap the vodka for whiskey: If you like an Irish coffee, then you’ll love a whiskey espresso martini. Simply swap the 2 ounces of vodka for 2 ounces of whiskey. Sure, this might not make it a true martini, but we won’t tell!
  • Add chocolate: Easily make this drink a chocolate espresso martini by swapping the coffee liqueur for chocolate liqueur.
  • Use flavored vodka: Test out different flavors of vodka in your espresso martini to make it even sweeter, such as salted caramel or vanilla.

Can you store an espresso martini?

We recommend making this cocktail right before serving since it’s a shaken cocktail rather than a party punch or sangria that can be made in advance.

Espresso Martini Tips

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Why do you top this martini with three coffee beans?

It’s said that three coffee beans on an espresso martini represent health, wealth and happiness. It’s similar to the traditional way of serving the anise-flavored Italian liqueur, Sambuca. The beans are an attractive garnish, floating on the surface and contrasting with the light foam underneath.

Can I use coffee instead of espresso for an espresso martini?

No espresso machine? No problem. Bring the bold coffee flavor to this cocktail by substituting cold brew, strong drip, pour-over coffee or instant espresso. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s room temperature or chilled.

How do I make my espresso martini frothy?

One way to create a foam layer in an espresso martini is to shake the ingredients, causing air bubbles to suspend in the oils present in espresso. For the best results, shake everything vigorously for as long as half a minute. Strain most of the drink through the cocktail shaker, then add the foam through a fine mesh strainer.

Other ways to create a foam-topped martini are to add creamy ingredients to the shaker, such as heavy cream or a cream liqueur, although these will change the color and texture of the drink. If you have a handheld frother or frothing wand on your espresso machine, you can use it to create cold foam from milk that can be spooned on top of the martini.

Do you have to use a cocktail shaker for this recipe?

If you plan to make a lot of mixed drinks at home, a cocktail shaker is a stylish and worthwhile investment. However, if you don’t have one, use another container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a mason jar, travel coffee cup or a single-size blender drink jar.