Ways to Hack the Espresso Martini Cocktail Recipe

We’re now a few years into the full-fledged espresso martini revival, and there’s little sign of the trend slowing down (sure, Eater, it’s “dead.” Ask any slammed bartender on a Saturday night for confirmation). And while there’s nothing wrong with the classic combo (vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur), you’re seeking something different. Something new.

Swapping Base Spirits & Sweet Dessert Options

While bars continue to serve the classic with pleasure, bartenders start getting frisky and playing with core ingredients. At The Press Room in Chicago, managing partner Cristian Mendoza suggests swapping out the vodka for Cognac, creating a unique, rich flavor profile. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Duncan, beverage manager at Wood (also in Chicago), has replaced hot fresh-pulled espresso with La Colombe cold brew, which is more concentrated and dense, resulting in an even more “velvety” drink. At the new San Francisco restaurant Bar Sprezzatura, you’ll find two trends in one: The inventive Italian spot’s espresso martini features Galliano Ristretto, vodka, espresso, and porcini mushroom extract partnered with a chocolate biscotti. Or wander a dozen blocks to Polk Street and stumble into Macondray for their creamy dessert version, which features Humboldt Distillery vodka, Philz coffee, hazelnut liqueur, coconut milk, and a sprinkling of old-school Folger’s ground coffee for the garnish. And in Manhattan, at the Starchild Rooftop Lounge atop the Civilian Hotel, you’ll find a whole section of the menu dedicated to espresso martini riffs featuring different base spirits, coffee liqueurs, and mixers. The most fun (and grammable) option might be The Llama, combining Velvet Llama Nitro Espresso Martini, vanilla saffron gelato, black salt, and a “burst rainbow pinata” (a vibe created by colorful sprinkles).

Vodka, Nocino, Cognac & Port

Sometimes all it takes is just a little twist to get you to revisit a staple and go, “hmmm!” At the expansive Rooftop L.O.A. in Atlanta, the bar infuses vodka with fresh coffee for an extra kick in their signature espresso martini. It’s then mixed up with fresh-pulled espresso, St. George coffee liqueur, and Demerara syrup and presented in an elegant coupe. Sipped outdoors with 360-degree views and Atlanta’s festive bar crowd, you’ve got a perfect combination. Atlanta may be a hub of innovation for the cocktail: At Lazy Betty, guests are given an option of three base spirits: Good Vodka, El Salto Mezcal, or Pierre Ferrand Cognac. “Good Vodka is distilled from coffee fruit,” says bar manager Conrad Helms. “The fruit is considered to be a waste product, so each bottle of Good Vodka is actually carbon negative, and works inherently well with coffee-based drinks.” The cocktail also incorporates Manly Brews Coffee Liqueur and cold brew concentrate, Dow’s 10-year port, and Nocino, an Italian walnut liqueur. “A lot of places will use what’s familiar,” notes Helm of his rebellious drink.

Finding The Perfect Coffee Liqueur

These days, there is a never-ending reservoir of emerging coffee liqueurs (see Manly Spirits above) with which to ramp up your ‘tini. Of course, Kahlua and Mr. Black are the two go-tos, but if you want to try something new, you can’t go wrong with Luxardo’s Espresso Liqueur (27% A.B.V., $25), introduced last November. Or consider Up & At ‘Em, a new contender from You & Yours Distilling out of San Diego. It starts with a vapor-distilled grape base infused with fresh orange peels, cinnamon, and vanilla bean pods before being steeped into a cold brew with new coffee grounds. And Saxtons River Distilling in Vermont, which specializes in maple-flavored whiskeys, has introduced Perc Coffee Liqueur (30% A.B.V., $35). It features locally roasted and cold-brewed Arabica beans infused with cane sugar for a sweetened coffee liqueur with a mocha vibe.

RTD Espresso Martinis

The ready-to-drink market is on top of the cocktail’s ongoing popularity. Golden Rule Spirits launched their canned espresso martini last fall, the third in the brand’s canned cocktail lineup. Made in Ventura, California, the drink (24% A.B.V., $20/4-pack) features vodka, Equator Coffee’s Tigerwalk espresso, cinnamon, vanilla liqueur, and chicory root for a full-flavored experience. Bols, a Netherlands-based spirits brand well-known for its flavored liqueurs and genever, has what they call “Ready to Enjoy” packaged cocktails, including espresso martini, in inventive (and easily packed) 200ml tubes (14.9% A.B.V., $25 / 4 tubes).

And Tip Top Proper Cocktails (22% A.B.V., $40/8-pack) launched their canned version with a particularly inventive spin: Pour it into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass, and you’ll increase your bar’s or bar-b-cue’s productivity, while guests still feel like you put some work into their drink.

Espresso Martini Recipes

Ready to try something new on the Espresso Martini front? Never fear: bartenders have got your back. Across the country, bars add riffs, upgrades, experiments, and “what-the-hecks” to menus. Whether swapping out the vodka for another spirit, adding aperitifs or other mixers, going zero-alcohol, or defying the odds, you’ll find something to love below.

Coco Espresso Martini

Courtesy of Jimmy SoHo N.Y.C.

2 oz Reyka Vodka

1.5 oz Borghetti Espresso

1 oz Mr. Black Coffee

.5 oz coconut milk

.5 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with three espresso beans.

Italian Espresso Martini

Courtesy of Montesacro, San Francisco

1 oz grappa

1 oz Mancino Vermouth Amaranto

.75 oz Galliano Ristretto

.75 oz espresso

.25 oz banana cordial

Hazelnut soft whipped cream

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except the cream. Shake well and strain into a coupe or large cordial glass. Top with a dollop of chilled soft-whipped cream. Garnish with a single espresso bean.

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