Espresso Martini is here. Maybe you’ve spotted a fancy, sophisticated version in the bar or an utterly unhinged version of TikTok (see the massive juggernaut known as the Parmesan Espresso Martini, with abundant grated cheese).
It’s one thing watching a new generation of drinkers embrace classics such as that of the Vesper and the Manhattan. But to Gen X, witnessing the Espresso Martini’s revival, a drink invented during their lifetime, has resulted in mixed feelings.
Phil Duff, the New York-based owner of Old Duff Genever, tended bar patrons in London beginning in 1988. He joked about comparing this drink with a condition: “It goes away and flares up again.” The “visual spectacle” of the two-tone glass–a deep brown, with a thick foamy collar — has always been a part of the attraction; he said: “It’s a very Instagrammable drink.”
H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of Elixir in San Francisco, recalls making Espresso Martinis for the first time in Vail, Colo., in the mid-90s. He is awed by the drink’s versatility, whether in the form of frozen beverages, for example, or as a pre-batched drink served with nitro coffee, “which gets a good head on it.” A fresh wave of coffee liqueurs, including Mr. Black, has made the drink more popular.
SHAKE UP Layla, located in Brooklyn, Stefano D’Orsogna mixes an Espresso Martini with fresh espresso and coffee liquor.
It was the Espresso Martini originated in the 1980s when bartender Dick Bradsell created the “vodka espresso” in London’s Soho Brasserie for a guest–supposedly an aspiring model who asked for an alcoholic drink for him to “f–k me up and wake me up.” The original version was served on rocks, contained nothing more than the ingredients listed in the name, and was garnished with three coffee beans. Then, in the late 1990s, it became its current form, the Espresso Martini, with the addition of liqueur made from coffee. The drink was served with a glass stem the Espresso Martini became a symbol.
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Kim Haasarud, owner of Garden Bar PHX in Phoenix, pinpointed her first time making the Espresso Martini in 1998 New York City. “Today, how people look at coffee is much, much different,” she explained. Collaborations between roasters and distilleries or bars give distinct local flavors. In Garden Bar, the Cuppa Cold Coffee blends cold the brew of Arizona’s Cartel, roasting with reposado Tequila and Sherry cream.
The innovation is sure to keep on coming. “Coffee has touched a much younger generation,” Haasarud stated. Her kids, aged 14 and 15, are already amazed by Starbucks, and so are their peers. “They’re not drinking Starbucks Martinis, but the perception towards coffee is one of enjoyable and delicious. It will be fascinating to see how it develops over the next decade.”
This updated version of the 1980s classic is made with coffee liqueur and fresh espresso. The restaurant Layla in Brooklyn, N.Y., Stefano D’Orsogna, chooses Cafe Integral’s Dulcinea espresso because it’s “super light, bright and has some chocolate notes.”
Total Time5 minutes
LANNA APISUKH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
- 1 ounce of coffee liqueur ideal is the Mr. Black Ice Brew Coffee Liqueur
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce espresso, cooled
- Simple syrup 1/2-ounce (1:1 sugar:water)
- Three coffee beans to garnish
- Mix all ingredients using Ice, then strain into the Nick & Nora glass.
- Serve by adding coffee beans.