Espresso Martini


Get more than one kind of buzz.

Espresso Martini
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox
Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins

Ordering an espresso martini could make a person feel extra fancy or extra cheesy, but this drink is neither. The espresso martini, like most coffee-based cocktails, is creamy, rich, and refreshing, and packs a punch on both ends of the beverage spectrum.

Similar to an Irish coffee, an espresso martini is a wake up and chill out kind of drink—a coffee lover's dream served in a martini glass. It's perfect as an after-dinner drink, a weekend brunch treat, or a sipper when coffee-loving guests want something special to go with dessert.

Notably, the espresso martini is not Southern or an actual martini. Instead, it was born from a London bar owner in the 1980s, made by special request for a supermodel. It doesn't contain gin or vermouth like a true martini but has made its mark on the cocktail world and is more popular now than it has ever been.

It is simple to make, but as with any great mixed drink, it is important to use quality ingredients to create an exceptionally delicious beverage. Could there be a better way than with quality Southern ingredients? I think not, and in this espresso martini recipe, we take a familiar and popular cocktail and remix it Southern style.

Ingredients for an Espresso Martini

A traditional espresso martini consists of vodka, coffee liqueur (such as Kahlúa), freshly brewed espresso, or an espresso substitute like cold brew concentrate, and simple syrup. Since we are dressing this one up all Southern-like, let's walk through what you'll need.

ingredients for a cocktail on a marble top
Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

The quintessential liquor of the South. (Cough cough—moonshine, we see you.) It's rich, warm, and pairs beautifully with sweet and slightly bitter flavors from coffee. My favorite brand to use is Bulleit.

Coffee Liqueur
Kahlúa is the go-to coffee liqueur, and not to knock it, it's delicious. However, Kahlúa tends to be quite sweet, and we really are looking for a balanced coffee cocktail here. Otherwise, we'd go get ourselves one of those frothy, super sweet coffee drinks from our local chain coffee shop and just take our bourbon with us.

I like to use Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, but keeping with this truly Southern version of an espresso martini, I would recommend Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur.

As you can imagine, the best espresso martini is made with freshly ground and freshly brewed espresso that sits just long enough so as to not be hot. Unfortunately, not every household is fixed with an espresso machine, or a barista for that matter. If you do in fact have an espresso machine or a Moka pot, brew enough espresso for as many servings as you need.

If freshly brewed espresso isn't happening, using a store-bought cold brew concentrate will work just as well. Pick your favorite brand, or see about finding a cold brew espresso for bonus points. Avoid using instant coffee or espresso.

Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is super easy to make at home and so worth it. Just a splash gives the perfect amount of sweetness.

Quite simply, simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. Combine 1 cup of raw cane sugar and 1 cup water in a sauce pot. Stir and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and let cool completely before using. Store extra in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

adding bourbon to a cocktail shaker
Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Making Espresso Martinis for a Crowd

I always like to think any cocktail can be made into a big batch—and isn't that the Southern way? However, this particular cocktail isn't quite as special without its signature frothy cream that sits delicately on top, which can't be achieved in a batch setting. The cream is a result of vigorously shaking the freshly brewed espresso. Like the first rich, foamy sip of a cappuccino, this coffee cocktail is worth a shake every time.

What Makes an Espresso Martini Frothy?

There are a couple of factors that go into making this particular cocktail nice and frothy. First, the freshness and quality of the espresso. A freshly brewed coffee is best for producing a rich cream.

Second, it's all about the shake, shake, shake! Fill the cocktail shaker with ice, lots of ice, and shake that thang like you mean it! The more intensely you shake the drink, the more frothy the cream. Strain directly into a chilled glass. Spoon out extra foam from the shaker if desired.

An alternative way to create foam in a cocktail is to add an egg white to your cocktail shaker before you shake the drink. The egg white creates a lovely foam and does not change the texture or the flavor of the drink.

espresso martini
Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Garnishes for an Espresso Martini

A classic espresso martini is garnished with three coffee beans on top. This tradition started with coffee beans as a garnish for sambuca. The three coffee beans are meant to represent three blessings: wealth, prosperity, and happiness. While the whole coffee beans are also edible, the simplicity of the traditional garnish is classic and timeless.

However, I decided to try something new. Use a micro plane or fine zester to grate a coffee bean over the top of a finished drink. The grated coffee beans creates a dust or powder look, delicately floating on top of the creamy foam. Not only is it attractive and different, but it also gives off a strong, mouthwatering coffee smell that enhances the drinking experience.

Tips for Making an Espresso Martini

- Be sure to cool the coffee completely before mixing your cocktail. You want to avoid the ice melting when you go to shake the drink so the flavors stay strong and your cocktail is cold.

- Put your coffee in the freezer to cool off quickly.

- Shake the cocktail vigorously to create a rich, creamy foam.

- Strain the cocktail into the glass quickly so the foam settles on top.

pouring martini into glass
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox


  • 2 oz. bourbon

  • 1 oz. room temperature espresso (or coffee concentrate)

  • ½ oz coffe liqueur

  • ½ simple syrup

  • Whole coffee beans, for garnish


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, Add the bourbon, espresso, coffee liqueur, simple syrup, and pinch of salt. Shake the cocktail aggressively, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with grated or whole coffee beans.

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