The Revival of the Espresso Martini

by | Mar 2024

Espresso Martini Against a Green Background

Photos: Chris Emeott

The storied ’90s cocktail makes a triumphant return.

It’s no secret that the next generation of adults are keen on nostalgia. We’ve seen the resurgence of many varied trends from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s in fashion, home décor and pop culture, to name a few. Now, one favored cocktail is back and better than ever: Meet the new-and-improved Espresso Martini. (It even has it’s own day—March 15 is National Espresso Martini Day!)

In its classic form, the Espresso Martini is simple: Freshly brewed espresso, coffee liqueur and vodka, shaken and served in a chilled Martini glass. And, of course, garnished with three roasted coffee beans. However, many Espresso Martini connoisseurs are sipping elevated versions of the cocktail. Change one or more ingredients, or perhaps add new flavors into the drink. Look toward adding vanilla, chocolate or citrus; substitute Baileys for Kahlúa; add a pinch of salt; or enhance the nutty flavors by adding peanut butter whiskey, amaretto or Frangelico. What version of the Espresso Martini are you trying this March?

A Rich History

It’s said that the Espresso Martini is attributed to Dick Bradsell, a cocktail guru at Fred’s Club, a bar in London, in the late ’80s. According to Bradsell, a “young model” walked up to the bar, looking for a drink that would wake her up and then some; he made her a Vodka Espresso, which was later presented as the Espresso Martini that we know today. (It was also dubbed the Pharmaceutical Stimulant before it received its current name.)

Hand pours an espresso martini into a glass.

Three’s a Charm

Dick Bradsell, the cocktail’s creator, topped his Vodka Espresso with three lucky coffee beans—never two, never four, never less or more. According to lore, it’s said that the three beans represent health, wealth and happiness. (A similar digestif, Sambuca, is also served throughout Italy with three toasted coffee beans, called con la mosca—“with the fly.”)

Hand Holding an Espresso Martini

Try Your Hand at an At-Home ’Tini

“Just like hazelnut coffee, this Martini is a bit sweeter than the original Espresso Martini, and it’s really smooth and cocoa-y—but it’s not overly creamy the way a lot of dessert cocktails are. To balance the flavors, we altered the ratios of the classic ’90s version, upping the espresso and reducting the Kahlúa to allow the Frangelico to shine without losing the coffee flavors. The chocolate hazelnut wafer dipped in the sweet coffee and alcohol is a little taste of heaven.” —Lunds & Byerlys, 7050 Valley Creek Plaza; 651.999.1200;

1 serving

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 ½ oz. chilled espresso or cold brew concentrate
  • 1 oz. Frangelico
  • ½ oz. Kahlúa
  • 1 chocolate hazelnut
  • wafer, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the vodka, espresso, Frangelico and Kahlúa. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain the cocktail into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a chocolate hazelnut wafer. Enjoy!

Sip Locally

Angelina’s Kitchen, 2170 Eagle Creek Lane, creates a simple Espresso Martini with vodka, Kahlúa and espresso.

Cravings Wine Bar and Grille, 755 Bielenberg Drive #108, adds a creamy taste by using Smirnoff vanilla vodka, Baileys Irish Cream, cold brew and Kahlúa.

Northern Taphouse, 7325 Currell Blvd., kicks up the sweetness in its Espresso Martini made with vanilla vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, demerara sugar and chocolate bitters.

The Tavern Grill, 772 Bielenberg Drive, takes the Espresso Martini up a notch—creating the drink with Frangelico, Stoli Vanil vodka, Mr Black cold press coffee liqueur and Kahlúa, topped with housemade Baileys Irish Cream foam.

The ’Wick Pub and Grill, 9555 Wedgewood Drive, offers its take on an effortless Espresso Martini made with Stoli Vanil vodka, Mr Black coffee liqueur and coffee.

Not Quite an Espresso Martini

Taste the Espresso Martini’s sweet siblings: Tamarack Tap Room, 8418 Tamarack Village, offers a Tiramisu Martini made with vanilla vodka, coffee liquor, RumChata, ladyfingers, cocoa powder, light coffee grounds and whipped cream; If you’re looking for a coffee-inspired brew, 3rd Act Craft Brewery, 4120 Radio Drive, offers its I was Born in the Darkness rich English stout with chocolate and coffee tones. Make it a Jenny by adding a scoop of ice cream;


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