Espresso martini in a glass

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Creamy and rich, every sip of this cocktail offers a velvety and smooth buzz. The Espresso Martini is a sweet and potent drink that requires just 3 ingredients and a handful of ice. Read on for the full recipe plus tips on how to make a cocktail worthy of a top mixologist.

What is it?

The Espresso Martini was invented in the late 80s in London by bartender Dick Bradsell. Apparently, it was inspired by a famous model (whom he never named) who sashayed up to the bar and requested a drink that would ‘wake her up and then fu*k her up’.

It is not a true martini as it uses neither gin nor vermouth, but it is called such because it is most commonly served in a martini glass. To make it you simply need vodka, coffee liquor and espresso.

Espresso martini being poured into a glass

Why isn’t my cocktail foamy on top?

Trying to get that frothy creamy head on your cocktail but winding up with a lacklustre whisper of foam or nothing at all? The most common reason is using the wrong kind of coffee.

You need to use proper espresso from a machine that uses pressure to make the coffee. This gives it that signature crema on the espresso – the creamy foam that forms on top of the coffee. While standard household machines like a Nespresso or Dolce Gusto will give a good result, instant coffee or a french press will not.

You also need to make sure you shake the cocktail very well. You are shaking it awake not rocking it to sleep. Also, make sure to pour it straight after shaking.

I have heard that if you don’t have proper espresso on hand you can add an egg white to the cocktail before shaking it, although I haven’t personally tried that myself.

3 espresso martinis in glasses

What if I don’t have a coffee machine?

The next best thing if you don’t have espresso freshly available is a cold brew concentrate. You can buy this ready-made from some supermarkets and from Amazon.

Just whatever you do, don’t use instant coffee.

How do you make the perfect espresso martini?

Want to take your homemade cocktail from good to great? Follow these simple tips:

  1. Use fresh coffee (unless you are using a premade cold brew concentrate). After you make the espresso it will start to oxidise, which will make it turn bitter over time, so don’t leave it sitting around for too long.
  2. Use large ice cubes. Smaller ones will melt more quickly, diluting the drink.
  3. While you are making the cocktail, add ice to the martini glass to cool the glass, transforming your cocktail into a frosty and refreshing tipple.
  4. While you want to use the espresso quickly after making it, you can pop it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down before making the cocktail, reducing the amount of water melting from the ice and diluting the drink when you shake it.
Coffee bean being placed on an espresso martini

Can I make it without Kahlua?

It’s true that Kahlua is the most common coffee liquor used to make an Espresso Martini. Originating in Mexico in the 1930s, Kahlua has grown to be the godfather of coffee liquors, which is why it is so frequently used in this cocktail. However, you can use any other brand of coffee liquor you prefer.

Tia Maria is another great option, as is Mr Black. You could even spring for Cafe Patron, although as I write this they have literally just announced they are discontinuing it (perhaps this is a great way excuse to buy a bottle before they are gone)

Whatever you choose, note that Kahlua is very sweet. Therefore if you use a liquor that isn’t as sweet you may need to add some simple syrup.

Recipe alternatives

Looking to add a twist on this classic cocktail? Here are a few great ideas:

  • Add a squeeze of lemon for a citrus twist.
  • Add some vanilla liquor to add an extra sweet note.
  • Pour a little chocolate or caramel syrup to the shaker to add indulgent richness – perfect if you are serving this as an after-dinner drink.
  • Dust a little cinnamon or cocoa powder on top of the drink for extra visual appeal and subtle flavour.


For a full list of ingredients with measurements jump to the printable recipe card.

Espresso martini ingredients
  • Ice – for shaking
  • Fresh espresso
  • Coffee liquor
  • Vodka
  • Coffee beans – for garnish

How to make it

For more detailed steps with recipe tips jump to the printable recipe card.

How to make an espresso martini
  1. Fill a martini or coupe glass with ice and set aside.
  2. Freshly prepare the espresso and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Full a cocktail shaker with ice and add the vodka and coffee liquor before pouring in the cooled espresso.
  4. Shake vigerously. Tip the ice out of the glass and then strain the cocktail into the glass.
  5. Garnish with 3 coffee beans – cheers!

Looking for more great cocktail recipes? Try:

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Espresso martini in a glass

Espresso Martini

  • Author: caroline
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x


Creamy & rich, every sip of this cocktail offers a velvety & smooth buzz. The Espresso Martini is a sweet & potent drink that requires just 3 ingredients.

The default recipe makes one cocktail.


  • ice
  • 30ml / 1oz fresh espresso (see note 1)
  • 30ml / 1oz vodka
  • 30ml / 1oz coffee liquor (see note 2)
  • Coffee beans, to garnish


  1. Fill a martini or coupe glass with ice and set it aside.
  2. Make the fresh espresso and set it aside for a couple of minutes to cool slightly (see note 3).
  3. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and then add the vodka, coffee liquor and espresso. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds. (see note 4)
  4. Tip the ice out of the glass and then strain the cocktail into the glass. 
  5. Top with 3 coffee beans and enjoy! 


  1. To achieve that beautiful thick foam you need to make sure to use espresso made from a machine (with pressure). If you don’t have a coffee machine the next best thing is a cold brew concentrate.
  2. Kahlua is the most commonly used coffee liquor in an espresso martini. However, you can use any brand. Bear in mind that if you use a variety that is less sweet then you may want to add a little simple syrup to the mixture before shaking.
  3. You want to use the coffee fairly quickly after making it as it will turn more bitter as it oxidised. You can place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes to help it cool faster.
  4. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker then you can use a thermos/coffee flask with a well-sealed lid.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Drink


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 142
  • Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 28g
  • Protein: 0g

Keywords: cocktail, drink, alcohol, coffee, espresso, vodka

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