The History Of The Espresso Martini And How To Perfect It

The Espresso Martini is rich, indulgent and creamy, and the shot of espresso will make sure you keep up with the pack if you find yourself flagging on your next night out.

Who would have thought vodka and espresso go so well together?

The honour of this deliciously smooth cocktail invention goes to British bartending guru Dick Bradsell. The story goes that Bradsell created the drink—originally called The Vodka Espresso then the Pharmaceutical Stimulant—at Fred’s Club in the late 1980s, when a young model, who Bradsell claims is now world famous, sidled up to the bar and asked for something to “wake me up and fuck me up”. His solution was a combination of vodka, fresh espresso, coffee liqueur and sugar, shaken into a frothy mix of bittersweet addiction.

One man who takes his Espresso Martini really seriously is bartender, Dev Johnson, who heads-up Employees Only, a famed bar in Manhattan’s West Village.

Historically, the cocktail has been overcomplicated by adding liqueurs and creams, but Johnson’s version is unbelievably light but has texture, and you can have more than one.

Johnson’s drink recipe is simple, with just three ingredients:

  • 2 shots (60 ml) of vodka,
  • 1 shot (30 ml) of fresh espresso
  • 2/3 shot (22 ml) of simple syrup 

Shaken briskly with ice and served up.

The drink is full of flavour and mouthfeel, yet it’s also crisp and surprisingly dry, especially when compared with most variations on this theme.