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Espresso Martini Recipe & History

“The Espresso Martini renaissance is in full swing with new variations popping up each week. However, the classic will always be my favourite with its beautiful balance of the rich, bitter coffee, sweeter liqueur, and rounded vodka notes. I think the Espresso Martini is often thought of as a sickly-sweet cocktail and it’s not meant to be. It should be a fine balance of the ingredients.

I’ve selected Belvedere Pure as its bold enough to hold up the flavours of the serve with its spiced rye finish, whilst also featuring a subtle sweetness and that all-important creamy mouthfeel. These elements are perfectly complemented by the delicate flavours found in Mr Black, which is less sweet than your average coffee liqueur, with its rich, bitter profile balancing perfectly with bright, floral and fruity notes. I like to use illy espresso coffee to top off the serve, as it was my dad’s chosen favourite, thanks to the unique sweetness of its Arabica beans and its smooth and rich flavour profile, which allows the more decadent ingredients to shine through.” - Bea Bradsell

Bea Bradsell is the On-Trade Director of The Drink Cabinet. Over her 20 years in hospitality, she has worked at some of the world’s top venues including El Camion, Callooh Callay, Swift & The Dead Rabbit. Bea is also the daughter of Dick Bradsell, creator of many modern classics, most notably the Espresso Martini.

Follow the recipe Bea's top tips Get the history

What you need 


  1. If your coffee is fresh, allow it to cool slightly to prevent over-dilution.

  2. Add ingredients to a shaker with ice (at least 2/3 of the way up) and ‘shake it like you hate it’.

  3. Strain ingredients into chilled martini glass.

  4. Garnish with three coffee beans for ‘health, wealth and happiness’

Bea’s top tips for the perfect Espresso Martini


Never underestimate the importance of ice & fresh espresso

“For your Espresso Martini, you want to make sure you properly ice up your shaker. You’re going to need to shake it hard to get that beautiful frothy head and lots of good-quality ice will help with this. The more ice you add to your shaker, the less it melts, which when you give the drink a hard shake means it chills down without going watery. If you’re using supermarket ice, it tends to chip a bit more than the ice we use in bars, so I would just make sure you’re using a fine strainer as well as the strainer with the shaker to make sure you’re not left sipping on ice chips. Using fresh espresso also goes a long way in helping you shake up the perfect frothy head too!”

Pre-batch when you’re entertaining

“My other trick is to prep your espresso ahead of time if you know you’ll be making them or when you start make up a big batch. No one ever just has one! However only pre-batch within a few hours before hosting so your coffee remains as fresh as possible. Also make sure to seal the container. Oxygen is not coffee’s friend.”

Don’t be afraid to customise the serve

“Espresso Martinis are best known for pairing well with dessert and you can definitely experiment with the serve to pair it even more effectively with the dish you are serving – by adding a dash of flavoured syrup for example. Be sure to start light and add more, because a little syrup goes a long way in this cocktail.

Play around with the ratios and find your perfect balance and adapt the drink to how you like your coffee. Prefer a straight Espresso for filter coffee? Well, Mr Black has enough coffee flavour to let you explore. Feeling like something a little lighter? Flip the ratios and add more coffee liqueur and less vodka. I like to add a little orange zest into the shaker, really giving an extra depth of dimension.”

The History of The Espresso Martini

Created by renowned bartender Dick Bradsell, the Espresso Martini was originally named the Vodka Espresso & then the Pharmaceutical Stimulant.

Legend has it that one evening in the 80s, a sleep-deprived supermodel (whose name remains a mystery) visited Soho Brasserie where Dick worked and asked him for something that would "wake me up and **** me up".

There was a coffee machine right next to where Dick served drinks and, with vodka being all the rage at the time - the first version of this now classic cocktail was born.

Over the next few years, Bradsell refined the recipe into the recipe we have come to know today, thanks to the addition of simple syrup and the popularity of neo-martinis during the 90s (when anything in a martini glass with vodka was considered a martini).

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