Where To Drink Espresso Martinis And Maybe Cause A Scene, Who Knows
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
Oh, the espresso martini: An enduring symbol of youth, nightlife, and the ability to not care if you don’t sleep well tonight. Invented in London in the 1980s, this coffee-infused jolt of euphoria has enjoyed a massive resurgence over the last few years and can now be found on bar menus all over the city. Finding a well-made version is important—no one wants vodka and Kahlua floating separately in a glass—but so too is the setting. After all, there are some places where ordering an espresso martini just feels right. Here are our favorite places in LA that deliver exactly that.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
This old-school-feeling aperitivo bar in Eagle Rock is tailor-made for a long night of mingling. But as much as vermouth and soda might be the house drink, there’s something particularly lush about getting an espresso martini here. Maybe it's the fact that you can choose between vodka or mezcal. Or the sweet-but-nutty mashup of banana and walnut liqueurs they use. Whatever the reason, you should plop down in a comfy leather booth and order one the next time you want to kickstart an unpredictable Friday night.
photo credit: Matt Gendal
Calabra is probably the closest you can get to drinking an espresso martini in heaven. You’ll take an elevator up to the roof of the Proper Hotel, float over to the circular bar, and sip a perfectly made cocktail while looking out over the Pacific Ocean. The cocktail is topped off with a thick cap of foam that’s light as a feather, which is also an indicator of your stress level as your top lip meets this cloud-like puff.
Colibrí is permanently closed
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
We’re big fans of all the cocktails at this colorful Peruvian spot in Hollywood, but the espresso martini takes the cake. For one, this baby is strong. Made with espresso, vodka, Borghetti (an espresso liqueur), and topped with coffee beans, don’t be alarmed if you’re unable to stop talking—or moving—for at least an hour after drinking one. Considering Colibri is within walking distance of some of LA’s best music and dance venues though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
photo credit: Krystal Thompson
If you’re a fan of tequila, you’ll love the smooth espresso martini at this second-story bar in Echo Park. They use the Mexican spirit as a base for a bit of a kick, but the coffee, honey, and lemon oils help balance things out. We also like that it comes in a sturdy rocks glass instead of a traditional martini glass, since you might have to zig-zag through a crowd as you walk from the bar back to your table.
photo credit: Nikko Duren
Froth. That’s the word that comes to mind when drinking Let’s Go Disco’s espresso martini. It’s topped with a good half inch of it, making each sip feel like you’re downing a coffee-flavored smoothie—not an actual cocktail. And for anyone worried about getting over-caffeinated, just know that the dance floor at this Italian disco in the Arts District goes late into the night. You’ll need all the energy you can get.
photo credit: Garrett Snyder
The espresso martini is probably the last drink that needs to be geek-ified, but if you’re going to trust one place to apply a little culinary wizardy to the grad school Four Loko, it’s Majordomo. The walk-in-friendly bar at this Chinatown restaurant goes the United Nations route with its recipe, combining Japanese vodka, aged Caribbean rum, Italian espresso liqueur, and a dash of house-made soy sauce. The final touch is a thin layer of shio koji whipped cream on top, which adds a subtle umami flavor that leaves you smacking your lips—we wouldn’t quite call it a savory espresso martini, but it’s close.
photo credit: Brant Cox
OK, we have to come clean about something: The espresso martini at Gigi’s is only fine. It’s not bad by any means, but on its own, we wouldn’t rank it as an all-time great. So why is it on this list? Because we can’t think of a more quintessential place to sip an ‘spresso ‘tini than this sleek, sexy French bistro in Hollywood. Throw on a daring outfit, slink up to the bar, and live out your lounge singer fantasies.
photo credit: Thunderbolt
We like to describe Thunderbolt as a neighborhood bar that just happens to have to amazing cocktails, which also applies to their simple but sneaky good espresso martini on draft. Vodka, sherry, and cold brew concentrate are mixed and kegged, then poured from a nitro tap like a pint of Guinness. The result is a velvety drink with a frothy head that takes seconds to serve, which means no waiting for a surly bartender to fire up the La Marzocco. Thunderbolt also mixes up their formula every so often: their current “mocha” martini adds in cacao-flavored rum.
photo credit: Ardor West Hollywood
There are dozens of hotel bars on Sunset where you can order an espresso martini, but Ardor will make you feel like a reality star who’s annoyed by their multibillion-dollar inheritance. This glitzy restaurant on the ground floor of the West Hollywood Edition serves a coffee-bean-studded martini that’s both daring and extraordinarily simple. It’s the cocktail equivalent of a silk shirt, and the great people-watching here somehow makes it taste even better.