Apparently, the Espresso Martini is the new drink of the summer, in much the same way that the Aperol Spritz once held that crown. And, if this is actually true (and not some media-fueled self-fulfilling prophecy in which we’re now taking part), we wouldn’t find it the least bit surprising. Espresso Martinis are simple, delicious, and — notably — caffeinated. They’re kind of like vodka Red Bulls that you don’t have to feel ashamed to order, and if you enjoy drinking them, you’re probably the sort of person who has several iced coffees a day but still needs a little pick-me-up when it comes to the task of socializing. Obviously, we respect this — and that’s why we made you this starter pack.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to make a quality Espresso Martini at home. This drink only has four ingredients, but good espresso is key, and we’ll give a few ways to go about acquiring it. Nice glassware is also essential (a Martini demands nothing less), and, of course, you’ll need some vodka. Let’s dive in.
Not sure how to make an Espresso Martini? You can find our recipe right here.
Your Summer Negroni Starter Pack, From Booze To Glassware
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The Vodka Component
In all honesty, the vodka you choose for an Espresso Martini is not of huge consequence (as long as it isn’t flavored). If that seems weird, imagine pouring a shot of vodka, taking a sip, and sussing out various tasting notes. Now imagine pouring a shot of espresso in that vodka and attempting to find those very same notes. Espresso will inevitably be the dominant flavor of this drink, so just go with any reasonably-priced vodka you like. We gravitate toward this rice-based vodka from Suntory, although if you want to try something new, the ultra-smooth Supergay vodka is near the top of our list as well.
A Necessary Liqueur
Kahlúa is the traditional choice for an Espresso Martini, and it’s extremely easy to find, so if you’d like to go that route, have at it. But we often use FAIR Café Liqueur, which is slightly lighter and just a tad more bitter than Kahlúa. This liqueur is made from fair-trade beans from a Mexican co-op, it tastes like a sweet iced coffee with a hint of vanilla, and it makes for a very refined Espresso Martini.
A Few Handy Bottles
Simple syrup is an essential part of your Espresso Martini, and it’s just about the easiest cocktail ingredient to make. (All you do is mix equal parts white sugar and warm water.) But simple syrup can still be annoying to produce for individual drinks — so if you plan on having more than one Espresso Martini, you should make a big batch (two cups, say). And where do you store that batch? Preferably in a reusable container that you can pour directly from. So grab a couple of these 12oz glass bottles.
Your Source of Ice
When it comes to making an Espresso Martini, you don’t really need any big, fancy ice cubes. You’re only using ice to shake your drink, so feel free to use ice from any standard tray that you have. For an aesthetic-minded upgrade, however, we strongly suggest this stainless steel tray from Onyx with a built-in handle that helps you pop your cubes out. It’s fancy and retro, and it’s what your Martini deserves.
An Espresso Solution
A nice espresso machine can cost as much as a compact car with very few miles on it. But if you go the manual route (and you’re willing to put in a bit more effort), your options get significantly cheaper. The Flair Classic Espresso Maker uses a lever to generate enough pressure to pull a shot of espresso, and it’s both attractive and portable, in case you’re making cocktails on the go. The under-$200 price tag is also a big plus, although if you’d like an upgrade (with a pressure gauge) resident coffee expert Oren Peleg suggests the Flair Pro 2.
A Next-Level Kettle
Should you go the Flair route, you’ll need a kettle to get your brewing water to an optimal temperature. With its gooseneck spout, ergonomic handle, and temperature control settings, this Fellow Stagg kettle is about as good as it gets. Also, it looks fantastic and provides immediate caché among coffee aficionados. But if you want something more affordable, this Bodum kettle is also a fine choice.
An Espresso Upgrade
If you don’t feel like pulling a lever and you’re willing to spend a bit more on something that you’ll likely use for purposes beyond Martinis, get yourself a Smeg espresso machine. As with most of Smeg’s appliances, this thing is A) highly attractive and B) reminiscent of the 1950s. It’s compact and user-friendly, and it’s another pick from coffee nerd Oren.
Our Grinder of Choice
Once you find an espresso machine, you’ll also need a grinder — and you might as well get a top-notch one. By top-notch, we mean one with (preferably stainless steel) burrs for an even grind and multiple settings for coarseness, and that’s exactly what you get with the Fellow Ode Brew Grinder (with a few more handy features thrown in).
The Key to Your Martini
Unsurprisingly, espresso beans are another must-have, and the beans you choose will deeply influence your end product. That’s why we encourage you to pick up a quality bag such as this medium roast from Equator Coffees, made with a blend of beans from Colombia, Kenya, and Brazil. Equator is a certified B Corp dedicated to equity and sustainability, and they provide beans to some of the best restaurants as well.
The Convenient Shortcut
In a perfect world, you’d always make your own fresh espresso for an Espresso Martini. But that takes time and the proper equipment, and you might not always have those things. So if you’re looking for a shortcut, try Jot. This is a coffee concentrate that can mimic espresso or iced coffee (if you add water), and it’ll provide you a perfectly serviceable (and super easy) cocktail.
The Proper Vessel
You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t an Espresso Martini go in a Martini glass?” And that’s a very reasonable thing to think. But the only real difference between a coupe and a Martini glass is the fact that coupes have curved lips that keep you from spilling your drink all over your feet and carpet. These Leopold Coupes from Cocktail Kingdom are ideal and work for everything from Martinis and Manhattans to Clover Clubs and Champagne.
A Fancy Glassware Option
Maybe you need your glassware to have a little more flair. We find that attitude admirable, and we think you should pick up these slender, angular-yet-streamlined glasses Luigi Bormioli.
The Most Important Tool
Why does the Espresso Martini have a thick cap of foam? Because it’s shaken, and that’s what happens when you shake espresso. Typically, we like to shake drinks with Boston-style shakers (because they’re easy and efficient), but, for some reason, an Espresso Martini makes us want to reach for a more-stylish cobbler shaker.
A Key Accessory
The strainers on cobbler shakers usually aren’t that fine, so you’re going to need a tea strainer (also known as a mesh or fine strainer) when pouring your drink. That way, you won’t have any big chunks of ice floating around in your cocktail. Those will unnecessarily dilute your drink (and also make it less attractive). Really, no matter what sort of shaker you go with, you should always have a tea strainer on hand.
A Hat to Set the Mood
Should coffee be dope? Yes. As should Espresso Martinis, and to keep yourself from forgetting this, it’s important that you nab this hat from Portland-based Deadstock Coffee. And grab some more beans while you’re at it.