I Got Sick of Espresso Martinis, so I Made 3 Delicious & Kind of Quirky Alternatives

Updated on March 17, 2017
Brooke Murray profile image

Brooke is a Melbourne based bartender and a cocktail nerd. They have a degree in Communications and can't wink.

Martinis Are Forever

Cocktail trends come and go, just like seasons, or the neighbourhood cat that doesn't really belong to anyone but is definitely only visiting you to get fed. But when the last Aperol Spritz is thrown back into the throat of an unsuspecting businessman, when the last smouldering rosemary garnish is blown out, the Espresso Martini will remain. It, like the neighbourhood cat that has decided it lives at your house and really won't stop mewing until you feed it whatever you have, is here to stay.

Just like any solid cocktail fave, the Espresso Martini has a pretty disputed origin story. My favourite claim is that in the late 1980's, Dick Bradsell from Brasserie Soho served a customer that wanted a drink that would "Wake me up, then f--k me up." And since the coffee machine at Brasserie Soho was right next to the bar, and vodka was really fashionable at the time, he whipped up a combo of vodka, espresso and Kahlua, and voila, the Espresso Martini was born. I like this story because a) As a customer, I've always wanted to say something like this to a bartender, and b) As a bartender, I really dig it when customers make colourful requests.

The recipe for the Espresso Martini varies as much as the origin stories; some recipes call for a shot of espresso, some want ristretto and I've definitely seen some that just use coffee liqueurs, leaving out the humble espresso machine all together.

Nevertheless, after years of working behind and drinking in front of various bars, I am sad to say that the espresso martini no longer excites me. My mixologist mates assure me that vodka is no longer fashionable and because I care about what other bartenders think of me, I set out to formulate three interesting drinks that still contained coffee, but were were somehow different from the E.M.

Drink No.1: Coffee & Tonic

Okay so I've started off with the easiest cocktail to make, but it is also the weirdest tasting drink. That said, I really dig the combination of tonic water and coffee, so if you're an adventurous soul, read on!

You will need:

- cold coffee

- 2 oz vodka or tequila blanco

- tonic water

1. Brew some coffee and allow it to cool. You can use any type of brewing method you like: espresso, cold drip and French press all work well. Just maybe lay off the Blend 43, ok?

2. Fill a tall glass with ice. All the way. Don't be shy. Generally, the more ice in a cocktail, the better it's going to be. Large amounts of ice keep a drink cooler for longer so it's less likely to dilute and make your drink all watery and sad. *This does not work for cocktails that are served "straight up" (without ice), but I'll explain that more another time.

3. Now fill your glass just under halfway with your tonic water.

4. Add 2 oz of your preferred spirit, measuring it out with one of those little silver bartending ounce measures. We call them 'jiggers'. The first time I made this drink, I used blanco tequila. The sting of the tequila really exacerbated the sharpness of the tonic so if you like big flavours, this could be for you. If you are less of a party animal, by all means drop some nice vodka in there are you will still have a whale of a time.

5. At this point, you might want to stir the booze and tonic a little, just to mix it.

6. 'Float' the coffee on top of the tonic water. This means that you should gently pour in the espresso so that it sits on top of the tonic water, not really disturbing it. You can do this by placing a teaspoon or bar spoon just above the water level and gently pouring the coffee over the back of this spoon. Coffee is naturally a little oilier than tonic water, so it should float of its own accord.

7. Serve with a straw and enjoy!

What joy! What movement!
What joy! What movement!

Drink No.2: Canadian Breakfast

Dodgy name aside, this drink was sooooooo delicious. It's sweet, peppy, and froths up just like an Espresso Martini. This drink is a little more sophisticated to make but 100% worth it if you like Bourbon.

You will need:

- 4oz cold coffee

- 2 oz bourbon (I used Hogs 3)

- 1/2 oz maple syrup

- Cocktail shaker tins (I use Boston shaker tins)

- 3 Coffee beans to garnish

1. Brew yourself some coffee and allow it to cool.

2. Add the coffee, bourbon and maple syrup to the shaker tins. Close them together and shake. This technique (shaking a cocktail without ice) is called dry shaking and it will help the cocktail froth up.

3. Add a scoop of ice to the tins and shake again. This will dilute the ingredients. When the outside of the tins are frosty, you know it is ready to be served.

4. Strain the mixture into a tumbler filled with ice. I recommend using a Hawthorn Strainer, but a small kitchen strainer would also work.

5. Garnish with the coffee beans.

A nice drink + a nice tattoo.
A nice drink + a nice tattoo.

Drink 3: Coffee Negroni

Okay, okay, I'm aware that this is not an original recipe, but I had never made one before, so I wanted to try it. Traditional Negronis call for equal measures of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth. They are bitter, yet sweet and botanical, and a really good pre-dinner drink as the combination will wake your tastebuds up! I first made this drink by adding 1 oz of cold brew coffee to the traditional Negroni recipe, but found that the botanicals of the gin were fighting too much with the coffee. I decided to get rid of the gin all together and the result was really, really good.

You will need:

1 oz cold brew coffee

1 oz Campari

1 oz Sweet Vermouth (I use Antica Formula)

Orange peel to garnish

1. Brew some coffee and allow it to cool.

2. Add the coffee, Campari and Vermouth to a mixing glass or large tumbler. Fill with ice until almost full, then stir, tasting regularly, until it is diluted and tastes good. I will go through proper stirring technique in another article.

3. Strain into a pretty glass with some ice in it. Garnish with a twist of orange peel (not pictured).

For some reason the filter made this drink look way lighter than normal.
For some reason the filter made this drink look way lighter than normal.

The Verdict

Well, there you have it. I tried making three vastly different coffee cocktails and had a ball whilst doing it! These cocktails were quite individual but were also things that I really enjoyed drinking. The winner for me was definitely the Canadian Breakfast. It was bold and smooth, and looked amazing!

Holla At Me

What is your favourite coffee cocktail? What would you like to see me make next? Let me know in the comments :)

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Questions & Answers


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      • Brooke Murray profile image

        Brooke Murray 13 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria

        Hey Britt, adding a coffee flavour into the white gummy bear shot is an insane idea - it would be really hard but I'm willing to give it a go! Not sure about the bitters though... Bitters don't often actually make drinks taste bitter - they are a collection of spices that add something to a drink. Aromatic bitters (like Angostura) are often referred to as the "seatbelt" of a cocktail - they tie conflicting elements together. I may have to add some sort of aromatic bitters to your coffee-gummy bear cocktail to tie the conflicting flavours of peach, raspberry, pineapple and coffee together... What a challenge! Watch this space :)

      • Britt Bogan profile image

        Britt Bogan 13 months ago

        White gummi bears are my favorite drink! It should be made of peach schnapps, raspberry or grape vodka, 7 up, and pineapple juice. Some bartenders try to add bitters to it. Gummi bears aren't supposed to be bitter! I love it when bartenders have specialty liqueurs that they'll use instead of something basic, like switching raspberry Smirnoff for Chambord. :D