The Espresso Martini is consistently one of the most popular cocktails in Britain and around the world but it’s often done so badly. Here we show you how to make an easy Espresso Martini which will wow your guests.

The Espresso Martini story

The story goes that the Espresso Martini was invented by bartender to the stars Dick Bradsell in 1983 after a supermodel came into the Soho Brasserie and asked for a drink that would “wake me up, and then fuck me up” (responsibly, of course). He christened it the Vodka Espresso, but it soon became known as the Espresso Martini because of the shape of the glass.  Bradsell tended bar in some of London’s most notorious venues including Zanzibar in the ‘80s and the Atlantic Bar in the ‘90s. You might remember seeing photos of Noel Gallagher or Kate Moss falling out of the Atlantic in the heyday of Britpop. 

As well as the Espresso Martini, Bradsell also invented another modern classic, the Bramble. How’s that for talent? In the ‘80s and ‘90s, he pioneered a return to cocktails made from scratch with fresh ingredients when everyone else was making luridly coloured concoctions with syrups. Bradsell was an inspiration to a new generation of bartenders and put London on the cocktail map. Sadly, he died in 2016 of brain cancer aged only 56.

Dick Bradsell

The late, great Dick Bradsell (credit:

What’s the correct way to make an Espresso Martini?

Despite being a recent invention, the Espresso Martini is a cocktail that has inspired much debate as to the proper way to make it. Should it just be coffee, sugar syrup and vodka, or should you use a coffee liqueur like Tia Maria or Kahlúa? Another problem is that it proved so popular that soon bars began cutting corners, using stale, bad-quality coffee, and even pre-making the whole thing and just shaking them to order. If you’re not careful with an Espresso Martini, you can end up with something perilously close to sweetened iced coffee.

What you want is a drink that looks like an espresso complete with crema on top. Rod Eslamieh from Chapter 72 on Bermondsey Street in London, a coffee and cocktail bar that modestly claims to make “the best Espresso Martini in town”, has some tips. He uses only three ingredients: coffee, vodka and Tia Maria in equal parts. So no sugar syrup. And don’t cut corners on the vodka, he uses a good premium one. 

Shake it, shake it baby!

Next, don’t make your coffee too far in advance otherwise it will oxidise and start to taste bitter. I find that coffee from a stove-top moka works well in place of a proper espresso; just be careful that you don’t over-boil it or the coffee will go bitter. And finally, shake with lots of very cold ice like your life depended on it. “You have to shake hard because you have to get that iconic cream at the top,” Eslamieh said. “Sometimes we actually do a reverse shake. We would dry shake [without ice] it first, then shake it with ice as well, and then pour it. So when you pour it, there’s just this nice caramel look.” 

Once you have mastered the basic recipe, you can start playing around with it. Eslamieh likes to add Disaronno Amaretto to give it a nutty taste. You could try adding a little sambuca as a nod to that Italian classic, the Caffe Corretto or add Asterley Bros London Fernet, which has a bitter chocolate flavour and may as well be custom-made to go with coffee. Or swap the vodka for a sweet rum like Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum or even a smoky whisky like Ardbeg 10 Year Old – trust us, it really works.

Lots of fun to be had but here’s the classic recipe. 

Espresso Martini

Now that’s a proper Espresso Martini

Easy Espresso Martini Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Makes 1 serving

You’ll need:

30ml ice-cold vodka like Koskenkorva 013
30ml freshly-made espresso
30ml coffee liqueur like Bardinet Coffee Liqueur
1 coffee bean to garnish


First make your espresso and let it cool. Fill the shaker with ice, add the vodka and coffee liqueur, stir, and then add the coffee. Shake very hard and double strain into a frozen Martini glass. Garnish with a coffee bean.