Coffee craze

The rise of the espresso martini

A cocktail is only as good as its story. Find out where this modern classic was born.

In a nation where flat whites are fuel it’s no wonder that we’ve welcomed a coffee-based cocktail with open arms (and mouths). Espresso Martinis gained popularity in Melbourne early last year and have finally crossed the ditch, popping up on various drinks menus across New Zealand.

However the iconic cocktail originates further afield. In 1983, London bartender Dick Bradsell was working at Soho Brasserie when he was faced with an unusual and slightly crass drink request. A now famous model (Bradsell has never spilled the beans on who it was) supposedly asked for something that would “wake her up and then [insert expletive here] up.”

Bradsell proceeded to combine vodka, two coffee liqueurs, sugar syrup and super strong espresso, christening it the Vodka Espresso. The concoction was later served as the Espresso Martini, then renamed The Pharmaceutical Stimulant when Bradsell managed a bar called Pharmacy in Notting Hill.

Regardless of name, when made well, this caffeine-loaded drink has a velvety froth on top, much like the crema on espresso. The dark liquid is perfectly balanced between the liqueur’s sweetness, the kick of the vodka and the rich, bitter coffee flavour.

Try the recipe below and see what all the fuss is about.   

Galliano Ristretto Espresso Martini

Galliano Ristretto Espresso Martini

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