Featured Cocktail: The Espresso Martini
This episode’s featured cocktail is the Espresso Martini, which seems like a strange choice for an interview about Orange Wine. But, just like orange wine isn’t made from oranges, the Espresso Martini doesn’t have anything to do with a real martini. To make this cocktail, you’ll need:
1.5 oz (or about 50ml) Vodka
1 oz (or 30ml) of strong, freshly-pulled espresso
¾ oz (or 20ml) Coffee Liqueur
¼ oz (or 7.5ml) of simple syrup
Combine these ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, give em a good, hard shake, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass (preferably the classic, “V-shaped” martini glass), garnish with 3 espresso beans, and enjoy.
Not only does it make a prominent appearance in this episode’s lightning round, but like our guest, Simon, the Espresso Martini originated in the UK. The most reputable genesis story seems to stem from a famous bartender named Dick Bradsell, who was working at a popular London venue called Fred’s Club in the late 1980s. Allegedly, some unnamed model walked up to him and ordered a drink that would, in her words, “wake me up, and then fuck me up.” With vodka being all the rage at the time, Bradsell grabbed a bottle of the clear, tasteless stuff, combined it with a shot of espresso, a pour of Kahlua, and a little sweetener, et voila! An iconic tipple is born.
Some of you may be aware that the Espresso Martini has been enjoying a surge in popularity recently, and although it might seem like a silly social media trend, I’m of the opinion that there’s a bit more to it than that. To understand why, let’s talk about the look and feel of the Espresso Martini, relative to its ingredients and preparation method.
It has that dark, rich, luscious look of a nice espresso, combined with – if shaken properly – a nice head of foam. Not egg-white-foamy…more like cafe Americano foamy. And this makes sense because the particulate matter from the espresso shot offers something for the other 3 ingredients to latch onto as the cocktail is aerated and diluted in the shaker. This paves the way for what has become an iconic garnish: 3 espresso or coffee beans placed on the foam immediately prior to service.
This garnish is actually co-opted from an Italian coffee-and-spirits tradition, where Sambuca (an anise-flavored liqueur) is taken as a shot or sipped following coffee. There are three traditional coffee bean garnishes for a Sambuca shot:
7 coffee beans (representing the 7 hills of Rome
A single coffee bean (called “con mosca” which means, “with a fly,” since a single coffee bean looks like a fly landed in your Sambuca)
And 3 coffee beans, which represent health, happiness, and prosperity
This 3-bean garnish is what you see most commonly adorning an Espresso Martini, but unlike with the Sambuca shot, where it’s sorta implied that you’re going to down the coffee beans with the liquor, the cocktail at least gives you a bit of optionality when it comes to how you decide to treat them. Like any good garnish, it’s technically edible, and there if you want it, but there’s no rule that says you have to.