The mere mention of ‘Espresso Martini’ elicits wicked looks and raised eyebrows in any bar. The antidote to a wavering evening, the sauce for the bold to fuel never-ending nights. An iconic serve in our bottled and on-tap cocktail portfolio: it’s time to take a look below the surface.
The History of the Espresso Martini.
With a past that’s almost as rich as the drink itself; the Espresso Martini is an essential on any cocktail menu. Picture the scene. It’s London in the early 80s, a future supermodel (mysteriously never named) leans up against the bar at Old Compton Street’s Soho Brasserie and delivers the clearest of briefs. “Make me a drink that will wake me up and fuck me up.”
The bartender in question: Dick Bradsell, a cocktail legend who set the tone for creating cocktails as an art form. With those carefully selected words, the Espresso Martini was born. When asked as to why exactly he decided on that drink that day, Dick has been quoted: “The coffee machine at the Soho Brasserie was right next to the station where I served the drinks. It was a nightmare, as there were coffee grounds everywhere, so coffee was very much on my mind. And it was all about vodka back then - it was all people were drinking.”
Kickstarting Britain’s transformation into a racy, enchanting powerhouse of cocktail culture, the Espresso Martini is perhaps the best-known of contemporary classic cocktails to emerge from this era. By the millennium it was the à la mode drinks order of choice for the ‘in-crowd’, from stars, supermodels and young artists alike, cross-pollinating bars in the UK and the rest of the world.
“The origin myth is so good that you couldn’t have cast it better. You could possibly have replaced Naomi Campbell with maybe Grace Jones for the story, but somebody who combines sexy and dangerous saying exactly those words to a bloke who combined impish naughtiness and the technical skills to seriously fuck you up? It’s the perfect story. He obviously was the best cocktail barman for a generation.” - Tim Hayward, Food Critic and Restaurateur.
The Evolution of the Name.
The name has always been a point of mysterious contention, much like the supposed model's identity. According to Difford’s Guide To Cocktails, the Espresso Martini we know and love today started life as the more aptly titled ‘Vodka Espresso’ served on-the-rocks. But the nineties welcomed a new decade of ‘Neo-Martinis’ - imposters of the classic “Martini”. Any cocktail served in a V-shaped glass with a base of Vodka was considered such; and these were ultimately what bar-goers craved. The ‘Espresso Martini’ permitted a new era of cocktail drinkers to lavishly order a drink that sounded much more grandiose than a simple Espresso cocktail.
So, what is in an Espresso Martini cocktail?
A heart-stopping combination of caffeine, alcohol and sugar: the perfect Espresso Martini is a luxurious mix of Vodka, Coffee Liqueur and Espresso. And as with every cocktail, the Espresso Martini is only ever as good as its ingredients. Made by hand, the key has always been using quality vodka and freshly made espresso coffee. Finished with a layer of decadently thick, delicious crema, and topped with a trio of coffee beans, the beans are meant to represent health, wealth and happiness - we’ll take all three.
The Black Lines Espresso Martini Recipe.
As you all know, at Black Lines we like to approach things differently. Why can’t a delicious Espresso Martini be bottled, or poured from a tap? We believe it can: and we’ve spent the last five years perfecting the Black Lines Espresso Martini recipe to deliver one that does. We combine smooth and sustainable Sapling vodka with Origin Coffee’s chocolate-forward San Fermin cold brew and the Black Lines piéce de resistance: our very own house made Espresso Liqueur that pulls in the rich and robust notes of hot drawn espresso that is so hard to deliver. The end product is a coffee forward and chocolate rich, with a smooth, creamy finish. A remastered modern serve, made for toasting to longer evenings. Head here to buy.
The Black Lines Espresso Martini Illustration.
We believe every cocktail has its own personality: a personality that deserves to be articulated. We tasked Anna Soba to create our mysterious and mischievous Espresso Martini character, a reflection of the alluring history of the serve. Anna is a fantastic young Polish artist currently living in Brighton: cats, snakes, Catman and the strong, independent Catwoman are the stars of her traditional work. Their tricky poses and unexpected situations made Soba the perfect choice for bringing this cocktail to life: giving the iconic coffee bean a powerful kick, we’re sure our character would be the first to order a round of ‘tinis at a party.
How to serve the perfect Espresso Martini.
Put your bottle of Black Lines Espresso Martini and a couple of coupes in the fridge before serving, the colder the better. Grab a cocktail shaker*, strainer, jigger, ice and your cold glasses. Pour 100ml per serve (125ml if you are using a large glass) into the shaker and half-fill it with ice. Shake well for 15 seconds and strain out into the glasses. To finish, top with three coffee beans sink into creamy oblivion.
*Shakerless? No problem. Head to our store or at a pinch, improvise. We recommend freezing the bottle for an hour (max) and blending without ice, or using a glass jar as a shaker.
The Optimum Espresso Martini Occasion.
In its prime in the 90s, Espresso Martini rounds were ordered for the whole room at The Groucho club. The drink’s allure has not strayed far from this today. At any bar, the mere mention of the name elicits wicked looks and raised eyebrows. The antidote to a wavering evening, the sauce for the bold to fuel never-ending nights. It’s a strong contender on its own as a party cocktail, but as an aficionado of the drink, Jamie Oliver urges, it can also be employed at dinner parties as an excessively luxurious digestif: “to make sure that you escape that fatal after-dinner lull”.
Jonathan Downey, Dick’s one-time boss, points to the obvious reason for the drink’s endless appeal - “for the reasons Dick has so brilliantly shared - it wakes you up and fucks you up!”
We all owe it to you, Dick Bradsell.
Buy the Black Lines Espresso Martini Shaker Kit.
Buy the Black Lines Espresso Martini.