Best Espresso Martini – A Couple Cooks


The Espresso Martini is a classic cocktail made with coffee, Kahlua, and vodka! It’s ideal as a pick-me-up or after dinner drink.

Espresso Martini in cocktail glass topped with 3 coffee beans

Oh hello, Espresso Martini. This 1980’s cocktail vaulted back into popularity in 2021, and it’s easy to see why. Bittersweet coffee pairs perfectly with the rich sweetness of Kahlua. Add vodka and the trio makes a full-flavored sophisticated drink that’s cool, frothy, and bittersweet. Here at A Couple Cooks, we’re home cocktail experts with over 300 cocktail recipes in our library, and this one’s a fast favorite.

Espresso Martini ingredients

The Espresso Martini is a vodka martini made with coffee that was invented in 1983. Bartender Dick Bradsell at the Soho Brasserie in London created the drink for a patron who asked for a drink to wake her up. Apparently the coffee machine was right next to the drink station, and the Espresso Martini was born. The name came in the 1990’s when flavored martinis were all the rage.

There are lots of variations on exactly how to make this Espresso Martini recipe. The original version had two types of coffee liqueur and simple syrup. Today it varies based on on the bartender. This cocktail is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning that it has an “official” definition. The ingredients in an Espresso Martini are:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Kahlua or coffee liqueur
  • 1 oz espresso or strong coffee
  • ½ oz simple syrup (optional)
Espresso Martini in cocktail glass

How to make an Espresso Martini

The only part about an Espresso Martini that takes some time is making the coffee. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for it to cool. Wait a few minutes until it’s warm, then shake it up. Here’s how to make a coffee martini:

  • Make 1 shot (1 oz) espresso using an espresso maker (or French Press). Alternatively, you can make a very strong cup of coffee and use 2 tablespoons. Place the coffee in the freezer until room temperature. 
  • Place the espresso, 2 oz vodka, 1 oz Kahula, and ½ oz simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
  • Add 1 handful ice and shake until cold.
  • Strain into a martini glass. Top with coffee beans, the traditional garnish.

An Espresso martini without simple syrup

Many Espresso Martini recipes have simple syrup, but the extra sweetener actually isn’t necessary. The cocktail is sweet enough with the Kahlua alone. Here are a few notes about the sweetness in this drink:

  • Simple syrup rounds out the flavors and makes for a balanced, sweet drink. Even though we’re not big sweet cocktail fans, we like this one with the added simple syrup.
  • For a less sweet spin, use ¼ oz simple syrup, which still lets the flavors shine.
  • Or, make an Espresso Martini recipe with no simple syrup. Kahlua has added sugar, so combining it with vodka and espresso still makes for a sweet and balanced drink.

Coffee making methods

To add the coffee element to an Espresso Martini, there are a few different coffee making methods. For espresso, you can use an espresso machine or portable espresso maker to make an espresso shot. You can also use non-traditional tools like making French press espresso.

Don’t have an espresso maker? Simply make strong coffee using double the grounds of your regular method. You can also use a Moka Pot (Bialetti) to make strong coffee that has a flavor in between espresso and coffee.

You can also make an Espresso Martini using cold brew concentrate, either purchased or homemade. This has the added benefit of already being chilled! The concentrate is very strong and has a similar flavor to espresso (make sure not to water it down before using).

Does an Espresso Martini have caffeine?

Yes! This coffee martini has caffeine from the coffee and the Kahlua. The espresso contributes 64 mg caffeine and the Kahlua 2.5 mg, for a total of about 66 mg in this drink. This is about 70% the amount of caffeine in 1 cup of coffee (95 mg).

Kahlua bottle

More about Kahlua

Kahlua is a pretty widely known liqueur…but what actually is it made of? Here’s what to know about this coffee liqueur:

  • Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s made in Mexico. It’s made with rum, sugar and coffee. It does have some caffeine, but only about 25% as much as the same volume of coffee. The standard Kahlua is dairy-free, vegan and plant-based: it contains only rum, sugar and coffee.
  • How much does Kahlua cost? It costs about $20 per bottle.
  • What are some substitutes for Kahlua? You can also use other types of coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Sheridan’s.
  • What other cocktails use Kahlua? Use it to make Kahlua drinks like the White Russian, Black Russian or Mudslide.
Espresso martini in cocktail glass with coffee beans

More coffee cocktails

Are you into spiked coffee? Boozy coffee drinks combine the beautiful bittersweet flavor of coffee into fantastic mixed drinks. Here are some of our favorite coffee cocktails:


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The Espresso Martini is a classic cocktail made with coffee, Kahlua, and vodka! It’s ideal as a pick-me-up or after dinner drink.

  1. Make the espresso or strong coffee. Place it in the freezer until room temperature. 
  2. Add the vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake vigorously until cold.
  3. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with coffee beans.


*Simple syrup rounds out the flavors and makes for a balanced, sweet drink. For a less sweet spin, you can use ¼ oz or make an Espresso Martini without simple syrup entirely.

To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons. 

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Espresso martini, espresso martini recipe

More vodka martini recipes

Flavored martinis are a modern invention: built on the vodka martini. Most of them drop the vermouth…so they’re hardly a Classic Martini at all! Here are some of our favorite flavored martini recipes:


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