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The #1 Secret for the Best Espresso Martini, Say Experts

Mixologists, including a six-time Michelin winner's drinks director, offer exclusive tips to pour perfection.
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Multiple data sets reveal that the espresso martini is one of the most in-demand cocktails of 2021—in fact, recent Yelp mentions of the drink have been up by 63%. If you've been curious to try making a pitcher at home, three of the country's top mixologists are providing exclusive tips for perfecting your espresso martini game.

Pandemic lockdown living led a massive wave of coffee drinkers to try their hands at making specialty coffee drinks. It seems this trend didn't stop at breakfast, according to Sarah Clark, beverage director at the Dearborn in Chicago. "As far as espresso martinis, we have absolutely seen this trend come back hard, to the extent that we keep cold, freshly brewed espresso behind the bar daily," Clark told Eat This, Not That!

A couple of Clark's Chicago colleagues agree, and were willing to share their exclusive espresso martini-making tips. Check out One Major Effect Coffee Has on Weight Loss, Dietitian Says, and keep reading for the pros' secrets. (Editor's note: Espresso martini images are representations of the cocktails served at these establishments.)

Balance flavors and richness.


Clark reveals how she gets around one common challenge with espresso martinis: "To really round out the espresso flavor without creating an overly bitter cocktail, I use Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur," she says. "It has a full, rich coffee flavor that is only enhanced by the actual espresso." Keep reading—Clark also shared the Dearborn's exact espresso martini recipe…

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The Dearborn's Espresso Martini Recipe


1.5 ounce Hangar One Vodka
1 ounce Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur
1 ounce espresso
0.25 ounce simple syrup

"Shake hard to mix everything and get the beautiful, frothy texture going," Clark advises. "Then pour into a martini glass, and garnish with some fresh espresso grounds sprinkled on top!"

Coffee fans—check out The One Spice Everyone Is Adding To Their Coffee. Then, our next mixologist suggested a slightly different approach for the coffee to keep onhand…

Cold brew is key.

Courtesy of La Colombe Coffee Roasters

At Wood, the six-time Michelin Bib Gourmand winner in the Chicago neighborhood of Northalsted, beverage director Jeremiah Duncan says he's noticed a 250% increase in espresso martini orders recently.

Duncan reveals that Wood uses La Colombe cold brew concentrate, after noticing that the addition of fresh, hot espresso made the beverage water down.

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Wood Chicago's Espresso Martini Recipe


2 ounces Prairie Organic Vodka, or vodka of choice ("We like Prairie because it's American-made and great quality for a reasonable price," Duncan says.)
1.5 ounce La Colombe Cold Brew Concentrate
1 ounce Borghetti Italian espresso liqueur
0.25 ounce Kringle Cream (You can substitute with Bailey's, but Duncan says Kringle cream liqueur, inspired by the famed Wisconsin pastry, delivers unique nutty, buttery flavors)
0.25 ounce simple sugar syrup (optional, if a bit of noticeable sweetness is preferred)
2 espresso/coffee beans

Prepare a chilled martini glass by keeping it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, or filling it with ice and cold water for five minutes.

Duncan's finishing touches? "Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. If available, place two espresso or coffee beans centered on top of the froth that forms."

Our third cocktail authority suggests the choice of spirits is as critical to these martinis as the espresso itself. (Prepping to entertain? Also read This Is the Worst Way To Drink Prosecco, According To Experts and The 5 Best New Low-Sugar Wines on Shelves.)

It's all about the base.


According to the Petros Papatheofanis, managing partner at Chicago's Press Room, the establishment's espresso martini is made with a cognac base, instead of the classic vodka or bourbon base. "The team notes it tastes much smoother and is very unique," says a Press Room spokesperson.

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The Press Room's Espresso Martini


2 ounces cognac
0.5 ounce Caffè Borghetti espresso liqueur
0.5 ounce creme de cacao
0.5 ounce espresso
0.25 ounce Demerara syrup
Shake and serve up with orange twist.

Before you get shaking those martinis like a whiz, check out:

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy