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I Tried 5 Ready-to-Drink Espresso Martinis & One Was a Clear Winner

Our writer tasted several varieties of the popular caffeinated cocktail to find the best one.
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The espresso martini isn't a new cocktail. In fact, it was created in the 1980s in London, as the story goes, but its popularity has skyrocketed in the past few years. Like many other styles of cocktails, there are now a variety of ready-to-drink options you can grab off the shelf at your local grocery store.

A traditional version is made with espresso, vodka, and coffee liquor, but like any cocktail, bartenders have taken liberties over the years. When it comes to the ready-to-drink market, varieties vary from super sweet to super boozy to… "Wait, are you sure this is even an espresso martini?"

Surprisingly, I had a difficult time finding a ton of varieties out there. Specifically, I could not locate the popular Cutwater, Rancho La Gloria, or Into the Night brands in my area. I'm not sure if it's the Chicago market or what.

To test all of them in the same way, I refrigerated each one and then shook it in a cocktail shaker with ice before pouring it into a glass. Any espresso martini is better when it's super cold. Here are five popular brands, ranked from my least favorite to the very best.

On the Rocks Espresso Martini

a bottle of on the rocks espresso martini next to a glass
Photo: Samantha Lande, Eat This, Not That!
NUTRITION: (Per 2.5-oz. Serving)
FAT: 0 g
CARBS: 5.2 g

I've had a lot of bad ready-to-drink cocktails in my journey as a writer and this ranks up there with one of the worst. On The Rocks brand cocktails are everywhere, certainly the easiest to find of all the ones I tasted. This one is made with Effen Vodka and espresso coffee liqueur, coming in at 20% ABV with just three milligrams of caffeine. Unfortunately, it paled in comparison to the rest of the contenders, even at only $12.99 for 375-milliliter bottle.

The look: The martini was a rich brown in color, seemingly how it should look for a good espresso martini.

The taste: There was nothing good about this cocktail. The mouth feel was very thin and it left a strange lingering aftertaste. You could tell no real espresso was used in the making of this cocktail, it tasted incredibly artificial. This was just a hard no for me.

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Vitani Espresso Martini

a bottle of vitani espresso martini next to a glass of it
Photo: Samantha Lande, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition information unavailable

Vitani was a hard one to rank because the flavor was good but my tasters and I all agreed that it did not look or taste much like your traditional espresso martini. The brand is a bit elusive about what exactly is in it, stating only "premium vodka and liqueur infused with natural flavors and caramel color." It weighs in at 17% ABV. You can purchase a four-pack of 200-milliliter bottles for $14.99.

The look: This was a light caramel color, essentially like a coffee with creamer. Again, not like your typical espresso martini appearance.

The taste: I didn't hate the taste. It was almost like a boozy version of a Frappuccino or Dunkaccino or whatever sweet coffee drink you prefer. If I were to compare it to a cocktail, it gave more of a White Russian vibe. It didn't taste bad, it just tasted more like dessert than an espresso martini.

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Bols Espresso Martini

a bottle of bols espresso martini next to a glass
Photo: Samantha Lande, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition information unavailable.

Bols wants you to know that it was the world's first cocktail brand. It's written right there on the packaging. Does first mean best? Not necessarily in this case, but it was significantly better than some of the other options I tried. This version is made with Bols' own vodka and coffee liqueur, plus sugar syrup (which I am guessing is some sort of simple syrup). It clocks in at 14.9% ABV and comes in an opaque 375-milliliter screw top bottle that will make three to four cocktails, costing around $11 at the store.

The look: A rich brown, much like you'd expect.

The taste: This was a little too sweet for my personal preferences but it didn't taste artificial like some of the others. It's the sweetness that would prevent me from drinking too many, but it's a good option for a quick-fix espresso martini.

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Ketel One Espresso Martini

a bottle of ketel one espresso martini next to a glass of it
Photo: Samantha Lande, Eat This, Not That!
NUTRITION: (Per 2.5 Fl. Oz. Serving):
FAT: 0g
CARBS: 7.2 g

It's likely that this Ketel One cocktail draws in a lot of consumers simply because of people liking the brand's vodka. The opaque, 375-milliliter bottle is nicely designed, making you think you scored a fancy pick for $13.99. It's made with Ketel One vodka, of course, and coffee liqueur, clocking in at 20.1% ABV. It also contains caramel color. This to me is a far second place to our winner, but some of the other testers enjoyed this one the most, so it holds firmly in second place.

The look: This was the darkest and thickest of the espresso martinis we tried.

The taste: The first sip was very sweet and slightly offensive but after you got past that, it left a nice lingering aftertaste. It's a bit syrupy, so I didn't love the texture but it doesn't contain any bitter coffee notes and is better balanced than some of the other picks.

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Tip Top Espresso Martini

a can of tip top espresso martini next to a glass of it
Photo: Samantha Lande, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 100-ml Can)
Calories: 164
Sugars: 8 g

Tip Top cocktails are mini in size—this tiny can is only 100 milliliters—but boy do they know how to pack a punch. Each can is meant to equal one cocktail. This version is made with vanilla, vodka, and espresso from Counter Culture coffee out of Durham, N.C.. At 22% ABV, it is certainly the most boozy of the bunch, and also the most coffee-tasting. It's likely the only version to actually use real espresso instead of coffee liqueur. A four-pack will cost you $21.49.

The look: A nice chocolate brown, slightly lighter than some of the other picks.

The taste: Admittedly a coffee snob, I want to be able to taste some coffee in my espresso martini and this delivers. If you don't like a strong coffee taste, this could be a bit of a turn off. It's a well-balanced proper cocktail with a slight hint of vanilla and the clear winner in my book.

Samantha Lande
Samantha is a freelance writer who covers food, health, wellness and other lifestyle subjects. Read more about Samantha