Vanilla Espresso Martinis
A slight twist on a classic festive drink that’s a simple way to mix things up! This vanilla espresso martini is smooth, easy to drink, and certainly boozy.
All you need is 5 ingredients and 5 minutes to make it. A quick and simple drink that will get you into the festive spirit.
I don’t normally drink cocktails, but this one won me over. Happy hour at home anyone?
What exactly is an espresso martini?
An espresso martini is not a true martini as it doesn’t contain gin or vermouth like traditional martinis do. However, there are many other drinks out there that also don’t quite stick to traditions.
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This drink was created back in the ’80s by a London-based bartender, Dick Bradsel. He was asked by a woman, which some claim was Kate Moss, to create a drink that would “wake me up, and f*ck me up”!
The drink was first titled The Vodka Espresso and has since changed to what we now know as an Espresso Martini.
The espresso martini is a cold coffee-based cocktail that includes vodka, espresso coffee, and a coffee-based liquor. The two most popular choices are Kahlua and Tia Maria.
It is known for its crema top with three coffee beans added as a garnish.
Health, wealth, and happiness are used by every bartender when garnishing this espresso martini when dropping in the coffee beans. This is why you’ll find three of them.
How do you get a good crema on an espresso martini?
It’s easy to get a creamy top with a few simple tips.
The main thing is to make sure you shake it vigorously with ice and for 30 seconds to a minute. The longer you shake, the better the creamy topping.
The hardest part is to make sure that your hands don’t lose feeling in the process. I’m serious. I find that after 20 seconds, I struggle to keep shaking with the shaker that I have at home. It’s a super basic cocktail shaker that I picked up at my local hospitality store. After that, I normally pass it to my husband Michael to bring it home.
If all else fails, I take a tea towel and hold that so my hands can handle the cold.
How to make a vanilla espresso martini
The beauty of this cocktail is that it’s done in 5 minutes from start to finish. In this recipe, we wanted to keep it super simple. So, no need to make a sugar syrup, warm up ingredients, or prepare anything ahead of time.
In fact, you’ll get the best results when you make it and serve it immediately.
You’ll need a cocktail shaker for this recipe. If you drink cocktails, it’s a staple bit of equipment to have on hand.
To get started, fill your cocktail shaker with ⅔ ice or as close to that as you can get.
Then add in the vodka, coffee liquor, espresso, vanilla, and maple syrup.
Make sure all parts of your shaker are secured and shake vigorously for approximately 30 seconds to a minute. A word of caution, which I mentioned earlier, your hands will get very cold! Just as you feel like you’ve lost all feeling, they’re ready.
Immediately pour into two martini glasses (or glasses of choice) to maximise the creamy, frothy top. Pour in parts to make sure they’re even. If your shaker doesn’t have an in-built strainer, use a strainer to catch the ice and the vanilla pod from entering the glass.
If done correctly, you will find after a few moments that the martini will separate to create a layer of foam on top (as pictured).
You can garnish with a few coffee beans and a vanilla pod as decoration or just enjoy it as is!
See, how simple is that?!
How can you substitute vanilla bean?
You certainly can if you don’t have access to a vanilla bean pod. Here’s the guide on how best to substitute 1 vanilla bean pod:
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (best alternative). However, check the jar for equivalent substitutes as each brand is slightly different.
- 1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract (not essence). This again will vary from brand to brand.
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder. Another great alternative.
Why are not all espresso martinis vegan?
There are two reasons why a vanilla espresso martini might not be vegan. The coffee-based liquor used and the type of sweet syrup used.
Kahlua is the number one choice for this cocktail, however, it’s not vegan. It has been confirmed that the brand uses non-organic American-made sugar, which is not vegan because US sugar is processed using bone char. Crazy, right?!
So, if you want to keep your drink vegan, use an alternative like Tia Maria or other coffee liquors. We love Mr. Black here in Australia.
The other factor to keep in mind is that some recipes may use honey-based syrups. This is why we use maple syrup to sweeten it as it’s a delicious alternative and has that syrup consistency.
Other holiday recipes you’ll love:
- Trifle Cups with Berries
- Tiramisu (Gluten-Free)
- Vegan Mulled Wine
- Spiced Roasted Pumpkin with Farro and Hummus
- Speculaas Cookies (Dutch Spiced Cookies)
- Creamy Coconut, Lime & Lychee Mocktail
If you try this recipe, let me know! I’d love for you to leave a comment and rating below. If you want to go that extra mile, tag us on Instagram or share your photo of the recipe on Pinterest.Print
Vanilla Espresso Martinis
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 2
These vanilla espresso martinis are smooth, bold, and a great twist on a classic drink that’s a perfect way to celebrate the holidays!
- 60ml / 2 ounces vodka
- 60ml / 2 ounces coffee liquor*
- 60ml / 2 ounces cooled espresso* (2 shots)
- 1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup,* optional
- 6 coffee beans
- 2 vanilla bean pods
- In a cocktail shaker, fill ⅔ with ice, and add all ingredients (including the vanilla bean pod that the seeds have been scraped out of).
- Make sure all parts of the shaker are secured and shake vigorously for approximately 30 seconds to a minute. Your hand will get very cold!
- Immediately pour into 2 martini glasses. Do this in parts to make sure that they’re even. If your shaker doesn’t have an in-built strainer, use a strainer to catch the ice and vanilla pod from entering the glass. If done correctly, you will find after a few moments that the martini will separate to create a layer of crema on top.
- Garnish with coffee beans and a vanilla pod on each glass (if desired).
- Enjoy straight away.
Coffee liquor: Kahula is commonly used, however, it’s not vegan (see why earlier in the post). A great alternative is Tia Maria or Mr. Black here in Australia. Ask the staff at your local bottle shop if you need clarification for the best vegan-friendly liquor to use.
Espresso: We used percolator coffee from the stove, but you can use whatever coffee is available to you. This could be espresso, percolator coffee, or strong instant coffee. It is important that it’s cooled so it doesn’t melt the ice and dilute your martinis. You can also find pre-packaged cold-brew coffee in some bottle shops for making cocktails like this one.
Maple syrup: Use it at your discretion as this will depend on how sweet the coffee liquor is and how you like your drinks. If you like it sweet, add it in.
Please drink responsibly.