Shaken or stirred? The rise of the espresso martini

If you’ve never had an espresso martini, that’s probably because you don’t live in Australia. Still relatively unknown over here, this twist on a James Bond special (aimed at spies who’ve been out too late the night before, perhaps?) has had a meteoric rise down under. There’s even a special Espresso Martini festival, which now runs in Sydney, Melbourne…and London.

The origin of espresso martinis

That’s only fitting, as the Aussies may have laid claim to this alcoholic energy-booster, but it was in fact invented in the UK. London bartender Dick Bradsell, noted for his innovative work with cocktails, invented it in the 1980s in response to a request from a customer. The ingredients included vodka, coffee liqueur, sugar syrup and fresh, chilled espresso, and the result looks very like an Irish coffee.

The espresso martini soon found favour in Australia, probably due to its wide appeal. The Aussies love their coffee, and they’ve taken this ‘martini with a twist’ to their hearts. One busy Melbourne bar reckons that half of all the drinks they sell are now espresso martinis. In fact, the drink has become so mainstream that bartenders are experimenting with the original recipe of four ingredients, and adding their own signature twists. These include using a different base spirit, such as tequila or rum or even bourbon. Other tweaks include topping the mix with shaved white or dark chocolate. All are agreed, though, that the secret to the perfect espresso martini is using really good quality coffee. Don’t over-chill the coffee, either, as this can affect the flavour – make it fresh, and allow it to cool to room temperature before refrigerating for a few minutes only.

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