Skip to main content

The best espresso martinis aren’t made with vodka

Why you shouldn't use vodka for an espresso martini

Espresso martini cocktail
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Here’s a hot take for today: the best espresso martini recipe doesn’t contain any vodka. Now, before you vodka fans come for me for that opinion, let me lay out my justifications — and what I think you should use instead.

Vodka is a popular choice for classic martinis, along with or instead of gin. That makes sense when you’re mixing just two ingredients, vodka and dry vermouth, as the aim is to create a tart, sharp, boozy drink that feels decadent in the way only a classic martini does. I prefer the flavors that come through from a gin-based martini myself, but one thing I can absolutely appreciate about vodka is the texture or mouthfeel that it brings. When really cold, vodka becomes thick and almost chewy and adds a great texture to a drink that works well for a classic martini.

An espresso martini, however, is quite a different beast. The typical espresso martini calls for coffee liqueur, fresh espresso, and vodka and is often sweetened with sugar syrup or flavored syrups. Between the thick coffee liqueur and the additional syrups, this drink doesn’t benefit much from the texture of the vodka. So, the vodka is mostly there to provide the booze—giving a backbone to the cocktail and bringing in those sharp alcohol notes.

And while there are plenty of good, quality vodkas that do have interesting flavor profiles, these flavors tend to be subtle and are easily lost in a busy, sweet cocktail like the espresso martini. So why not use a different spirit instead, one that brings a more robust flavor?

The liquor you should try for an espresso martini

That’s why my choice of spirit for an espresso martini is spiced rum. Spiced rum tends to be pretty sweet, so there’s no need to add additional sweeteners, but it brings a rich molasses flavor and notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. Those all go wonderfully with coffee and add to the drink’s rich complexity.

If you’re not convinced, try it out! I like to use three parts spiced rum to two parts fresh espresso and one part coffee liqueur, shaken well with an egg white or aquafaba to create a nice foam. Add a little pinch of salt or some salted caramel syrup if you have a really sweet tooth, and enjoy this spicier take on the ever-popular cocktail.

Georgina Torbet
Georgina Torbet is a cocktail enthusiast based in Berlin, with an ever-growing gin collection and a love for trying out new…
These are the best flavored vodkas to mix with this summer
Add some flavor to your vodka cocktails
Vodka cocktail

At its most basic, vodka is expected to be a flavorless, neutral spirit that’s distilled multiple times and filtered to remove impurities and flavor. The result is a spirit that was crafted to be used exclusively as a mixer.

But just because many vodka makers strive to make their spirit as neutral as possible, this doesn’t mean vodka is devoid of flavor. Even with all of those distillations and filterings, the underlying ingredients shine through. Potato-based vodkas will still have a creamy, starchy flavor. Wheat-based vodkas will still be soft and sweet. Rye-based vodkas will still have a hint of peppery spice.

Read more
Cask finishing isn’t only for whiskey, as this new gin release shows
Copperworks has a new cask finished gin to release
copperworks cask finished gin spanish brandy 1

While you might think of cask finishing as something primarily used for bourbons and other whiskeys, the same principle can be applied to other spirits too, including gins. Leaving any spirit in a wooden barrel for a period of months will add in woody, spicing flavors that can be a beautiful addition to a more complex drinking experience. That's the principle behind a new release of cask finished gin from the Copperworks Distilling Co.

The new Copperworks Spanish Brandy Cask Finished Gin has been aged in brandy and whiskey casks, which gives it a rich copper color that makes it look more like a whiskey than what you'd expect from a gin. But it has the flavors of juniper and pine that you'd expect from a gin, along with woody notes and hints of lime and cinnamon.

Read more
These are the best canned cocktails to enjoy this summer
Make it a ready-to-drink summer
Tip top cocktails

When summer rolls around, sometimes we love a fresh, flavorful cocktail as we wind down the day. But often, we just don’t have the time to stop at the store and grab fresh herbs, freshly squeezed juice, and other ingredients before making a second stop at the liquor store to grab a few bottles of booze. That’s where ready-to-drink cocktails (or RTDs) come in.
What’s a ready-to-drink cocktail?

In the simplest terms, a ready-to-drink cocktail is exactly as it seems. RTDs are single-serve, pre-packaged, pre-mixed cocktails. You crack open a bottle or a can and everything is already in there. If you’re getting a legit ready-to-drink cocktail, it will have a base of vodka, whiskey, or whatever spirit is in the cocktail and the other ingredients in your favorite drinks. Whatever cocktail you enjoy, there’s like a ready-to-drink cocktail version waiting for you to discover. Old Fashioneds, Mojitos, Margaritas, Moscow Mules, there’s an RTD version of it made by someone.

Read more