The Espresso Martini is a modern classic cocktail made with coffee, Kahlua, and vodka! It’s ideal as a pick-me-up or after dinner drink.

Espresso martini

Coffee lovers, here’s the cocktail for you! Meet the Espresso Martini. This one is an ideal pick-me-up for a lazy afternoon or an after dinner drink…it even doubles as dessert! Bittersweet coffee pairs perfectly with the rich sweetness of Kahlua. Add vodka and the trio makes a full-flavored sophisticated drink that tastes like much more than the sum of its parts. It’s cool, frothy, and just sweet enough. Watch out: these go down easy.

What’s an Espresso Martini?

The Espresso Martini is a vodka martini mixed with coffee, invented in 1983. A bartender at the Soho Brasserie in London named Dick Bradsell created the drink for a patron who asked for a drink to wake her up. (There was more to that quote…here’s the full story.) Apparently the coffee machine was right next to the drink station, and the Espresso Martini was born. The name came later, in the 1990’s when flavored martinis were all the rage.

There are lots of variations on exactly how to make this coffee martini. The original version had two types of coffee liqueur and simple syrup. Today it varies based on on the bartender. This cocktail is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning that it has an “official” definition. The ingredients in an Espresso Martini are:

  • Vodka
  • Kahlua or coffee liqueur
  • Espresso or strong coffee
Espresso martini

Where’s the simple syrup?

Many Espresso Martini recipes have simple syrup, including the official IBA definition. But we found that extra sweetener isn’t necessary. This cocktail is sweet sweet enough with the Kahlua alone (promise).

How to make an Espresso Martini

The only part about an Espresso Martini that takes some time is making the coffee. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for it to cool. Wait a few minutes until it’s warm, then shake it up. Here’s how to make a coffee martini:

  • Make the coffee. Make a shot of espresso using an espresso maker or in an Aeropress. Or, you can make a very strong cup of coffee (we use the Chemex or Aeropress).
  • Shake in a cocktail shaker. Place the Kahlua, vodka and still warm coffee in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake (Don’t have one? Use a mason jar!)
  • Strain into a glass and garnish. Strain into a martini glass and top with coffee beans, the traditional garnish.

What is Kahlua, anyway?

Kahlua is a pretty widely known liqueur…but what actually is it made of? Here’s what to know about this coffee liqueur:

  • Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s made in Mexico. It’s made with rum, sugar and coffee. It does have some caffeine, but only about 25% as much as the same volume of coffee.
  • Is Kahlua dairy free? Yes! The standard version of Kahlua has only rum, sugar and coffee: no cream. Even though it’s got a frothy top, this drink is vegan and plant-based.
  • How much does Kahlua cost? It costs about $20 per bottle.
  • What are some substitutes for Kahlua? You can also use other types of coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Sheridan’s.
  • What other cocktails use Kahlua? Use it to make Kahlua drinks like the White Russian, Black Russian or Mudslide.

Does an Espresso Martini have caffeine?

Yes! This coffee martini has caffeine from the coffee and the Kahlua. The espresso contributes 64 mg caffeine and the Kahula 2.5 mg, for a total of about 66 mg in this drink. This is about 70% the amount of caffeine in 1 cup of coffee (95 mg).

More coffee cocktails

Are you into spiked coffee? (We are.) Boozy coffee drinks combine the beautiful bittersweet flavor of coffee into fantastic mixed drinks. Here are some of our favorite coffee cocktails:

  • White Russian or Black Russian This classic cocktail made with vodka and Kahlua hits the spot anytime and in any season. Make the classic version (Black) or the creamy one (White).
  • Amaretto Coffee This spiked hot drink is part cocktail, part dessert: and you won’t be able to stop sipping it.
Espresso martini

When to serve an Espresso Martini

The Espresso Martini works before dinner, after dinner, or anytime in between. Serve it as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Afternoon cocktail
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Girls or guys night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Espresso martini

Best Espresso Martini

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Espresso Martini is a modern classic cocktail made with coffee, Kahlua, and vodka! It’s ideal as a pick-me-up or after dinner drink.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) vodka
  • ¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons) Kahlua or coffee liqueur
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) warm espresso or strong coffee
  • Coffee beans, for the garnish


  1. Make the espresso in an espresso maker or an Aeropress, or make very strong coffee.
  2. Add the vodka, Kahula and espresso to a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake vigorously until cold.
  3. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with coffee beans.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Espresso martini

More vodka martini recipes

Flavored martinis are a modern invention: built on the vodka martini. Most of them drop the vermouth…so they’re hardly a Classic Martini at all! Here are some of our favorite flavored martini recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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