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The Espresso Martini is a classic cocktail made with coffee, Kahlua, and vodka. Smooth and creamy, it’s the perfect pick-me-up for any occasion!

Espresso Martini in cocktail glass topped with 3 coffee beans
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Oh hello, Espresso Martini. This 1980’s cocktail vaulted into popularity in 2021, and it’s easy to see why. Bittersweet coffee pairs perfectly with the rich sweetness of Kahlua—add vodka and it makes a sophisticated drink that’s cool, frothy, and bittersweet!

Why we love this recipe: Alex and I are cocktail experts with over 300 cocktail recipes in our library, and we’re homemade coffee drink enthusiasts. As you might expect, this combination of both is a fast favorite over here. We love mixing up this frothy, cool, bittersweet drink for friends and family—or ourselves, for a fun at-home date night!

Espresso Martini ingredients

The Espresso Martini is a vodka martini made with coffee, known for its rich flavor and frothy topping. It was invented in 1983 by bartender Dick Bradsell in London for a customer who asked for a drink to wake her up. Apparently the coffee machine was right next to the drink station, and the Espresso Martini was born!

There are several variations on what a Espresso Martini recipe looks like. The original version had two types of coffee liqueur and simple syrup. Today, it really varies based on on the bartender. Per the International Bartender Association’s list of IBA official cocktails, the Espresso Martini ingredients are:

  • Vodka
  • Kahlua or coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Sheridan
  • Espresso or double strength coffee or cold brew concentrate
  • Simple syrup

How to make an Espresso Martini

The only part about an Espresso Martini that takes some time is making the coffee. Otherwise, it’s a simple formula of shake and strain. Here’s how to make an espresso martini:

Ristretto vs long shot

Step 1: Make the espresso using an espresso maker (or French Press). Or, use 2 tablespoons double strength coffee or cold brew concentrate. Place the coffee in the freezer until it is room temperature. 

Espresso Martini ingredients

Step 2: Place the espresso, 2 oz vodka, 1 oz Kahlua, and ½ oz simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 handful ice and shake until cold.

Espresso Martini in cocktail glass

Step 3: Strain into a martini glass. Top with coffee beans, the traditional garnish.

Variation: an Espresso martini without simple syrup

Simple syrup rounds out the flavors in this Espresso Martini and makes for a balanced drink. Even though we’re not big sweet cocktail fans, we like this one with added sweetness. However, try this if you prefer less sweetness:

  • Use half the simple syrup, which still lets the flavors shine.
  • Make an Espresso Martini recipe with no simple syrup. Kahlua has added sugar, so combining it with vodka and espresso still makes for a sweet and balanced drink.

Coffee making methods

To add the coffee to an Espresso Martini, there are a few different coffee making methods:

  • Espresso: You can use an espresso machine or portable espresso maker to make an espresso shot. You can also use non-traditional tools like making French press espresso.
  • Strong coffee or Moka Pot: Simply make strong coffee using double the grounds of your regular method. You can also use a Moka Pot (Bialetti) to make strong coffee that has a flavor in between espresso and coffee.
  • Cold brew concentrate: You can also make an Espresso Martini using cold brew concentrate, either purchased or homemade. This has the added benefit of already being chilled! The concentrate is very strong and has a similar flavor to espresso (make sure not to water it down before using).

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 Kahlua 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).

Frozen variation

Want to make a fun frosty spin on this drink that’s even easier to make? Try the Frozen Espresso Martini! This recipe makes 2 to 3 drinks in a blender and it’s so frosty and delicious. It’s perfect for summer, but we like to drink it in any season.

Frozen Espresso Martini

All about Kahlua

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. The standard Kahlua is dairy-free, vegan and plant-based: it contains only rum, sugar and coffee.
  • 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.
Espresso martini in cocktail glass with coffee beans

More coffee cocktails

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

Want more cocktail ideas? The Espresso Martini is on our list of the top 50 Most Popular Cocktails.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need an espresso machine to make an Espresso Martini?

While freshly brewed espresso is ideal for the most authentic flavor, you can use strong brewed coffee or even cold brew concentrate as a substitute. Just make sure it’s chilled before adding it to the cocktail shaker.

What’s the best way to get a frothy top on my Espresso Martini?

The key to a good froth is shaking the cocktail vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker.

What are the three coffee beans on top for?

The three coffee beans are a traditional garnish for Espresso Martinis. They are said to represent health, wealth, and happiness. Some people also believe the number three is a symbol of luck.

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Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
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The Espresso Martini is a classic cocktail made with coffee, Kahlua, and vodka. Smooth and creamy, it’s the perfect pick-me-up for any occasion! Here’s how to make it.




  1. Make the espresso or strong coffee. Place it in the freezer until room temperature. 
  2. Add the vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake vigorously until cold.
  3. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with coffee beans.


*Simple syrup rounds out the flavors and makes for a balanced, sweet drink. For a less sweet spin, you can use ¼ oz or make an Espresso Martini without simple syrup entirely.

To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons. 

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Joseph Ryan says:

    I love mine with a dash of creamy Baileys

  2. Chipper Food says:

    My favourite drink…

  3. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!