I drank my share of Cosmopolitans back in the day. Vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, lime, twist of lemon peel-- it was the stuff Fern bars were made of back in the 70s. The 90s brought us the ladies of Sex and the City who drank them just about every night it seemed. They finally stopped drinking them, said Carrie in the first film, “because everyone else started.” Modern bartenders have brought them back, now that nostalgia for the drinks of past eras all the rage. I think they’re poking a bit of fun at them (and the now old fogies who drank them way back when, myself included) but that’s ok, because these new craft cocktail bartenders are thinking up ways to improve upon the classic.
Same goes for the resurgence in popularity of another so-called martini from that era, the Espresso Martini, invented by the late Dick Bradsell in London back in the 80s. In a 2013 interview for www.thecocktaillovers.com, he said, “The coffee machine was next to where I made drinks — I added a double shot of vodka, Kahlua, Tia Maria, sugar, shaken with very, very strong coffee. That was when the drink was on the rocks, the Vodka Espresso. Years later at Match we served it straight up as the Espresso Martini.” I never drank them back then because for the most part they were heavy on the sweet stuff like Kahlua and sometimes even had a chocolate rim. The basic recipe from Dillard’s is 1.5 ounces vodka, 3⁄4 ounce espresso coffee, 3⁄4 ounce Kahlua and 1⁄3 ounce simple syrup, so yes, too sweet for me.
We’re in a new age for coffee, however, and a new age for cocktails. While you can certainly get your espresso martini (or brewed coffee substitute) with a salted caramel rim, bartenders are taking advantage of locally roasted coffee, hand crafted coffee liqueur and even cold brew coffee on nitro tap, so while back in the 80s I avoided the espresso martini, now that I’ve enjoyed the updated versions at craft cocktail bars like The Wilder in Portsmouth, NH, I’m a convert. Their martini is fully on draft, made with Nobl cold brew coffee, vodka, and Allen’s Coffee Brandy, a brandy made from the extract of imported coffee beans and produced nearby in Somerville, MA. They top it with a thin layer or Bailey’s infused whipped cream, so there’s just a hint of sweetness under which the nutty, rich coffee flavor comes through. Artisan coffee liqueurs like Allen’s are all over the country now so seek out the version made by your local craft distiller now that we all have one! The Espresso Martini on the Allen’s website is simply 1 part Allen’s and 2.5 parts vanilla vodka. Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Top with espresso beans.
I’ve been experimenting with some recipes at home, swapping out vodka for gin or even rum, both of which turned out well, and using many different cold brew coffees you can now get in bottles and cans. Shaking it all up so there’s a nice foam on top is key, or add that very thin layer of flavored whipped cream. With both the espresso and cold brew martini, I’ve experimented with the liqueur, too, and used Giffard’s Banana de Bresil instead. It was delicious!
Basic Espresso Martini
2 oz. vodka of choice
1.5 oz. coffee liqueur of choice, or any liqueur.
1 oz. espresso
Pour the vodka, liqueur and espresso into a cocktail shaker. Fill the martini or coupe glass with ice to chill. Fill the cocktail shaker with ice, top with other half of shaker and shake until you can shake no more so the ice breaks up to create the froth. Remove the shaker top and strain the liquid into the martini or coupe glass. Garnish with espresso beans.
Basic Cold Brew Martini
There are now many cold brew coffees available right in your local supermarket, but it’s great to try the one your local coffee house makes, too.They’re all so different. This recipe is pretty much like the straight espresso one, but keep reading for something more out of the box.
2 oz cold brew coffee
½ oz simple syrup
2 oz vodka
1 oz coffee liqueur
3 coffee beans for garnish
Mix the cold brew, simple syrup, vodka, and liqueur in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and top with three whole coffee beans.
Cold Brew Colada
Adapted from Soho House, Toronto
2 oz Cold Brew
1 oz White Rum
1 oz spiced or dark rum
1 oz coconut creme
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake all ingredients together and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple.
Rachel’s No. 3
I used what was on hand in our liquor cabinet to make this tasty before-dinner drink
2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. cold brew coffee
1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes mole bitters
Shake all with ice and strain into chilled glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
—Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner and cookbook author who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire and Austin, Texas. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com