Amidst the vibrant ambience of early 1980 Soho, bartender Dick Bradsell had a groundbreaking revelation that would revolutionise the English cocktail scene. Blending vodka, coffee, and coffee liqueur, Bradsell crafted the iconic Espresso Martini, forever reshaping the social landscape of Soho's club culture. Bradsell, a visionary mixologist, swiftly found himself at the forefront of Britain's burgeoning cocktail industry, lending his expertise to iconic establishments such as The Colony Room Club, Soho Brasserie, The Zanzibar, The Groucho Club, Fred’s Club, The Atlantic Bar & Grill, or even the Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy.
Throughout the 1990s, the cocktail underwent a metamorphosis, transitioning from a niche creation savoured by Bradsell and his inner circle, to becoming the characteristic symbol at any given London bar and members' club. This evolution coincided with the simultaneous rise of American cocktail culture and European coffee culture in the capital. With its invigorating blend of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, the Espresso Martini emerged as the definitive choice of poison for Britpop luminaries, young British artists, supermodels, and gossip-column journalists alike.
Similar to the mystique surrounding all great heroes, the origin story of the Espresso Martini is veiled in uncertainty. According to the tale, Bradsell spontaneously concocted the cocktail using residual coffee grounds from a nearby machine for a muse often rumoured to be either Naomi Campbell or Kate Moss. Reportedly, this enigmatic figure strolled into his bar and made the request for “something to wake me up, then f**k me up”. This prompted Bradsell to whip up the first Espresso Martini on the spot.
Propagated worldwide by British bartenders, several of whom were directly mentored by Bradsell, the Espresso Martini has now established itself as a cross-cultural icon. It is said to be the most-requested cocktail in Australia. London, paying homage to the drink's legacy, annually hosts a five-day Espresso Martini festival since 2017, which only goes to underscore the enduring appeal and widespread influence of this cherished concoction.
Interestingly, there is a significance of the three coffee beans used as a garnish for the Espresso Martini. These coffee beans serve as the signature touch of the cocktail, each symbolising happiness, wealth and health. This tradition draws inspiration from the customary presentation of Sambuca in Italy, where the beans are known as "con la mosca," translating to "with the fly." While a peculiar term, it refers to the coffee beans accompanying the drink. Whether to chew and consume the coffee beans in both cocktails is entirely a matter of personal preference. One of the major reasons behind the growing popularity of the cocktail is that it is the perfect blend of alcohol and coffee – a double whammy of energy bursts. With the sharp acidity of the vodka and the earthy coffee notes, Espresso Martini takes your palate on a wild, whirlwind journey.
Add vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso and simple syrup to a shaker filled with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled Martini glass.
Garnish with coffee beans.