Since a certain spy first requested his Martinis with vodka, in place of gin, the name of that classic cocktail has been erroneously applied to just about anything served neat in a cone-shaped glass with a stem. (The latest ersatz invention is the Veltini, made with a trademarked cheese spread.) But one variant worthy of the name—despite its lack of gin or even vermouth—is the Espresso Martini.
The drink actually started life in 1983 with the more legitimate name of the Vodka Espresso. The legendary Dick Bradswell of London’s Soho Brasserie concocted it, supposedly at the behest of a supermodel who requested both a pick-me-up and a lay-me-out in one glass. Fashionable nomenclature later dictated the present name. (It’s also been called a Pharmaceutical Stimulant when served in one of those little cups from which nurses dole out pills.)
The drink is more complex than it sounds as it also includes coffee liqueur and sweetener. Typically, low-proof, rum-based Tia Maria or Kahlúa are tapped for the former, but Destillaire Café, made with brandy, adds twice the kick. Simple syrup is the standard sugar, however, that too is negotiable. What purists insist on is fresh espresso with a lush crema topping, the problem being you’ll need lots of ice to cool it down. We won’t tell if you use cold-brew coffee concentrate, which is also less bitter. Choose coffee beans or a lemon twist garnish—just please no olives.
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. coffee liqueur
1 oz. espresso
1 tsp. simple syrup, honey or no sweetener
Shake all ingredients over ice in a Hawthorne shaker until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with coffee beans or a lemon twist.