An Espresso Celebration
Let's Lift Your SpiritsThursday, September 02, 2021
The New York Times has declared, “The Espresso Martini is Everywhere.” It has in fact become one of the most in-demand cocktails for 2021 trending as a bonafide cocktail. Popular online directory Yelp' s mentions of the drink have been up by 63%. Reason enough, we reckon, to raise a toast with it today, National Espresso Martini Day.
It wasn't until the late '80s that the Espresso Martini was born, crafted by a bartender named Dick Bradsell at a Soho Brasserie in London called Fred's Club. Some time later the cocktail began showing up on cocktail menus sometimes as a “vodka espresso”, later evolving into an “espresso martini” and becoming a buzzy sensation in the '90s.
A well-made, vigorously shaken espresso martini can be a delightful intro to a night out or a foamy finish to a meal. The classic recipe for this frothy concoction is freshly brewed or cold brewed espresso, coffee liqueur (like Tia Maria, Kahlúa Original, or a little Patrón XO) and vodka, shaken and served in a chilled martini glass with three roasted coffee beans as a garnish. It's intensely rich and smooth, creamy, and velvety.
Recently, this cocktail made cameos on at least two Bravo reality shows: Summer House and Below Deck. There have also been canned versions released in the last couple of years to add to its success and popularity. Pandemic lockdown living has driven at-home mixology and the matrimony of vodka and coffee.
What is espresso, though? Whilst this is rum country, coffee is the black gold that runs through our veins! The best in the world! Espresso is a coffee brewing method. It's a shot of concentrated coffee made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee using pressure (around nine bars) hence the name espresso shot. A single espresso shot can be ordered from Café Blue, Starbucks, other coffee shops and some restaurants, and takes mere seconds to make. Using high pressure to make an espresso creates intense flavour compounds that you can't get with brewed coffee.
BARISTA'S TIP: Most coffee shops serve espresso with a small spoon called a demitasse. The crema on top of an espresso is often much more bitter than the liquid below, so the spoon helps to incorporate the flavours. If you're not convinced, take your spoon and just scoop a small amount of the crema on its own. The experience will be mind-blowing!
Usually, espresso beans are dark roasted, but there is no one way to roast coffee for espresso. You can use the same coffee for both brewed coffee and espresso, but the grind has to be much finer than brewed coffee (usually indicated on the package “extra fine” grind). For all my home mixologists, coffee-loving and coffee-curious readers, here are some tips for experimenting with coffee cocktails at home, and in particular, an espresso martini. Don't worry if you don't have an espresso machine. The best cocktails are made with cold brew. First, buy coffee! If you can't find an extra-fine grind, buy any whole beans and grind them to an extra-fine grind. There are so many wonderful brands of coffee to choose from like Rock Steady, Café Blue, Coffee Roasters, Coffee Traders, Greenwich, Stoneleigh and Twyman's, to name a few.
To make the best espresso martini you need to balance the flavours and richness of the espresso coffee. Brew for a full and rich coffee flavour without creating bitterness. Cold brew is key as fresh brew may water down the final product. For cold brew, I'd recommend anywhere from 1 part coffee to 4 parts cold water, or 1 part coffee to 2 parts cold water (if you are doing a concentrate). Mix in a jar, cover, and let sit for 12 hours. Then strain. My coffee recommendation is the Coffee Roasters Café Espresso Jamaican Coffee Blend - Dark Roast, Extra Fine Grind. This coffee is a regular at home and I love it for its bold richness and chocolate notes.
A good base. The classic calls for vodka, and some even make it with bourbon. There are those who make it with cognac giving it a unique smoothness. The richness and complexity of cognac and the caramel undertones that it acquires while aging add dynamic layers when paired with espresso in a martini. The overall effect is a cocktail with more depth, warmth, and a complicated sweetness that elevates what is usually a simple drink. Liquor.com suggests adding 2 ounces vodka, ½ ounce coffee liqueur, 1 ounce of espresso (preferably cold brew concentrate) and ½ ounce simple syrup (or agave syrup) to a shaker filled with ice, and to shake until well-chilled. Then strain it into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a few coffee beans as the finishing touches.
Although not as popular in Jamaica as in New York Masala Wok in Kingston serves a good espresso martini, Mystic Thai a solid chocolate espresso martini and Strawberry Hill will make on request. The AC Hotel also makes on request and according to a recent Cocktails With in the Style Observer which featured guest Brittany Wiltshire makes an excellent espresso martini.
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