I have never been keen on flavoured Martinis, but our recent dinner at the Porthminster Café in St Ives featured an Espresso Martini on the menu. Seeing as I had started the meal with their Dark & Stormy, it seemed like a very good idea to try their coffee-based Martini as a post-dinner drink. The menu gave few clues to the ingredients, but my understanding of the original Dick Bradsell creation is that it shouldn’t feature many in the first place: a decent vodka, freshly-made espresso coffee and sugar syrup, and a touch of coffee liqueur, all shaken until you have a thick crema on the top of the cocktail, then strained into a glass. The result is an instant pick-me-up. The Porthminster’s version was beautifully made, right down to the classic three coffee beans on the foamy head. You wouldn’t want to drink more than one, but as a way to finish a meal, it was perfect.
On reading Tristan Stephenson’s book, The Curious Bartender, I noticed his recipe omits the coffee liqueur. I’d be interested to know why; perhaps he finds it too sweet, but you could always lessen the quantity of sugar syrup to compensate for this.
Update: I looked at the recipe in Richard Godwin’s The Spirits, to find he, too, omitted the coffee liqueur. So that’s two votes against. Goodwin’s argument is that if the espresso is good and you have the sugar syrup, then you don’t need the liqueur. I understand, but I’d rather omit the sugar & use a really good coffee liqueur – like Borghetti (see below).
50ml of good vodka (Grey Goose I believe)
20ml of fresh espresso coffee (preferably a mix of robusta & arabica beans)
15ml of sugar syrup (rich or simple, to your taste)
8ml of coffee liqueur (Kahlua I think was used here, but I prefer Borghetti)
Glass: 3oz Martini glass, chilled
Shake well in a shaker over ice, then strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with three coffee beans in the centre of the glass.
Update: Checking the menu at the Café, I spotted a detail that I had missed: the syrup was Tonka bean syrup. That explains the rich vanilla-y flavour that the cocktail had, as Tonka beans are like vanilla with knobs on. It is one of the major flavour components of Abbott’s bitters, which I understand causes a few problems in the US, where it is considered hazardous to health.
Update (2): On Saturday night, I mixed another version of the espresso martini, using a recent find in Italy: Borghetti coffee liqueur. This is much less sweet than the usual Tia Maria or Kahlua, and to my mind, much better suited to this drink, as you can control the sweetness with syrup.