How to Make an Espresso Martini without Espresso

by Richard Peristere


The perfect after dinner cocktail, the espresso martini...but what if you don't like espresso? Or you don't have an espresso machine? All is not lost! In fact, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, there are many ways to make an espresso martini without the espresso...maybe we should change the name?

Making an Espresso Martini with Cold Brewed Coffee

Our first option is to make an Espresso Martini with a Cold Brew. A Cold Brew has a few advantages, the first is you don't need an espresso machine to brew fresh espresso. Also if you pick the right the cold brew, you can mimic the flavor of espresso or if you're trying to avoid the espresso flavor then you can be more direct in the type of Cold Brew that you choose. We recommend that you pick a less bitter cold brew. The sweetness of a coffee liqueur may be enough to cover a more bitter coffee. You can run down the local store and pick up your favorite.

Making Espresso Martinis with Coffee Liqueur

Another option is to use a coffee liqueur as a larger base for the Espresso Martini. Traditionally our recipe calls for 1 ounce of espresso and 1/2 Ounce of Kahlua coffee liqueur. In this circumstance we would use one ounce coffee liqueur of your choice. We recommend Blue Mountain Caribbean Coffee liqueur. This liqueur is less sweet than others, definitely less sweet than Kahlua. Feel free to substitute with any coffee liqueur that you enjoy.

Make an Espresso Martini with Coffee?

It's also possible to make espresso martinis with everyday coffee. However, the risk of using an everyday coffee is the potential for less bold flavors. Traditional coffees can be weak due to being watered down or poor quality brands. If you do choose to use traditional coffee, be sure to pick a strong coffee and avoid mass market branded coffee labels.

coffee, cup, mug

Why isn't My Espresso Martini frothy?

The key to a frothy espresso martini usually falls into two categories. How much you shake the martini in the shaker and how much dairy is in the cocktail. A frothier espresso martini usually uses a high-cream coffee liqueur like Kahlua.

Often bartenders or home mixologists like ourselves don't shake vigorously enough so the martini is left looking listless with no head. The foam is important in regards to aesthetics but in reality the flavor comes from the ingredients and less from the shaking. But if you want an ice cold or chilled cocktail, then it is crucial to shake.

young woman, young, cocktail shaker

What About Espresso Martinis with Nespresso or Keurig machines?

While a traditional espresso machines make the best espresso...often times, unless your Italian, you don't have a traditional espresso machine in your house. We at A Few Cocktails often use a Nespresso Pod when we're looking to make a quick cocktail without the hassle of brewing a fresh batch of espresso.

espresso coffee

We recommend the Cosi pods from Nespresso.

Cosi nespresso pods


What Can You Use Instead of Kahlua in Espresso Martinis?

While the Espresso Martini that most are familiar with use Kahlua, it is possible and we even recommend searching for other brands of Coffee Liqueur to use. We find Kahlua can be a bit sweet when mixing with a simple syrup. Kahlua does provide the best foam and head for the cocktail but there are other ways to achieve the same result. You could add a little cream to other Coffee Liqueurs.

cereal, milk, breakfast

We recommend Blue Mountain Caribbean Coffee. The flavor is bold yet not too overwhelming to cover the taste of other ingredients.

If you find yourself missing the Vanilla flavor from the Kahlua, then you can substitute Vanilla Extract in its place for a similar result.

vanilla flower, vanilla, white

Why Do Bartender's Hate Making Espresso Martinis?

Often when ordering an espresso martini the bartenders will grumble or even make a comment if they're not in a good mood.'s their job so they should do it with a smile on their face...however, it is a lot of work if they are not prepared in advance. A truly great espresso martini should use homemade simple syrup, which can be a process.

They also generally have to make the espresso from scratch...unless they use our Espresso less Martini recipe. Also the amount of shaking the bartender has to do, takes away their time from serving other costumers.

In truth the drink is not that much work but it is in comparison to a whiskey and coke or vodka and soda.

Our Espresso Less Martini Recipe

We're going to use Cold Brew instead of Espresso. While we're not drinking Espresso...we still need the espresso beans for garnish. We recommend serving with coupe or martini glass. Tools needed : Cocktail shaker, Measuring Jigger. Prep Time : 5 - 10 minutes.


  • 1/2 Ounce of Blue Mountain Caribbean Coffee coffee liqueur (Or Kahlua)

  • 1/2 Ounce of simple syrup

  • 1 Ounce of Cold Brew

  • 2 Ounces Vodka

  • Coffee or Espresso Beans (Garnish)


  • Fill a Cocktail shaker with ice cubes and all the ingredients

  • Shake Vigorously with ice cubes

  • Pour with strainer into Martini glass 

  • Garnish with Espresso beans

coffee beans, coffee, roasted

How To Make Simple Syrup?

Making Simple Syrup sounds challenging but in fact it is quite easy. We prefer to use equal parts brown sugar and water. Start with a 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of water, bring to slow boil. If you want a thicker syrup continue to cook down until the majority of the water has been boiled out.

Many classic cocktails use simple syrup so this is a good recipe to remember and practice making. Simple syrup can make any drink delicious.

What Liquor is Best for an Espresso Martini?

An Espresso Martini should be made with a premium vodka. Aim for top shelf Vodka's like Grey Goose or Ketel One. We also recommend Tito's Vodka as a lower cost option but still gives the cocktail a good flavor.

We don't recommend using any other liquor than Vodka. But feel free to mess around with other liquors if you're feeling bold.

What if I don't Like Espresso Flavored Cocktails?

Well the first thing we'll say is...maybe the espresso martini isn't quite for you. Have you considered a Dirty Martini? The Dirty Martini is the more elegant and classic cocktail. However, in comparison to the dirty martini is much less sweet or more of an acquired taste.

If you're looking for another after dinner cocktail, we recommend the Sazerac. The Sazerac is a classic American cocktail that blends Rye Whiskey with Peychaud's Bitters and slice of lemon.

Looking for Other Recipes? Want to Learn About the History of Cocktails?

Why do we use the coupe glass for an espresso martini? Why do we use a coupe glass instead of a martini glass? Check out our history on the coupe glass.

Need the proper cocktail shaker for an espresso martini? Try our stainless steel cocktail shakers.

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