Espresso Is the Ingredient Your Martini Has Been Missing All Along

A tastier alternative to vodka-Redbull

Terrine’s barman Ryan Wainwright drank seven of his espresso martinis in one night to make sure his new cocktail wouldn’t get his customers too jacked up. The result? “It was delicious but I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I was totally shaky and stressed out.” But his efforts were not in vain—Wainwright is reviving a perfectly good dessert cocktail that’s been ridiculed for far too long.

Not many know this but the espresso martini was invented in the ’80s in London with the best intentions: for a young model who requested “something that would wake me up and fuck me up.” But then Sex and the City and flavored vodka in the ’90s turned it into a confection cocktail, which it still pretty much is up to this day. (See Giada De Laurentiis’ chocolate espresso martini recipe).

How Giada does espresso martinis.
How Giada does espresso martinis.

Screenshot from Food Network's Giada at Home

So Wainwright, who also makes my most favorite chocolate martini ever, set about to return it to its roots but balance out the flavors. He’d have to do more than pull an espresso shot to mix with vodka and coffee liqueur, however.

With regular restaurant java too temperamental to work with, the bartender sought the help of barista Nicely Alameda at Menotti’s in Venice for the perfect coffee format. They created a cold brew that “really focused on the round mouth feel that I wanted to revolve this drink around.” It possesses big, full-bodied coffee flavor without any of the harsh bitterness.

To make things even more complicated but delicious, Wainwright then infused it into corn-based vodka for two days, froze it, and extracted all the water from it. A concentrate of vodka with cold brew flavors remained, which he then mixed with Varnelli’s Caffe Moka espresso liqueur, Kahlua, and cream. Finished with Regan’s Orange Bitters and Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters, the concoction is shaken and served up in a dainty teacup.

Lacing it with a little sumthin sumthin.
Lacing it with a little sumthin sumthin.

Photograph by Caroline on Crack

It looks so innocuous. But even that cute, little biscuit on the side is laced with Smith & Cross Jamaican rum. Wainwright highly recommends dipping the cookie in the cup before taking a bite. The funky rum subtly plays up the allspice notes in the cocktail.

There really is no better way to end a meal at Terrine. The cocktail isn’t too heavy, boozy, or sweet so you can easily make room for it after dinner, even alongside dessert. But remember, no more than two unless you want to pull an all-nighter.

redarrow Terrine, 8265 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-746-5130.