Mastering the Espresso Martini at Home: A Guide to Bar-Favorite Brands

three espresso martinis made at home, black liquid with tan frothy topping and coffee beans for garnish in martini glasses

Ever wondered what goes into your favorite bartender-made espresso martini? Whether you’re an aspiring home bartender or a cocktail enthusiast, this guide is your gateway to recreating bar-quality espresso martinis at home. Dive in as we unveil the top vodka, coffee and liqueur brands that make this iconic drink a standout on bar menus across America, as revealed by Overproof’s Espresso Martini Cocktail Report.

A Bartender’s Go-To Espresso Martini Recipe

When you’re enjoying an espresso martini at a bar, chances are it’s a carefully crafted blend of familiar brands. Per Overproof’s report, overall, Kahlúa leads as the top coffee liqueur brand, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka leads as the top vodka brand by the percentage of branded menu mentions. For those who prefer a stronger, more coffee-forward-tasting espresso martini, here’s a look at the bar-favorite recipe to recreate at home:

  • Kahlúa: 1 oz (30 ml) for rich coffee flavor.
  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka: 1.5 oz (45 ml) as the smooth base.
  • Fresh Espresso: 1 oz (30 ml) for the essential coffee element.
  • Simple Syrup: 0.5 oz (15 ml) to balance the flavors.

For that iconic frothy top, shake these ingredients well with ice for at least 20 seconds. This chills the drink and aerates it, resulting in the creamy foam that tops a well-crafted espresso martini.

However, there’s room for variation. For those who prefer a creamier texture, adding 1 oz of Baileys Irish Cream can enhance the cocktail’s richness.

For more popular variations, we have listed below the top 5 vodka, coffee liqueur, and other liqueur brands most commonly mentioned on bar menus serving espresso martinis. For the full list, download our free espresso martini report!

Top Coffee Liqueur Brands in Bars

The choice of coffee liqueur is key to an espresso martini flavor. Bars lean on certain brands for their distinct profiles and consistency. Here are the most popular coffee liqueur brands listed on bar menus so you can recreate an espresso martini at home:

  1. Kahlúa (78.3% menu mentions): A favorite in many bars, Kahlúa from Mexico offers a rich blend of coffee and vanilla flavors. This sweet, robust liqueur is often the first choice for a classic Espresso Martini.
  2. Mr. Black (7.0% menu mentions): This Australian brand is gaining popularity for its artisanal, bold coffee flavor, appealing to those who prefer a less sweet, more coffee-forward cocktail.
  3. Borghetti (4.3% menu mentions): For a more intense espresso kick, Borghetti from Italy is the go-to. It’s preferred for its authentic, strong coffee flavor, ideal for a bolder Espresso Martini.
  4. Tia Maria (3.3% menu mentions): Offering a subtler Jamaican coffee note with vanilla hints, Tia Maria is chosen for a more nuanced Espresso Martini.
  5. Patrón XO Cafe (1.9% menu mentions): This option adds a luxurious, smooth coffee flavor with a tequila base, providing a unique twist to the traditional Espresso Martini.

These are the leading coffee liqueur brands listed in espresso martinis, each contributing its own twist in flavor to the classic drink. Understanding these preferences can guide you in recreating a bar-quality Espresso martini at home.

Top Vodka Brands in Bars for Espresso Martinis

While the choice of coffee liqueur in an espresso martini can dramatically impact its flavor, the selection of vodka is equally crucial but reflects a more evenly balanced preference among bars. Unlike the coffee liqueur market, where a few brands dominate, the vodka category is more competitive and varied. To recreate a bar-quality espresso martini at home, here’s a look at the top vodka brands by percentage of menu mentions:

  1. Tito’s (19.6% menu mentions): Leading the pack, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is known for its smoothness and clean taste, making it a preferred choice for a balanced espresso martini.
  2. Absolut (12.0% menu mentions): Known for its versatility and clean flavor, Absolut is a popular choice for those seeking a classic vodka taste.
  3. Ketel One (10.5% menu mentions): Ketel One brings a distinct crispness and purity to the cocktail, valued for its ability to blend seamlessly with other flavors.
  4. Grey Goose (10.4% menu mentions): Chosen for its luxurious and smooth profile, Grey Goose adds a touch of elegance to the espresso martini
  5. Stoli (6.8% menu mentions): This brand is gaining popularity for its artisanal approach and smooth texture, adding a unique character to the cocktail.

Each of these vodka brands brings something unique to the espresso martini, reflecting a diverse range of preferences in bars. Whether you prefer a classic, smooth, or artisanal touch to your cocktail, these brands show the varied tastes catered to in a bar setting.

Top Liqueur Brands Beyond Coffee for Espresso Martinis

While coffee liqueurs play a starring role in espresso martinis, other liqueurs also find their way into this beloved cocktail, adding layers of flavor and complexity. Here are some of the top liqueur brands that bars often use:

  1. Baileys (44.3% menu mentions): Baileys Irish Cream is a favorite for adding a creamy, rich texture to the cocktail. Its blend of Irish whiskey and cream brings a smooth sweetness that complements the coffee flavor.
  2. Frangelico (16.3% menu mentions): With its distinctive hazelnut flavor, Frangelico adds a nutty depth to the espresso martini, offering a twist on the traditional recipe.
  3. Licor 43 (7.8% menu mentions): Known for its complex blend of spices and citrus, Licor 43 introduces a subtly sweet and aromatic dimension, making for an intriguing variation of the cocktail.
  4. Godiva (5.7% menu mentions): For chocolate lovers, Godiva liqueur is a go-to. It infuses the espresso martini with a rich chocolate flavor, perfect for a decadent twist.
  5. Averna (5.5% menu mentions): Averna, an Italian amaro, contributes a herbal and slightly bitter edge, balancing the sweetness and adding complexity to the drink.

Bringing the Bar Home with Your Espresso Martini

These brands are most commonly used to create a signature espresso martini. Understanding these popular choices demystifies what goes into a bar-quality espresso martini, allowing you to bring this sophisticated cocktail experience into your home. Whether you’re replicating your favorite bar’s recipe or experimenting with different brand combinations, you now have the knowledge to mix an espresso martini that could rival any pro mixologist. So, gather your ingredients, shake up your own version, and enjoy the delight of a perfectly crafted espresso martini in the comfort of your home.

To learn how espresso martinis vary by region or what brands are often paired with Kahlua, Baileys, Mr. Black and Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, download our free report now.

FAQ for an Espresso Martini at home

What are the ingredients for an espresso martini?

  • Vodka
  • Coffee Liqueur
  • Espresso
  • Mocha, cocoa powder and coffee beans for garnish

Kahlua vs. Baileys for Espresso Martini

Both Kahlua and Baileys are popular coffee liqueurs that can be used to make an espresso martini at home. However, they have different flavor profiles that will affect the taste of your cocktail.

  • Kahlua is a coffee liqueur with a strong coffee flavor and a hint of caramel. It is a good choice for espresso martinis that you want to have a strong coffee flavor.
  • Baileys is an Irish cream liqueur with a creamy texture and a flavor of chocolate, vanilla, and cream. It is a good choice for espresso martinis that you want to be sweet and creamy.

Can I use strong coffee or cold brew instead of espresso for an espresso martini?

Yes, you can substitute strong coffee or cold brew for espresso in an espresso martini. However, keep in mind that the flavor profile of your cocktail will be slightly different. Espresso has a more concentrated, intense coffee flavor, while strong coffee and cold brew will have a milder flavor.



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