To hear bartender Dick Bradsell tell it, once upon a time in the late 1980s, a now world-famous model (possibly Kate Moss or maybe Naomi Campbell, Bradsell won’t divulge the mystery model’s identity) sidled up to the bar at Fred’s Club in London and asked him to make a drink that would both wake her up and get her tipsy. You know, a typical world-famous model request. And so the Espresso Martini was born. Like many cocktails that were dragged through the ‘tinification of the 1990s, the eye-opening mix of vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso became a shell of itself when substitutions like drip coffee ransacked the original recipe. But the drink has found some modern defenders like Los Angeles’ Bar Clacson, which frequently has a delightfully light version of the Espresso Martini on tap during its aperitivo hour, or New York’s Employees Only, which serves a stripped down version of the drink that ditches the coffee liqueur altogether. Our Espresso Martini is sweet and rich thanks to half an ounce of crème de cacao, but it’s still balanced. And, as with any drink, using quality ingredients is the secret to a quality cocktail. We’re partial to the complex, fruity coffee liqueur from House Spirits in Portland or the intense, Turkish version from Vivacity (if you’ve never had Turkish coffee before, it’s one of the most potent versions in the world). Of course, if you’re feeling particularly enterprising, you can make your own coffee liqueur. When made correctly, this after-dinner drink is a perfectly bittersweet treat that acts as the bridge between the end of the meal and the evening festivities.
Mix it Up
Recommended vodkas: Reyka, Ketel One, New Deal
Think of Planter’s Punch as a choose-your-own-tropical-adventure of a cocktail. The original Caribbean recipe called for a mix of rum, lime juice, sugar and some added spice, but over the years, bartenders and island communities have made the bright and boozy drink their own, using native fruit juices and signature blends of rums and spices. We p...