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Brown Sugar Espresso Martini

If you’re a fan of Espresso martinis or coffee-based cocktails, you’re going to love this super simple Brown Sugar Espresso Martini. This riff on the modern classic uses just three ingredients, but adds so much rich, deep flavor.

Who invented the Espressotini?

The Espresso Martini is a cocktail that is believed to have been created in the late 1980s by a London-based bartender named Dick Bradsell. According to legend, a famous model walked into the Soho Brasserie where Bradsell was working and asked him to create a drink that would “wake me up, and then f*** me up.”

brown cocktail in a martini glass garnished with three coffee beans.

Bradsell combined freshly brewed espresso, vodka, and a sweetener, such as Kahlua or sugar syrup, in a shaker with ice. He then strained the mixture into a chilled martini glass and garnished it with three coffee beans.

An enduring modern classic cocktail

The Espresso Martini quickly became popular in London and eventually spread around the world. It is now a modern classic that’s often served as a start to the evening, a dessert cocktail, or a satisfying after-dinner drink.

What makes the Espresso Martini unique is its combination of caffeine and alcohol. The espresso provides a rich, bold flavor and a caffeine kick, while the vodka adds a smooth, neutral base. The sweetness of coffee liqueur helps to balance out the bitterness of the espresso and add even more layers of flavor.

bottle of Absolut vodka next to coffee liqueur and brown syrup.

Classic Espresso Martini ingredients

The traditional Espressotini can be made with just three ingredients, although a 1/4 or 1/2 ounce of simple syrup is often added for balance. Here are the ingredients for the basic formula of 2 parts spirit, 1 part espresso and 1 part liqueur:

  • Vodka
  • Freshly brewed espresso
  • Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua
  • Simple syrup (optional)

For my spin on the cocktail, I’m omitting the coffee liqueur and replacing it with brown sugar simple syrup. I’ll include details on that below, but you can also find the recipe in my Brown Sugar Simple Syrup.

While you can also include coffee liqueur in my adaptation, I’ve created this recipe in the spirit of keeping things as simple and budget-friendly as possible. If you have a bottle of vodka and can make espresso (or even use cold brew!) you can make this delicious cocktail.

Brown Sugar Espresso Martini ingredients:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz freshly brewed espresso
  • 3/4 oz – 1 oz brown sugar simple syrup (to taste)

Choosing a vodka

Any quality vodka is a great fit for the Espresso Martini. Some bottles I return to again and again are Absolut and Grey Goose. For a fun twist, try Absolut Vanilla! If using a flavored vodka, just be sure that it’s not sweetened. This could throw off the balance of the drink.


If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can also use brewed double strength coffee or cold brew coffee. If it’s a strong, flavorful coffee, it will work. When using freshly brewed espresso or coffee, I like to let it cool a bit first to prevent too much dilution.

espresso martini next to bottle of vodka.

How to make the syrup

Simple syrup is the mixture of equal parts water and sugar. Combine 1/2 cup of warm or hot water with 1/2 cup of brown sugar and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. You can heat the mixture on the stove, but it’s not necessary.

As long as all of the sugar dissolves, you’ve done it right! Store you syrup in a clean glass jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Learn more in my Complete Guide to Simple Syrup.

Shake, strain, and garnish

To make the cocktail, combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill it about three-quarters with ice. Shake until the shaker feels very cold, around 10-12 seconds. Strain the liquid into a martini or coupe glass and garnish with three coffee beans (if desired).

You might also enjoy these other cocktails:

close up of deep brown espresso cocktail in martini glass.
brown cocktail in a martini glass garnished with three coffee beans.

Brown Sugar Espresso Martini

Amy Traynor
This simple, three ingredient cocktail adds the rich flavor of brown sugar to the modern classic Espresso Martini.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cocktail


  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz freshly brewed espresso
  • 3/4 oz brown sugar simple syrup (use up to 1 oz, to taste)


  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill it 3/4 with ice.
  • Shake until chilled, about 10-12 seconds.
  • Strain the cocktail into a martini or coupe glass and garnish with 3 coffee beans (if desired).
Keyword 3 ingredient cocktails, espresso, vodka
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