The Espresso Martini - A History

July 9, 2020
Sub 13 Cocktail Bar

The espresso martini is surely one of the most recognisable and popular cocktails. But did you know that this modern classic was created as recently as the 80s by the legendary British bartender Dick Bradsell?

Bradsell was one of the best-known bartenders of the modern age, and a man responsible for creating some of the best-known cocktails of the last twenty years, he was key to relaunching the London cocktail scene during the 80s and 90s with a return to quality, classic cocktails.

Cocktail legend Dick Bradsell, who died in February aged 56.
Cocktail legend Dick Bradsell, who died in February 2016.

His creations range from the wonderfully refreshing Bramble (a now-iconic mixture of gin, blackberry liqueur, lemon and sugar) to the more exotic-sounding Pink Chihuahua (tequila, lemon, lime, almond, grenadine and egg white: has to be tasted to be believed). But for us, and indeed most in the bar world his true, lasting contribution to the cocktail pantheon of greats has got to be the espresso martini.

Originally called a vodka espresso, Dick would tell a very amusing story as to its inception. According to this now-legendary tale, during a rather exclusive function at the Soho Brasserie in London, a certain famous female model called on him to make a drink that would “wake me up, then f**k me up”. Finding he had coffee liqueur, vodka and espresso near at hand Dick shook up a combination that became almost instantly timeless.

By the late nineties Dick was working at the Pharmacy Bar in Notting Hill, where he had renamed his creation a pharmaceutical stimulant! Although you can find similar drinks under any of these names, it is perhaps as the espresso martini that it is best-known.

At Sub 13, our version keeps it nice and simple, using those three ingredients, and just like Dick, we finish it with three lucky coffee beans; for health, wealth and happiness. Here’s to you Mr Bradsell!!

Espresso Martini

25ml Absolut vodka
25ml Mr Black coffee liqueur
1 shot fresh espresso

Shake all the ingredients hard, fine strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with three coffee beans.

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