Espresso martini: a cocktail made for late nights

by Great British Chefs20 December 2022

Born in the eighties out of the desire to create a cocktail that also acted as a pick-me-up, the espresso martini has gone on to become a classic late-night drink and with New Year’s Eve approaching, there are few better times to enjoy one. We take a closer look at this coffee-laden creation and suggest some dishes to serve it with.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Although cocktails are often associated with late-night drinking, in reality they aren’t always the best choice if you’re trying to stay awake. There is however, one exception – the espresso martini. Blending stimulant with depressant to create a cocktail which both tastes amazing and keeps the party going, this heart stopper of a drink has been causing a stir since its conception and is now a staple of cocktail menus around the UK.

Despite having martini in its name, the espresso martini isn’t a true relative of the classic cocktail, instead consisting of vodka rather than gin, alongside coffee liqueur and the all-important shot of espresso. It is, however, traditionally served in a martini glass, having been shaken with ice. MOTH’s canned espresso martini is as convenient as cocktails come, simply requiring a quick shake before pouring and squeezing the can to achieve the perfect crema.

MOTH work closely with premium spirit brands to create their trend-leading cocktails and for their espresso martini have partnered with Wood Brothers, who make vodka at a family-run distillery in Oxfordshire. Their single-estate vodka has notes of vanilla, caramel and honey, making it the perfect match for an espresso martini. With Christmas and New Year’s Eve drifting ever closer, there are plenty of occasions which might call for a later night and MOTH’s espresso martini is a convenient and delicious way of staying awake.

Compared to a lot of cocktails that have long and much-debated histories, the espresso martini is actually somewhat of a new kid on the block, having been created just forty years ago in Soho. The man credited with inventing the now-famous concoction is the late Dick Bradsell, a legend of London’s bartending scene, who is also credited with creating the bramble and the treacle. Although Bradsell worked at a variety of different renowned London bars throughout his career, including the Groucho Club and Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy, it was at Fred’s Club in 1983 when the moment happened that would cement his place in mixology history.

The story goes that a famous young model (thought by many to be Naomi Campbell) strolled up to the bar and asked Bradsell for something that would ‘wake her up, then f*** her up’. He grabbed the vodka and, seeing the coffee machine right next to where he was preparing the drinks, decided to add a shot of espresso along with coffee liqueur and sugar. Bradsell initially dubbed his creation the vodka espresso, but over time it got the name that we know it as today (after also briefly being called Pharmaceutical Stimulant on the menu at Pharmacy).

Since the eighties, the espresso martini has soared in popularity and can now be found everywhere from pubs and clubs to swanky bars. London even now plays host to an annual five-day espresso martini festival, where a hundred of the capital’s best bars serve their own take on the cocktail. There’s no question though that it remains a drink made for late nights, even if it is now found on the occasional boozy brunch menu, and that’s what makes it particularly appropriate for New Year’s Eve. Save yourself time on the night by stocking up with MOTH espresso martinis; you can even get 20% of your first order at MOTH using the code MOTHXGBC20.

Hosting for New Year’s Eve and unsure what food to serve alongside espresso martinis? We’ve got you covered with some recipe suggestions below.

Seared foie gras on toasted brioche with caramelised orange

If there’s ever a time for a bit of decadence it’s on New Year’s Eve and these foie gras canapés from William Drabble are unquestionably luxurious. The richness of foie gras also pairs brilliantly with a touch of sweetness, making them a great accompaniment to an espresso martini.

Cheese doughnuts

You’re never going to find a recipe that’s everyone’s cup of tea, but these cheese doughnuts from Adam Handling are all but a guaranteed winner. Rich yet light and filled with a smooth cheese sauce, they’re the perfect addition to a New Year’s spread.

Rib-eye with sour cream and chive potato, chive mayonnaise and onion rings

For something a little more involved, this stunning rib-eye dish from Tom Booton has the potential to be an utter showstopper. From the vibrant green mayonnaise to the chive and sour cream-filled potato, every element is elevated to the highest level and that’s why it’s a dish that demands a special occasion.



This crumbly Scottish fudge is the definition of melt-in-the-mouth and a wonderful treat at the end of a meal. Its buttery flavour also makes it a great sweet treat to enjoy alongside an espresso martini for the ultimate indulgence.

Dark chocolate delice with coffee ice cream

A great New Year’s Eve celebration deserves a crowd-pleasing climax and Matthew Tomkinson’s dark chocolate delice is just that. Served with a caramel sauce and a coffee ice cream, it also perfectly mirrors the flavours of an espresso martini, which is why the two go together hand in hand. If you’re strapped for time, why not try just making the coffee ice cream and serving it with a pouring of MOTH espresso martini for a boozy take on an affogato?

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