An espresso martini is a luxurious blend of coffee and alcohol, perfectly crafted to satisfy a drinker’s desire for a cocktail pick-me-up. Of course, if you don’t find yourself in a club or restaurant with a full bar when the craving for an espresso martini strikes, you have a long wait and the tedious task of mixing your own espresso martini.
Enter the espresso martini in a can: a refreshingly authentic cocktail that hits peak convenience without compromising on quality or taste. Instead of mixing and chilling a vodka espresso in your kitchen or settling in for that long bar wait to get your hands on a surprisingly complex brew of espresso, vodka, and coffee liqueur, you can just crack open a can, pour it over ice into your favorite martini glass, and savor the invigorating caffeine of every sip.
Has it been a while since your last espresso martini, or is it your favorite drink for all occasions? Join us as we explore how the espresso martini skyrocketed to one of the most highly-ranked mixed drinks of the year. We’ll also look at what separates a good espresso martini from a great one—and why you’ll find the greatest one you’ve ever had comes in a perfectly proportioned little can.
Before the Espresso Martini in a Can
The story of who created the espresso martini and how it got its start has evolved over time, becoming part mythology, part good storytelling, and part widely accepted truth. The story many aficionados accept is that the first espresso martini, or vodka espresso, was crafted in the famous Fred’s Club in London near the end of the 1980s. Bartender Dick Bradsell was approached by a future supermodel after a long flight with a now-famous request: a drink that would “wake me up, and then f*** me up.”
Dick Bradsell made up the drink on the spot, inspired by the vodka craze of the era and the nearby espresso machine. “The coffee machine at the Soho Brasseries was right next to the station where I served drinks,” he recounted later. “It was a nightmare, as there were coffee grounds everywhere, so coffee was very much on my mind.” He served the woman her drink—a chilled blend of vodka, fresh espresso, and coffee liqueur.
After that iconic moment, the drink spread like wildfire. It combined the best parts of the martini trend with the growing popularity of espresso and specialty coffee drinks. Combined with the growing interest in and availability of coffee liqueur, drink lovers around the world had a new favorite order. From there, recipes for the drink began to split, adopting different variations, preferred liqueurs, and distinct additions.
If you’re looking for the standard recipe of a vodka martini, Difford’s Guide Quarterly—a cocktail guide and industry authority that’s popular across the United States and the United Kingdom—keeps it chic and simple. There are three ingredients: vodka (1 ½ oz), espresso (1 oz), and coffee liqueur from Italy (⅔ oz). The mixture is shaken with ice, strained, and served immediately in a chilled martini glass.
A New Moment Emerges
But that’s where the story gets complicated. This drink takes time. For anyone who has stood in line in a coffee shop, you know that espresso drinks themselves take time. You also know that drip coffee is no replacement. Bartenders aren’t a fan of the time and effort the drink requires, especially when they have a busy bar.
It simply takes too long to grind coffee beans, tamp the grounds, pour a shot of espresso that isn’t too acidic or too bitter, and keep up with the cocktail orders for dozens of patrons. Combine that with specialty flairs that some vodka espressos have, like a lemon twist, coffee bean garnish, or requests for a bit of sugar syrup, and bartenders started looking at a large pileup of orders as the drink reached peak popularity in the early 2020s.
That’s where ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee cocktails can really save the day. Today’s craft canned cocktail companies work hard to create something that is simple but matches the bar-quality experience of a real espresso martini: a drink that has all the flavor and richness of a freshly shaken drink—but without the long wait for you and the extra work for your bartender.
Mixed cocktails in a can aren’t a new concept, and neither are canned coffee drinks. But historically, they’ve been plagued by preservatives, tinny-tasting coffee, and an aftertaste that’s anything but luxe. Today, there are a handful of brands (both on the cocktail side, as well as the coffee side) using newer, evolved techniques to usher in a whole new class of high-quality ready-to-drink offerings.
How Do You Know When You’ve Found the Right Espresso Martini in a Can?
It all comes down to taste. With the right espresso martini in a can – you won’t have to sacrifice taste for convenience. You shouldn’t have to wait in a crowded bar or stress about trying to get your mixologist degree at home when you just want a drink for brunch or to kick off your evening. But for years, ready-to-drink cocktails just never hit the spot. Today’s carefully crafted RTD canned cocktails come with a few differences:
- You can easily make it your own. Pour it into a chilled martini glass—or a chilled coffee mug (we’ll never tell). Add some coffee creamer as one of our reviewers did, and then change it up with pumpkin spice creamer in the fall, candy cane creamer during the holidays, or (for an even more fun treat) any of the cookie or cereal creamers at the grocery stores. This moment is for you.
- You can keep it at the ready. You never know when the thirst will strike, so keep a couple of cans in your fridge for months at a time. Whenever you’re in the mood for an espresso martini, whether it’s an at-home date night or after a Zoom meeting, it’s there for an easy classic drink that you don’t have to prep.
- It actually tastes great. There’s no “that’s better than I would have expected.” There’s no slightly off-cream taste that you can ignore if you have to, or fake coffee flavor that you’ll decide isn’t a big enough problem to go without. There’s just great flavor without any caveats.
Enjoy an Espresso Martini When You Want It, as You Want It
Espresso martinis started as a signature bar drink—one that you bought when you were out on the town and feeling fancy. It was simply a hassle to attempt at home. But with the premiumization of coffee culture and the introduction of high-quality coffee liqueurs – the drink has skyrocketed to prominence in the past few years, becoming one of the top ten most-ordered drinks in 2022 (it kicked the Manhattan off the list, which is no small feat). And with the right RTD version, you can leave the bar experience behind for some new adventures.
Add the Missing Piece to Your Essential Foodie Checklist
Home cooks and foodies have perfected at-home charcuterie boards and breads over the past few years. Meal prep plans made cooking a gourmet meal possible for the everyman. But alcoholic finesse got left behind.
Now, you can keep canned cocktails on hand to pair with appetizers, to accompany picture-perfect dinners, and to sip as you cook (it’s your right as the chef!). Need ideas for some small plates and tasty snacks that can accompany your espresso martini in a can? Some favorite food pairings include savory crostinis, bruschetta, biscotti, and, of course, decadent cheesecake.
DIY Brunch Will Never Be the Same
Mimosas, champagne, and espresso martinis are the stars of brunch. If you prefer hosting at home or making a DIY brunch for a picnic or backyard get-together, pick up a few espresso martinis in a can. It cuts your prep work and can make your turn to host way more fun.
Take the Plunge and Host Your Cocktail Party
Dinner parties are out, but hosting people and making friends as an adult still requires a bit of food and drink for social lubrication. Host a cocktail party—two hours tops, lots of people, no stressing about meals and food requirements—and serve up espresso martinis in a can for your guests. Add some other cocktails for variety, and you’ll have plenty of easy, upscale drink options without playing bartender and missing out on the festivities.
Have a Full Bar—Without the Full Bar
Not all of us have a full bar and a shiny espresso machine. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to sit down at home with your favorite drink. With a full menu of canned cocktails, you don’t have to invest in bottles, liqueurs, and syrups to build up your bar. Just make sure you find the right RTD cocktails—with simple, bar-quality ingredients and proportions.
Restaurant Owners and Food Truck Drivers: This One’s for You, Too
We mentioned that espresso martinis are popular—but not so popular among harried bartenders. So here’s a shoutout for our bartender friends: canned cocktails are popular, and the right brands don’t compromise. They’re easy to store and even easier to serve while preserving the option to keep it fancy with chilled glasses and garnishes. If you want to serve alcohol without investing in the full bar setup, now’s the time to test out our espresso martinis.
Enjoy Your Next Espresso Martini in a Can Without Compromise
At Post Meridiem, we love great cocktails and we hate shortcuts. That’s why we craft small batches of our favorite cocktails with authentic ingredients that legitimately taste good and put them into cans you can enjoy from anywhere.
We make our espresso martinis with perfectly proportioned, simple ingredients: high-quality vodka (1 ⅔ oz), 100% arabica cold brew coffee (1 oz), and premium coffee liqueur (¾ oz). It’s our little twist on Difford’s standard recipe, with a punchy 22.5% ABV.
We’re so committed to full-strength espresso martinis in a can that we’re winning awards across the country, and we’re not going to stop until we’ve perfected the taste for all of our favorite cocktails. When you want a smooth, rich espresso martini, skip the bar. Shop online for delivery to your door, or find a liquor store near you.