Espresso Martini Lab22

Coffee, Cold Drip and the Espresso Martini

The world makes 8.8 Tera Tonnes of coffee each year. It is the unequivocal global perk me up and is a morning necessary for myself.

So when, in 1984, Dick Bradsell mixed Vodka, kahlua, Tia Maria and fresh espresso he unintentionally masterminded the birth of one of the most dominant modern day cocktails in the UK listings. It is, unashamedly, the answer to the question I most have to answer across a bar; ‘What’s your favourite cocktail, mate?!’. Although I do think that is sort of a non-answer, I can drink espresso martinis anywhere, some other cocktails have climate, cultural or other prevalence i.e. You wouldn’t ask for an old fashioned in Harry’s Bar in Venice at the peak of summer. But without getting into a long debate about the importance of a cocktails coherence to its environment, I just say what they want to hear; ‘Have you heard of an Espresso Martini’

From a purely systematic point of view, the Espresso Martini ticks all the boxes. Presuming the coffee if pre-made and pre-sweetened, it’s a three bottle pour at a 3 count. It garnishes itself with a beautiful white crown (I always neglect the coffee beans, more on that later!). It’s GP friendly. It’s adored from ‘Susan Hen-do’ to late night industry heroes. And lest we forget it contains caffeine and alcohol! Just add a touch of self loathing and you can Frankenstein a newbie bartender i believe.

So enough about Dick, let’s talk about Lab 22 (a sentence used more often than you’d think) Our new perks menu is on its way and our commutative brain power has mustered the idea of putting a classics menu together. A total of 2 hours were needed in order to think about what drinks we needed on there. That wasn’t due to our complete apathy at writing menus after the launch of our main, it was because we used the mantra ‘Let’s give people what they want’. Daiquiris, Old Fashioned’s, Tommies and the ilk. But as our fair leader and financier pointed out, these were drinks that could be made in any bar. Our solution was, as it always is, to make them to the highest quality and research them in such a meticulous way, it would make other bars reconsider the devil in the detail of drinks they make everyday.

Vodka, Coffee Liqueur, Coffee. Presuming that the coffee liqueur and vodka are constants (Myself and Heady once made some pretty tasty homemade coffee liqueur which sent our GP for ex-marts through the roof, but for ease and availability we are going to buy our Kahlua/ Tia Maria / Mr.Black in) The only variable in this equation is the coffee, and what a volatile inconstant it is.

Coffee in essence comes in two major forms, c.arabica and c.canephora, i’ll refer to these as Arabica and Robusta from now on as i feel the growth of a top-knot protruding when referring to their latin names. Arabica is mainly from Africa, around Kenya and Ethiopia and Robust prefers the South Americas as its home. Arabica leads the global market at around 2:1. Each strain has certain chemical imbalances which give distinct characteristics to the end product (this can be also due to the way they are processed)

As a whole the average region tastes similar to this;


{ Stewed Raisin + Dried Fruit + Grapefruit + Chocolate + Bubblegum + Raisinette }

Ethiopian (Naturally Washed)

{ Blueberry + Strawberry + Grape + Cream Cheese }

Ethiopian (Washed)

{ Tea + Citric + Floral + Bergamot + Honeysuckle }


{ Woody + Cinnamon + Cola + Tropical }


{ Sandalwood + Nutmeg + Spice }


{ Cherry + Vanilla + Chocolate + Floral }


{ Tobacco + Chocolate + Orange }


{ Cacao + Peanut butte + Lemon }

Selecting a suitable bean varietal is only half the battle, coffee needs to be roasted and brewed in order to be consumed. The roasting follows a Maillard rule, the browner the bean, the more the caramelisation of the natural sugars in the bean until a saturation point is reached where the bean starts to burn, I like to think about steak as acting this way.

And then there’s the way you extract that carefully roasted flavour from the bean. It’s given arise to an array of expensive gadgets and pompous techniques championed by bearded baristas. A ‘Barista’ to the layman is a bartender who only was two ingredients, coffee and milk, some do berry Frappuccino’s, but are generally mocked.

In my research there are 4 main ways to brew coffee.

{ 1 } Under pressure and quick (an espresso coffee machine)
{ 2 } Under pressure and slow ( A coffee syphon)
{ 3 } No pressure and quick (pour over)
{ 4 } No pressure and slow (Cold drip)

We can forget about the pour over technique as it doesn’t produce the intense coffee flavour we need, also the espresso machine technique is the reason I’m looking for something quicker and in batch.

So, We need a test with 4 varietals; Coffee Type, Grind, Roast and Method.

There’s over 80 combo’s I can pull off here and although I’m sure people would love a 80+ espresso martini free for all. It would be expensive, impractical and dangerous (I know Cardiff industry have no restraints). So I’ve made an educated guess on what flavour compounds would be the most desirable.

{ 1 } Kenyan – Medium Coarse – Medium – Syphoned
{ 2 } Brazilian – Medium – Medium/ Dark – Syphoned
{ 3 } Ethiopian – Medium Coarse – Medium light – Cold drip
{ 4 }Columbian – Medium – Medium/ Dark – Cold drip

I’ll also made a fifth control group, which will be an espresso martini made with Lavazza coffee in our ‘Old Gal’ coffee machine. All the Ex-marts are tested blind, ungarnished in a chilled 5.5oz coupe and follow this recipe;

› 25ml Vodka
› 25ml Kahlua
› 25ml Coffee
› 10ml Sugar syrup 3:2

The result was fairly revealing, In order the favourites were;

{ 1 } Columbian Cold Drip – An overwhelming favourite, it had good complex taste of chocolate and coffee. It’s crema was only the 3rd best but it smelt the most like fresh coffee
{ 2 } Kenyan Syphon – Personally my favourite. It was huge with flavour and had a nice retrospective bitterness (which put other people off) best crema
{ 3 } Brazilian Syphon – Lovely tropical flavour that seemed to be shouting from behind a locked door
{ 4 } Our machine coffee – Teetered on the fence of dissimilar
{ 5 } Ethiopian Cold drip – I had a lot of hope for this guy, he was a car crash of weak lucid flavours and strange off notes. Worst crema. A waste of what would have I’m sure made a cracking Americano in the correct hands.

The Lab Espresso Martini

› 30ml Vodka
› 30ml Illy Coffee Liqueur
› 30ml 20 hour drip Columbian Coffee
› Dash of Labs ‘Cookies and Cream’ Bitters x 3