Think of it as a sophisticated Red Bull and vodka. Two types of buzz; one delicious throwback drink. Created by British bartender Dick Braswell in the 1980s and called the Vodka Espresso, the perky beverage in its original form is a shaken combo of vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur and sugar. Rumor has it Braswell was trying to impress a lady by making a drink she requested.
Locally, we are reveling in the revival of the ‘80s classic and adeptly creating other variations like a rendition with Pisco by local drink legend Beth Dixon of @saltandacid, and a riff on the caffeinated drink with local Richmond rum.
If you are searching for the classic yet local form of the espresso martini, look toward the Jasper. Cirrus vodka makes up the base to which a house-made liqueur combining espresso, Carpano Antico, brandy, deep rich Demerara syrup and cacao is added. This is rounded out by cold brew coffee — a proprietary cold brew from local Afterglow Coffee Company made just for the Jasper to create the perfect crema on top.
Co-owner Brandon Peck suggests trying their coconut version. “We take it one step further — a coconut Cirrus Vodka (with coconut flakes and coconut oil) makes it. This drink is a perfect Mr. Potato-head cocktail. You can switch out the base spirit and the parts make it a great cocktail. “It has been the number one drink at Jasper for a while now,” says Peck. 3113 W Cary St.
At the recently rebranded Bar West, the espresso martini takes a ‘more is more’ approach with four different martinis on offer. Their Tito’s Espresso features (you guessed it!) Tito’s, Kahlua, a shot of Blanchard’s espresso and sugar syrup. To stay on trend with something a little different, the Whiskey Espresso foregoes coffee altogether and instead mingles Old Forester whiskey, Disaronno, Kahlua and cinnamon. Co-owner Rob Long states the drink is so popular Bar West is using more coffee than they were when they were open for breakfast at around ten pounds of Blanchards Bear Trap Espresso a week. 5811 Grove Ave.
If the gorgeous tasting room isn’t enough to make you want to stay all day at Virago, perhaps the Espresso Rumtini will. Three different Virago products make up this spicy cocktail; aged rum, high-proof white rum and a spicy-sweet coffee liqueur. Conjoined with Afterglow coffee, vanilla simple syrup and sea salt, this rumtini is frothy and impossibly creamy. 1727 Rhoadmiller St.
ML Steak Modern Chophouse
An espresso martini riff using Pisco, a South American brandy? Leave it to Beth Dixon, an award-winning mixologist, to conjure up this take with the herbal amaro Ramozzoti, toasty molasses, cocoa bitters, Rostov’s cold brew and star anise. The result is a little herby and a lot of roast-y with a big finish. Dixon wanted to mirror the South African vibes of ML Steak in this cocktail. “Pisco is really earthy so it lends well with coffee and molasses pairs well with smoked meats,” says Dixon. 328 E. Broad St.
No martini to see here—-only a rocks glass with bourbon, Belle Isle Cold Brew moonshine, Luxardo Cherry, Cocchi Rosa, and Walnut Bitters. It’s coffee-forward with vanilla and fruit following. This strong cup of coffee cocktail is precisely what one would want before, during or after dinner. Various locations