The following is suitable for adults only and is written in memory of someone more influential in my life than Bowie and who created more magic than Paul Daniels.
This is about the Espresso Martini and the man who created it, Dick Bradsell. Read on (or skip to the end if you must) and the perfect recipe shall be revealed.
Amongst my friends it’s a drink very much of the now, though it was created in the 80s by the inimitable Bradsell.
Bradsell was a seminal part of London’s cocktail scene and was credited by the San Francisco Chronicle as having “single-handedly changed the face of the cocktail scene in London in the 1980s”, whilst The Observer wrote of him as the “cocktail king.”
He was, of his time, compared to celebrity chefs and created cocktails for the likes of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin at the exclusive (and now closed) London Colony Club. He even played a gangster in a Christopher Nolan film.
This legend of the bar scene sadly passed away in February 2016. But his spirit and his magic will live on, in the Espresso Martini in particular.
So now take yourself back to 1984 and imagine the big shoulder pads and even bigger hair at a busy and popular London cocktail haunt…
The story goes that a beautiful and world-famous model walks in to the Soho Brasserie and asks Dick to make her something that will “wake me up and fuck me up”.
Dick eyed the newly installed espresso machine at the bar, drew a bottle of vodka, a little sugar syrup and a dash of espresso, then mixed and shook them hard over ice. The Espresso Martini was born.
Now this seminal cocktail has endured many variations. Some, if not most, I personally consider horrific. A great cocktail – like the very best of anything – is all about simplicity and top notch materials.
The key here is to use really, really, good fresh coffee. Certainly ground and brewed on the spot. If you only have supermarket brand ground espresso of indeterminate age, then please don’t proceed. I beg you. No amount of Kahlua (or worse) can make up for a properly good espresso; and you will likely ruin your experience of this drink forever.
I also recommend a good quality, clean vodka. Potato-based vodka works better, for a reason no-one can explain. So here I recommend our local and world-class distillery: Chase, up the road from my castle tower, in Herefordshire and the land of potatoes.
First, make sure you have prepared and planned before making anything. This means chilled and appropriate glassware: martini glasses are traditional, though I and others do find small wine goblets work just as well. Also have ice, very frozen and not ‘wet’ from leaving it lying around the kitchen from your earlier gin and tonics.
Ready? Here we go:
Two measures of good vodka (we recommend Chase but anything clean and around 40% alcohol will suffice);
One measure of freshly made, good quality espresso;
Half a measure of sugar syrup (this can easily be made by mixing 2:1 water and sugar over a low heat until dissolved and then cooled).
Half fill your shaker with large lumps of very cold ice (see above) and pour in ingredients. The secret here is to allow plenty of space to shake the contents. Larger chunks of ice will not melt so readily, so preserving the integrity of the cocktail.
My measures are based on a single shot or 25ml in modern terms, per serving. You can of course multiply this for multiple glasses – though note the importance of allowing space for the contents to get shaken with enough air .
Shake hard and shake for as long as you can bear. If you are using a metal shaker, it will get very, very cold. This is key as the shaking will help release the latent gases in the coffee. This is also why using good quality fresh coffee is so important.
Pour in to cold glasses.
Garnish with a twist of lemon, mint leaf, coffee bean or whatever you fancy. I personally like mine bare, without adornments.
You will find a creamy, light brown liquid issues forth in to the glasses. Don’t worry, this is just how it should look!
Leave for a minute or three and the mixture will settle, leaving a beautifully creamy, sweet top and a darker and delicious liquid below.
It’s that simple.
Enjoy and raise a toast to Dick, that super model and friends. With this cocktail done properly, the latter will love you forever and Dick will no doubt be looking down, smiling at you, from the great cocktail bar in the sky.
Footnote and Links:
Great coffee can be ordered direct from Wales’ upcoming and award-winning roastery (though I may be biased as I co-founded it): Black Mountain Roast.
To find out more about Chase Vodka visit them here. They are lovely people and do tours of their distillery too, that I can thoroughly recommend.
For more general musings on cocktails, martinis and how to make them have a read through of my other post: Breakfast Martinis and Battlements.