Vietnamese Espresso Martini: Guide to the Perfect Coffee Cocktail

Make your next espresso martini pack a punch with the bold flavors of Vietnamese coffee beans. 

June 21, 2024
Vietnamese Espresso Martini with a phin filter and a cocktail shaker.

Espresso martinis have been a staple on bar menus for decades. People have made countless spins on the recipe over the years, such as swapping out the vodka for other spirits or even adding in chai tea for extra spice. 

But have you ever tried it with Vietnamese coffee? The rich, strong flavors of Vietnamese coffee coupled with the alcohol and the coffee liqueur’s sweetness are a match made in heaven. 

Find out about the origins of this classic drink and how to make Vietnamese espresso martinis at home. They are incredibly good, though, so remember to drink responsibly! 

Tools & Ingredients You’ll Need

To make a Vietnamese espresso martini, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:

  1. Vietnamese Coffee — We recommend either our BanMe and HaNoi blends. These flavors work well with the sweetness from the liqueur and simple syrup, creating a luxuriously rich cocktail.
  2. Coffee Liqueur — There are plenty of well-known coffee liqueurs out there, such as Kahlua or Tia Maria.
  3. Vodka — Vodka is the chosen spirit for an espresso martini, thanks to its neutral flavor that allows the other ingredients to shine through. But if vodka isn't your thing, there is nothing stopping you from using another spirit instead, such as white rum, tequila, or gin. 
  4. Simple Syrup — Simple syrup is formed by combining sugar and water together. It’s a common bar staple and can be easily purchased in grocery and liquor stores, but if you want to make your own, boil water and sugar together at a ratio of 1:1 until the sugar has dissolved. 
  5. Condensed Milk (optional) — This ingredient makes your cocktail mimic the traditional way Vietnamese coffee is served, ca phe sua. The rich milk flavors and extra sweetness make espresso martinis made with this extra ingredient extremely creamy, sumptuous, and addicting!
  6. Espresso Machine or Phin Filter — Both brewing methods work great, but we prefer using an authentic phin filter for our espresso martinis. This handy little device brews a very strong cup of coffee in seconds, perfect for cocktail recipes.
  7. Cocktail Shaker — The cocktail shaker is used to combine the ingredients and ice together.
  8. Strainer — You don’t want the ice from the shaking process to make its way into your martini glass, so pouring the cocktail through a strainer to serve prevents them from dropping through and also siphons out any other impurities or additives. 
  9. Ice Cubes — Espresso martinis are best served cold. You’ll need some ice handy to help cool the hot coffee before you pour it into the final cup.

Step-by-Step Instructions: Vietnamese Espresso Martini

Preparing a Vietnamese espresso martini is simpler than you might think! Here’s how to do it in 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Brew Your Coffee

First step of making vietnamese espresso martini: brewing your vietnamese coffee

The first step is to brew a strong coffee. Aim for about 1 shot of coffee per martini whether brewing with an espresso machine or phin filter.

Follow our detailed guides for brewing coffee with an espresso machine or phin filter, depending on your chosen method.

Step 2: Combine All Ingredients in a Cocktail Shaker

All ingredients to make a vietnamese espresso martini are being mixed in a cocktail shaker.

Now, all you have to do is combine everything together and mix it up. A cocktail shaker is perfect for this, but if you don't have one at home, a great alternative is a mason jar or a spill-proof to-go coffee cup.

Step 3: Shake Vigorously for 20 Seconds

Cocktail shaker being shaken vigorously for a perfect Vietnamese espresso martini

Add the lid to your shaker, or seal the other end with a glass cup and give everything a good shake. You’ll want to shake for at least 20 seconds to thoroughly mix everything together and cool off the coffee before you serve. 

Step 4: Strain into a Glass Filled with Ice

Pouring the Vietnamese espresso martini to a glass.

Pour your martini into a martini glass, filtering out any ice as you go. Cocktail strainers, kitchen strainers, or a steady hand will all do the trick.

Step 5: Garnish & Enjoy!

Ready to drink Vietnamese Espresso martini with 3 whole coffee beans as garnish.

For extra style points, add 3 whole coffee beans to the top of your martini to garnish. You’re now ready to start drinking!

Related: Ube Espresso Martini Recipe

What is a Vietnamese Espresso Martini?

An espresso martini is a cocktail made with 3 ingredients. The primary alcohol is vodka, which is paired with a coffee liqueur such as Kahlua or Tia Maria and a shot of espresso. Some recipes add a touch of simple syrup to boost the sweetness.

The Vietnamese variant of this drink swaps the simple syrup for traditional condensed milk and is brewed specifically using Vietnamese robusta coffee, which has a stronger, more full-bodied flavor than other coffee.

Espresso martinis are served cold and looks similar to a pulled espresso in a glass, with a deep, rich, brown body and a creamy top.

What Does an Espresso Martini Taste Like?

Sweet and creamy, an espresso martini doesn't have too strong of an alcoholic taste — something that makes it easier to drink. Of course, the main taste of coffee comes from the espresso, which is amplified by the coffee liqueur. Depending upon the type of Vietnamese coffee used for the espresso shot, you may also pick up notes of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, or even citrus. 

The Origins of the Espresso Martini

The espresso martini was invented in the 1980s and is typically credited to the creation of bartender Dick Bradsell. A legend in the mixologist community, he worked at various bars in London, such as The Player and Match, and is also touted as the inventor of other famous cocktails, such as the Bramble. 

The story goes that Bradsell was working at Fred’s Club in 1983 when a now-famous model (whose name is still unknown) asked the bartender for a drink that would “wake me up and f**k me up.” And so, the espresso martini was born. 

Why Does Vietnamese Coffee Work So Well for Espresso Martinis? 

Vietnamese coffee works especially well when making an espresso martini. This is because Vietnamese coffee primarily uses robusta beans, which are a lot stronger than arabica in both flavor and caffeine content. 

The base flavor profile of robusta beans also helps to make an espresso martini rich and decadent, with earthy, malty, chocolatey, and nutty notes that compliment the sweetness provided by the coffee liqueur. 

Related: Difference Between Robusta and Arabica

FAQs: Coffee Cocktails

Three ready to drink Vietnamese Espresso martinis with whole coffee beans.

We’ve put together the answers to your espresso martini questions, as well as other boozy coffee concoctions. 

1. Why is an espresso martini garnished with 3 coffee beans?

There are multiple stories behind why an espresso martini is garnished with 3 coffee beans. Some say they represent health, wealth, and happiness, others the Holy Trinity, or that the garnish takes its inspiration from a traditional way to top sambuca, known as “con la mosca.”

2. Can I use a different alcohol to make an espresso martini?

There’s nothing stopping you from making an espresso martini with a different liquor. Popular alternatives include white rum, gin, or even tequila!

3. What’s the best coffee to use for an espresso martini?

Coffee with a rich flavor that works well with the sweetness from the coffee liqueur is usually the best for your espresso shot. Try the bold and velvety SaiGon OG, or for a real coffee punch, try BanMe, with its dark chocolate, pepper, and cherry notes.

4. What are some other coffee-based cocktails?

If you want to explore some more boozy combinations with coffee, there are plenty out there to try. Top cocktails and drinks include Irish Coffee, Prairie Buzz, Death by Morning, and Nightcap.

5. What is a dirty espresso martini?

A dirty espresso martini combines this classic cocktail with the spices of chai tea. You can either use chai syrup or add a shot of strongly brewed chai tea alongside your espresso.