Meet my favorite cocktail for girls’ night in! These cold brew martinis are smooth, refreshing, and have just the right amount of sweetness. Even better, you don’t need an espresso machine to make this cocktail! With vodka, coffee liqueur, and homemade cold brew, they’re the loveliest drink to sip with friends. Cheers!

Two cold brew martinis without espresso on a pink counter next to coffee beans, a crystal decanter, and gold cocktail shaker.

Apparently, the 90s have made a comeback in every way possible. Bucket hats. Bike shorts. And, espresso martinis.

Of course, I was only four when the 90s came to an end, so while I did partake in jelly shoes and troll dolls, I certainly wasn’t sipping anything with vodka. But, as someone who can only muster the strength to roll out of bed with the promise of coffee, I’m here for this cocktail’s return to the contemporary.

If you too are a fan of drinks like coffee hot buttered rum or a coffee hot toddy, you need to get on this one ASAP. With just three ingredients, it’s ridiculously easy to make and lovely for sharing with friends with a side of light gossip. Let’s make drinks!

The best cold brew cocktail situation

Back in my barista days, I used to make gallons and gallons of cold brew. Of course, it’s lovely for sipping but it turns out that it’s also a great alternative for espresso in martinis! For those of us without espresso machines (or who don’t want to brew a hundred espressos for a crowd), this cold brew version is a lovely alternative that’s just as good at the OG.

  • This cocktail is so easy to make and has just three ingredients.
  • It’s smooth, lightly sweet, and has lots of coffee flavor.
  • You can make a big batch for a crowd. Lovely for sipping with friends!
  • Make it for holidays, dinner parties, girls’ nights, or a cozy night cap.

The ingredient list

A decanter of vodka, bottle of coffee liqueur, jar of cold brew, and martini glasses on a pink counter.
  • Cold brew concentrate – this is an undiluted version of cold brew that is extra strong. You’ll want cold brew concentrate (not diluted cold brew) because it’s very strong and adds a ton of coffee flavor to this drink. If you can’t find it in the grocery store, cold brew coffee concentrate is super easy to make at home!
  • Coffee liqueur – a splash of liqueur adds even more coffee flavor without making the drink too boozy. I like this local liqueur from 10 Torr, but any coffee liqueur you like will work! Kahlúa is a popular one.
  • Vodka – the vodka adds extra booziness and a smooth, creamy texture.
  • Simple syrup – totally optional. If you like extra sweet cocktails, make sure you have homemade or store-bought simple syrup on hand.
  • Coffee beans – these are just for aesthetics so they’re not required. But they are cute!

Ingredient variations

  • Coffee – if you have an espresso machine, you can also use a shot of espresso.
  • Liquor – instead of vodka, feel free to use tequila, rum, or even bourbon.
  • Coffee liqueur – to make an espresso martini without Kahlúa or coffee liqueur, try dark rum instead. You may need to add a bit of simple syrup since the liqueur adds sweetness to this drink.
  • Creamy – if you like a creamy coffee drink, use Bailey’s instead of coffee liqueur. Or, add 1/2 ounce of half-and-half or whole milk!
  • Chocolatey – for a mocha vibe, try replacing half of the coffee liqueur with chocolate liqueur.

How to make this drink

Three steps to making a coffee cocktail. In photo 1, a hand is pouring a gold shot glass of coffee into a glass cocktail shaker on a pink counter next to bottles of liquor. In photo 2, the hand is pouring a shot glass of coffee liqueur. In photo 3, the hand is pouring a shot glass of vodka.
  1. First, pour the cold brew into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Then, add the coffee liqueur.
  3. Lastly, add a shot of vodka.
Three steps to making a cold brew martini. In photo 1, a clear cocktail shaker is filled with cold brew, liquor, and ice on a pink counter next to alcohol bottles. In photo 2, a hand is shaking the cocktail shaker. In photo 3, the hand is pouring the espresso martini in a glass.
  1. Fill the cocktail shaker with a good amount of ice.
  2. Next, top the shaker and shake until the drink is chilled.
  3. Lastly, pour the martini into a chilled glass and garnish with 3 coffee beans. Enjoy!

Pro tip

You’ll want to shake the drink just until the outside of the shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. If you shake it for too long, the drink will end up watery!

To make a batch cocktail

If you want to make batch espresso martinis for a crowd (without having to brew espresso all night), this recipe is the best solution! Just multiply the ingredients by however many cocktails you want to make. Add everything to a pitcher, cover, and refrigerate for later. When you’re ready to serve, just shake the cocktail with ice a few at a time. Then, pour and enjoy!

Here’s the ratio for 8 cocktails:

  • 12 ounces vodka (360 milliliters)
  • 8 ounces coffee liqueur (240 milliliters)
  • 8 ounces cold brew concentrate (240 milliliters)

Serving ideas

This cold brew cocktail can be served for happy hour, dessert, or a post-dinner night cap. It’s one of my go-tos for parties and get-togethers with friends. Truly, everyone gets excited when you pull out a tray of martinis! Try serving these martinis with cheeses, desserts, & more. These are some of my favorite pairings:

Quick tip

To keep the cocktails nice and cold for serving a crowd, chill the martini glasses before you shake and pour. Just pop the martini glasses in the freezer for at least 1-2 hours before you’re ready to serve.

Storing & make-ahead

Single martinis are best enjoyed right after you pour the drink. But, you can make a big batch of this cocktail in advance for later! Just add the cold brew, coffee liqueur, and vodka to a pitcher. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. When you’re ready to serve, give the drink a good stir before you shake the martinis.

Pro tip

Depending on the size of your cocktail shaker, you should be able to shake about 3-4 cocktails at a time. This makes it so much easier to serve a group!

Two coffee cocktails on a pink counter next to glass decanters and a gold cocktail shaker.

How do I get the foamy top?

Espresso martinis are known for their signature foam top. There’s a bit of science that goes into this, but essentially, when you shake fresh espresso with ice, it aerates the liquid. The coffee oils wrap around the air bubbles, making the top nice and silky!

With this cold brew version, you will still get a bit of foam but not as much. That’s because cold brew doesn’t have crema, a.k.a. that foamy bit on top of espresso. But, there are a few tricks to getting a foamy top, even with cold brew!

  1. Shake the cocktail as hard as possible. The harder you shake, the more foam you’ll get.
  2. Shake the cocktail for at least 20-30 seconds, but even up to 40 seconds.

Quick tip

Ok, this is cheating a little bit but if you want to guarantee a foam top, you can also add 1 ounce of egg whites or 2 Tablespoons of aquafaba (canned chickpea liquid) to the cocktail before you shake it. I’ve also gotten a nice foam lid from adding 1/2 ounce of half-and-half to the cocktail. Just keep in mind, it will make the martini creamy!

Helpful tools

Two cold brew martinis on a pink background next to a glass decanter, gold cocktail shaker, and coffee beans.

Tips & tricks

  • Use good quality coffee concentrate. There are a lot of store-bought options available, but if you can swing it, I definitely recommend making it yourself. Or, buy a high-quality brand at a coffee shop or well-stocked grocery store. It makes a huge difference!
  • If you like a sweeter cocktail, try adding 1/4-1/2 ounce of simple syrup. I find that the coffee liqueur adds enough sweetness, but feel free to adjust the drink to your tastes!
  • If you’re making batch espresso martinis, start by dividing just half of the martinis between the glasses. Then, top each drink with the remaining cocktail. You want to make sure everyone gets foam on top!
  • For an extra smooth martini, I recommend double straining the drink through a fine-mesh sieve. The sieve will remove any bits of ice that slip through the shaker.
  • Serve the martinis right away. The foam will melt the longer the drink sits.

Recipe FAQs

What are espresso martinis?

Espresso martinis are a combination of vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, and sugar. The drink was originally known as The Vodka Espresso, then the Pharmaceutical Stimulant, and eventually (in the martini craze of the 90s), the version we know and love today.

Espresso martinis were created by legendary British bartender, Dick Bradsell, at Fred’s Club in the late 80s. As the story goes, a young model walked up to the bar and asked Bradsell for a drink to “wake me up and f**k me up”. Honestly? My kind of gal.

Can I use regular cold brew?

I did test this recipe with regular cold brew and I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. The cocktail ended up watery and lacking in the intense flavor you would usually find in an espresso martini. If you can’t buy or make cold brew concentrate, you would probably have better luck with nitro cold brew (usually sold in a can) which is thicker and richer than classic cold brew.

Can I make a decaf version?

Totally! Just make cold brew concentrate with decaf coffee beans instead of regular. Sometimes, you can also find decaf concentrate with other refrigerated prepared coffees in the grocery store.

What cold brew is best for this recipe?

I like making my own because I can use my favorite coffee beans! But if you want to go store-bought, use any brand you like. I personally visit one of my local coffee shops which sells concentrate in bottles. But, most grocery stores carry popular brands like Stumptown or Bizzy. Trader Joe’s sells it too!

Why are espresso martinis garnished with 3 coffee beans?

The espresso martini’s 3 coffee bean garnish is iconic. The beans are said to represent health, wealth and happiness which comes from the tradition of serving Sambuca in Italy. The beans are called con la mosca, which means “with the fly”.

Two cold brew martinis on a pink counter next to a crystal decanter, gold and glass canister, coffee beans, and glass cocktail shaker.

More cozy cocktails

Freezer Door Old Fashioned
French 77 Cocktail with Gin
Strawberry Gin Smash with Basil
Rosé Sangria with Berries & Lemon
Ginger Old Fashioned
Freezer Door Martini with Lemon
Blueberry Lemon Vodka Spritz

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The Best Cold Brew Martinis (No Espresso!)

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Meet my favorite cocktail for girls' night in! These cold brew martinis are smooth, refreshing, and have just the right amount of sweetness. Even better, you don't need an espresso machine to make this cocktail! With vodka, coffee liqueur, and homemade cold brew, they're the loveliest drink to sip with friends. Cheers!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka (45 milliliters)
  • 1 ounce coffee liqueur (30 milliliters)
  • 1 ounce cold brew coffee concentrate, homemade or store-bought (30 milliliters)
  • Coffee beans, for garnish

Equipment

Instructions 

  • Combine the vodka, coffee liqueur, and cold brew coffee concentrate in a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill the shaker with ice. Cover and rapidly shake until the outside of the shaker is very cold and frosty, about 30 seconds.
  • Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with 3 coffee beans and enjoy!

Notes

Use good quality coffee concentrate. There are a lot of store-bought options available, but if you can swing it, I definitely recommend making it yourself. Or, buy a high-quality brand at a coffee shop or well-stocked grocery store. It makes a huge difference!
If you like a sweeter cocktail, try adding 1/4-1/2 ounce of simple syrup. Some coffee liqueurs are sweeter than others so you may need to adjust the ratios a bit. I find that the coffee liqueur adds enough sweetness, but feel free to add simple syrup if you like!
Cold brew martinis don’t get as much foam on top as the espresso version. If you want to guarantee a foam top, you can also add 1 ounce of egg whites or 2 Tablespoons of aquafaba (canned chickpea liquid) to the cocktail before you shake it. I’ve also gotten a nice foam lid from adding 1/2 ounce of half-and-half to the cocktail. Just keep in mind, it will make the martini creamy!
If you’re making multiple drinks at once, start by dividing just half of the martinis between the glasses. Then, top each drink with the remaining cocktail. You want to make sure everyone gets foam on top!
For an extra smooth martini, I recommend double straining the drink through a fine-mesh sieve. The sieve will remove any bits of ice that slip through the shaker.
Serve the martinis right away. The foam will melt the longer the drink sits.
Cuisine: American
Course: Drinks
Serving: 1martini, Calories: 206kcal, Carbohydrates: 11.2g, Protein: 0.2g, Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 7mg, Potassium: 98mg, Sugar: 11.2g, Calcium: 4mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Frequency of Love by Milky Chance