Using Coffee in Cocktails – The Espresso Martini is Getting Tired…

It’s no secret that we Australians – Melbournians in particular – are hypnotised by both coffee and alcohol at the moment. Specialty coffee and craft cocktails are becoming ever more complex and innovative, with a simple cup of coffee or gin and tonic being an art form in and of itself.

Today I’d like to discuss our merging of the two arenas – namely, coffee based cocktails and mixers. The humble espresso martini of the 1980s has served as a pioneer of this pairing. However, with the current renaissance of coffee and an increasingly refined consumer palate, bartenders and customers are expecting more. To be frank, the espresso martini is starting to get a little tired (however ironic that might be)…

High level coffee culture has become more akin to the wine industry in recent years, with any cafe worth their beans presenting a list of tasting notes and geographical information with each cup that they serve. Whether it be a rich and chocolatey cup from South America, or a fruitier, more earthy one from Kenya, this added information allows us more freedom to experiment with different flavour pairings.

As bartenders, we can use this knowledge to create more delicate matches with spirits, and perhaps even infuse complimentary spices and flavourings into the alcohol we’re using. We can even take it one step feather and make our own coffee liqueurs from scratch to further enhance the final product!

To illustrate my point, here’s one of my personal recipes that uses coffee in a new and hopefully interesting way, drawing inspiration from the classic pharmaceutical stimulant and modern Australian coffee culture.


Coffee Cocktails:

The Single Origin Stimulant


30ml Beenleigh Double Barrel Rum

15ml Beenleigh Honey Rum

15ml Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Try this Café liqueur recipe)

15ml Moccamaster Filter Coffee (Byron Bay coffee)

10 drops Eucalyptus Distillate

20ml Spring Water

1 pinch Murray River Salt



  1. Build ingredients in a mixing tin and stir until combined.
  2. Bottle ingredients in a test tube and chill for several hours.
  3. When ready for service, place a large hand cut ice block into a chilled burgundy glass.
  4. Smoke glass and ice with Australian cedar wood smoke and leave uncovered.
  1. Gently pour cocktail over ice and swirl briefly to dissipate smoke.
  2. Garnish with a red flowering gum blossom and serve.—

With this recipe I was trying to create a coffee cocktail that was unique to Australia, which is why I chose to use native bush botanicals such as wattle seed and eucalyptus. This was not done haphazardly though, as roasted wattle has a fantastic earthy flavour that compliments the notes of caramel and vanilla that are present in Byron Bay’s coffee. Additionally, the rich honey and light brandy notes of the Beenleigh rums work quite well to bring out the sweeter, liqueur like qualities of the coffee.


Coffee and Gin?

Another more simple way of pairing coffee with alcohol is the caffeinated gin and tonic. I know that might sound a little crazy, but trust me it’s both delicious and refreshing!

For example, we could pair a light and fruity cold drip coffee with a floral gin such as G’vine Floraisson or Distillery Botanica. When buffered with a good quality, more savoury tonic water such as Fever Tree or East Imperial, the final result is a light and floral gin and tonic with a subtle hit of caffeine. This is a great boozy pick me up that’s perfect for those who don’t want to commit to a cocktail! Generally, a good ratio for this is 1 part gin, 1 part coffee, to 2 parts tonic – but this is entirely up to you and will depend on the taste of you or your guest.

The moral of the story is that customers today have access to a vast amount of information relating to coffee, and are likely becoming used to something a little more adventurous than a twisted espresso martini made with week old, burnt coffee. It’s our responsibility as bartenders (or booze enthusiasts) to venture outside of our own niche of the hospitality industry and educate ourselves about the nuances of the ingredients that we’re using. That way, everyone’s much better off…

You can also see Nick Rose’s recent Mixology Monday entry taking french press to task with ultra high-proof absinthe. What coffee cocktails have you tried that were more than just another Espresso Martini?


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Single Origin Stimulant
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Rohan Fisher

Rohan is a Melbourne based mixology and coffee geek who earns his beer money working as a cocktail bartender. With a passion for great spirits, most nights inevitably lead to being perched at the bar (sometimes face down)…