Call it a comeback. The hottest drink in the current world of cocktails originated in the 1980s and picked up steam in the ’90s, and its recent resurgence has bar owners scrambling to stock coupe glasses and coffee beans. Espresso martinis are all the rage right now, rediscovered by 20-somethings for their Instagram-friendly presentation and nostalgic ’90s vibes that are so on-trend right now.
Legend has it the drink was invented in 1983 when a young model in a London bar ordered something to “pick her up and mess her up.” The bartender combined coffee with vodka and sugar and the concoction was born. In Fort Worth, most espresso martinis are mostly made with vodka, but there are versions with bourbon and even tequila. Here are eight of the best hot spots in town to try one. Pinkies up.
When you make your own coffee-flavored bourbon, your espresso martinis are destined for greatness. This downtown distillery gets crafty with its long list of spirits, and among top fan favorites is Java Shine, a blend of locally roasted Avoca Mogwai coffee and Acre’s own Longhair Jim straight bourbon whisky. The concoction is used in Acre’s dark and rich espresso martini, which is shaken with a bit of simple syrup and espresso and served in a coupe glass garnished with coffee beans. Get it during happy hour (Tuesday through Friday from 3-8 pm) for only $5. Guests can also get the full distillery experience by booking a tour and tasting. Offered Thursday through Saturday, tour goers get to sample seven different spirits for only $15.
The Amber Room
It only makes sense that a cocktail lounge as intimate and sultry as The Amber Room would offer a great espresso martini. The dimly lit speakeasy is hidden behind the door with all the knobs inside Wishbone & Flynt, located in the South Main St. district. (There’s also an entrance from Bryan Avenue, but it’s not marked.) Amid the velvet furniture, jewel-tone drapery, lavish rugs, and elegantly mismatched nooks of seating are plenty of spots to perch with a martini in hand. The Amber Room’s version uses espresso liqueur, vodka, housemade coffee-infused simple syrup, and coffee bitters. Sip smoothly and feel sophisticated.
Espresso martinis on tap? Yes, please. Blackland Distillery doubles as a swanky cocktail lounge and tasting room, where guests can get espresso martinis poured straight from a spout. Officially called Texpresso Yourself, Blackland’s version is made with their own Texas Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon, cold brew coffee, and house-made coffee liqueur. Served in a coup glass with a thick layer of creamy froth, the robust concoction oozes elegance — just like the lounge’s horseshoe-shaped, chandelier-lit bar and surrounding booths, tables, and club chairs. Blackland also makes vodka, rye whiskey, and one excellent, herbal-infused gin. Book a distillery tour in advance and get a cocktail and full spirits tasting for $30.
You don’t have to be an overnight guest to visit Hotel Drover’s be-seen Lobby Bar, where both travelers and locals congregate for fancy libations amid the hotel’s modern cowboy chic atmosphere. (There’s an emerald-green velvet couch and several custom cowhide-covered chairs to settle into.) Cocktails here are served in Drover’s signature glassware that’s hand-etched in Mexico, and each vessel is unique. The espresso martini fills its substantial martini glass — which almost requires two hands to hold. Made with Avoca cold brew coffee and Absolut vanilla vodka, the rich beverage is only slightly sweet and perfectly chilled, which makes it go down easy. Proceed with caution.
Little Red Wasp
These days, the popular spot for weekend brunch slings almost as many espresso martinis as they do mimosas. Little Red Wasp owner and restaurateur Adam Jones, who also owns Grace and the soon-to-open 61 Osteria Italian concept, confirms espresso martinis are currently ordered on repeat at both of his restaurants. The Wasp’s version is simple: espresso liqueur, vanilla vodka and just a touch of simple syrup. As with all espresso martinis, the concoction is shaken vigorously over ice to achieve a frothy layer of foam. Note that the Wasp is closed briefly for back-of-the-house renovations until August 23, but the espresso martinis will be ready to pour upon completion.
Leave it to Tim Love to buck the norm. The busy chef and restaurateur does gives his espresso martinis a little Tex-Mex twist. While they’re typically shaken with vodka or bourbon, Love prefers tequila. At Paloma Suerte, his festive Mule Alley Tex-Mex restaurant, Love’s signature espresso martini is made with Olmeca Altos tequila, which Love calls “slightly peppery.” The result is more depth of flavor and delightful complexity. Try one during Paloma’s Suerte brand new Saturday and Sunday breakfast hours from 9-11 am.
A strong candidate for one of the prettiest espresso martinis in town, Press Café’s version arrives photo-shoot ready. Garnished with a neat but liberal dusting of ground cinnamon on one half and three carefully placed coffee beans on the opposite side, the creamy concoction is served in a dainty coupe glass. Shaken with vodka and espresso by Fort Worth-based Avoca Coffee Roasters, the libation offers lots of frothy foam and is refreshingly sweet. (Expect it to go down fast.) The good thing about Press Café is that they open at 7 am, so the drink can double as a breakfast cocktail or an evening pick-me-up on the riverside patio.
Espresso martinis are so popular at this sky-high downtown bar (located on the 24th floor of the Kimpton Harper hotel) that there is more than one to choose from. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the most traditional, made with vodka, Kahlua, and a splash of triple sec and simple syrup. But the Raspberry Beret, shaken with tequila, Chambord, and housemade raspberry syrup, tastes more like a dark chocolate raspberry square. The My Sharona is dark and lush, made with local Blackland Distilling Texas Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon. All use fresh espresso from the machine located directly on the bar. An overnight hotel stay is not required to enjoy the cocktails or take in Refinery 714’s expansive horizon views.