Top Espresso Martinis

The Espresso Martini. Is it dessert or a drink? We think it is both. Wherever we go, we try their Espresso Martini. We have some things we look for when you are out and about. It must have espresso in it (yes, some recipes have NO espresso), it has to have a solid balance between sweet and coffee flavor and must have a foam that is just enough to accent the drink and not take it over.

According to Wikipedia, there are several claims for the origin of the espresso martini. One of the more common claims is that it was created by Dick Bradsell in the late 1980s while at Freds Club in London for a young lady who asked for something that would, “Wake me up, and then fuck me up.”

Three beans should garnish the top of this cocktail and represent three blessings, health, wealth and happiness.

Vintage Lounge

Vintage Lounge

Vintage Lounge Espresso Martini

Their version became one of our top choices this past fall. They won a contest they had between a few bars downtown during 2020. It hits all our points and sets the bar for all others who try to compete.  

We reached out, and Vintage gave us some deets on what sets their version apart.

  1. They use Second State espresso beans
  2. Add Italian Amaro’s Averna
  3. They shake it with 1×1 inch ice cubes, which gets it cold and frothy without diluting the drink

Halls Chophouse

Halls Chophouse Charleston

Justin at Halls pouring a martini

This one is certainly on the top, and one of our favorite bartenders in the Charleston area, Justin, makes the perfect one! Their version has Vanilla Vodka, Tia Maria, Kahlua, and Espresso. This one is big, and I speak from experience when I say, order a half or split one with a friend.

Their sister restaurant, High Cotton, does a similar one and was the first Espresso martini I ever had. The glass is rimmed in Nestle Quick. 

Coda Del Pesce

Coda Del Pesce

Coda Del Pesce Espresso Martini

Our other favorite bartenders in town, Mike, makes an astounding version. His version has Borgetti Espresso Liquor, Vanilla Vodka, Kettle One Citron, Frangeloca, Espresso.

167 Raw

167 Raw

Photo Credit 167 Raw

Who would have thought the best Raw Bar in town would also have one of the best Espresso Martinis? But they do and might I add, one of the coolest bars as well? 

This doozy is made with Borghetti, Licor 43, Kahlua, Pravda Espresso Vodka.


Some do not meet our taste test based on too much espresso, little to no sweet or no espresso in the drink. One place we had to ask if it had espresso as it was so sweet. They had espresso on their menu, so we didn’t even think they wouldn’t add it to their drink. Reach out if you want to know where to avoid these little gems. And if you are heading down to Hilton Head, we have two great places to check them out!