A few weeks ago I came across an article somewhere (which actually turned out to be more of an ad for a particular type of vodka than an actual article) talking about making the perfect espresso martini. Let’s set aside for a second that just because you put something into a martini glass doesn’t make it a martini. The term has worked itself deeply enough into our cultural lexicon that the argument isn’t really worth having.
The person, who claimed to be an experienced mixologist, said that they had been on a long-term mission to make the perfect espresso martini. Of course, since we’re dealing with a subject which involves taste, there is no objectively perfect espresso martini. Still, I was interested in what they had to say. I love good coffee and I’m a fan of booze, so mixing the two together is a natural fit.
The ad/article writer claimed that in all their vast experience, they found simpler to be better. I figured I’d give it a try:
1oz. fresh espresso
¾ oz. simple syrup
Shake over ice and strain. Garnish with coffee beans
Making an espresso taught me how much volume is in my single shot espresso cups. If you had previously asked me, I would have said “one shot.” Now I know that it’s two ounces (pretty convenient for making doubles of this particular cocktail).
The upside of the drink is that it’s clean and not too sweet. Most espresso martinis in my experience have been cloyingly syrupy, so this was an improvement. All in all, it was good—but it didn’t have a wow factor to it. I doubt I’d serve it alone as just a cocktail, but there are some chocolate pairings it might go with, especially for folks who want something with a dessert course but aren’t interested in a hot beverage. Not every work of art has to be a masterpiece, though. This one was pretty much the picture over the sofa. So I started to tinker with it.
The one part I felt it missed was cream, even though you can see a nice crema from the espresso. I cracked open a new bottle of Bailey’s and straight up substituted it for the simple syrup. I then added just a bit—like maybe ¼ oz. of Kahlua to add a bit more richness. I shook it, strained it, and tasted it.
This is when I came face to face with the fact that Bailey’s has an expiration date.
I’ll offer you a paraphrased quote from the wonderful British TV show Blackadder. “It was as if a dung beetle had lost interest in its career and really let itself go.” I drank some bourbon to get the nasty taste out of my mouth. Of course, I wondered how a “new” bottle could have been so bad. Here’s the kicker: the expiration date was 2009. We don’t use Bailey’s much, but over the years folks have given us enough bottles that we have one when we want some. The 2009 date tells me that someone brought it as a gift sometime shortly after we moved to Florida in 2006 and since it was unopened, it made the trek to our new house in early 2016.
While the adventure thankfully didn’t put me off the coffee that I drink daily, I haven’t gone back to the espresso martini well yet. It’s still as fresh in my mind as that bad tequila experience. Yeah, that one. The one we’ve all had and sworn we’d never repeat. But that’s a story for another day.