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Cocktails

The Espresso Martini Is a Total Monster

November 23, 2021

Story: Nick Caruso

illustrations: Carolyn Figel

Cocktails

The Espresso Martini Is a Total Monster

November 23, 2021

Story: Nick Caruso

illustrations: Carolyn Figel

A day in the life of the drink that is as ubiquitous as it is reviled.

The Espresso Martini has had a notable few years. After a drastic dip in popularity, during which its cocktail world credibility hovered near that of Four Loko, the ascendant Espresso Martini now shares menu real estate with house Old-Fashioneds and seasonal Negronis. The drink is considered a modern classic by many, but even though its one-two punch of vodka and espresso makes it popular with the party crowd, bartenders loathe its rise to ubiquity. “Guests love the Espresso Martini... me, not so much,” said bartender Cameron Wells of SoHo’s chic nightspot Leather & Candy. “Making drinks is what I love, but pulling a hot shot of coffee and adding it to a metal shaker 20 times a night just sucks. Beyond being hard to make, the Espresso Martini is just plain exhausting to be around, in public or private. I truly hate this drink.”

But that reputation doesn’t get Espresso Martini down. “I’m just not everyone’s cup of tea,” Espresso Martini said recently. “I’m not tea at all, actually. And I wouldn’t want to be—tea tastes terrible with vodka.” Their unapologetic attitude seems to be working, as demand for the cocktail is skyrocketing. In fact, Espresso Martini routinely doubles down on the sentiment: “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best. And that’s too bad, because I’m simultaneously horrible and awesome.”

To get a sense of the character behind the cocktail, we asked Espresso Martini to share a day in their life. Here’s how it went down.

Morning

My alarm is always set no later than 11:15 a.m. I tend to sleep through the thing for at least half an hour even though I put it on its loudest setting. (It’s seriously SO loud—my neighbor always texts me that his colleagues can hear it over Zoom LOL.)

Such a busy schedule today, no time to waste. But I can’t skip exercise. I designed my own one-hour, music-based workout program called “Jump and Stomp.” (Basically, I can do ALL the drum parts from my favorite Korn songs—entirely with my feet!) For a cool down, I meditate for 30 minutes to the mantra “I am not my trust fund” before crushing a blender full of my secret protein shake recipe (hint: two Red Bulls).

I’m out the door by 3 p.m. There’s a pamphlet guy on the stoop, so I hold the door open and wish him well. Good deed for the day already done!

Commute

Riding the subway is one of my favorite New York experiences. I have a special “subway kit” that I always bring. There’s a Bluetooth speaker for my JAMS, nail clippers, leftover Chinese food in case I get hungry—and, of course, I keep it all in my big backpack so I don’t have to set down my stuff on the gross floor. Ew!

Obviously, I love having a bench so I can spread out. It’s so uncomfortable to sit up on the subway! People-watching on the subway is fascinating, and the humanity is so inspiring: Today this suuuuper pregnant woman rode for easily 35 to 40 minutes, standing the whole time! I just sat there in awe, really.

When I can’t get a seat, like during rush hour, my next favorite place is the doorway because there are lots of leaning options. Not everyone on the subway is cool; other riders always try to stand next to me even though the door is clearly a one-person situation, and people (especially OLD people) complain nonstop about my “huge, stupid backpack” when they board—as though I’m the problem! Dude, not my fault I copped the best spot. Sorry not sorry!

Running Errands

I’m all out of dark chocolate peanut butter cups, so a Trader Joe’s snack spree is in order. While I’m inside, I (of course) find a ton of things I also want/need. Figure I’ll grab an apple to snack on, but when I find the perfect one about midway through the display, the whole thing tumbles down. Guess it’s applesauce for the cleanup crew today! It’s hard to carry all the goods without a cart, so I do that thing where you use the bottom of your shirt as a basket. In the checkout line, I see a sign that TJ’s doesn’t give out plastic bags anymore (and I have enough totes at home LOL) so I have to ditch most of my stuff in the chip aisle. Like a genius, I put the bag of frozen tilapia and the half-gallon of milk on the bottom shelf so my new buddies, the cleanup crew, know where to find them.

Dinner and a Movie

Self-care date night! Taking myself out for dinner and a movie at my fav theater—the AMC in Times Square. I feel so at home in this ’hood! Skipped the subway and took one of those rickshaw things, and thankfully my Bluetooth speaker still had plenty of charge.

I go for my usual movie meal: two nachos, a large Coke, large popcorn and Twizzlers. Thank goodness theaters are open again. I think they’re the ideal place to hang out, eat, socialize and catch some entertainment. For one, the chairs are comfy, and the service is amazing—you can just dump your trash on the floor after every show! 

Since I’ve had a long day, I want to avoid spectacle and action so I go for a low-key drama film that’ll be enjoyable but also quiet enough that I won’t have to leave to make any phone calls. It’s also a great opportunity to socialize and meet other cinephiles: Every time I get back from the bathroom, I just ask whoever is sitting next to me what I missed. Boom! Instant ice breaker!

Heading Home

It’s almost 1 a.m. now. Taking the subway can be a commitment late at night, and Ubers are so expensive! I have one of those electric scooter memberships though, and I can make quick work of the trip if I exclusively use sidewalks. I park right outside my apartment, but there’s basically like two inches between my scooter and this car’s bumper; I hope they don’t have to leave for work super early LOL. 

While I’m on the street, I remember it’s recycling day and I didn’t put mine out. I grab all seven bags of bottles and cans and toss them out the window RIGHT where they need to be on the sidewalk. Bull’s-eye! 

After such an exciting day, I figure it’s not time yet to turn in. So I head to my local dive for a nightcap. I always order “off-menu,” and tonight is no exception. I want something chill but super fun, just like my personality, and go for my all-time fav: three measures of Everclear and a Diet Coke chaser—poured directly into my mouth. 

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