Coffee has an affinity for being combined with many complementary flavors, chocolate and vanilla to cinnamon and orange. Cognac, with its mellow notes of butterscotch, baking spices and nutty toffee, also holds a key position on that flavor matrix. Combining these two standout components in a cocktail presents unlimited opportunities. The Rémy Espresso, an elevated riff on the classic Espresso Martini, does just this. Working from a core template of Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, espresso and coffee liqueur, we asked three top bartenders to push this formula even further in an original cocktail. From an invigorating bitter and buzzy aperitivo to a creamy and nutty nightcap with a hint of spice, discover why the flavor profiles of Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal and espresso are the perfect match for a range of inspired Espresso Martini variations.
Harrison Ginsberg and Christopher Figueroa, the bar director and head bartender, respectively, at a celebrated New American restaurant in Lower Manhattan, collaborated on the Cafecito. Named after the classic Cuban coffee serve, this consists of espresso and sugar whipped together to yield a distinctive layer of crema. For Figueroa, the quality of their riff’s components is key—none more paramount than espresso. If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, Figueroa suggests using a stovetop moka pot. “This will give you a robust extraction that still has the acid and oily characteristic that an espresso shot should have,” he says. “An Espresso Martini is a classic and should be made with integrity.”
The New York bartenders settled on an Ethiopian coffee to pair with Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal. “The coffee and the Cognac share so many of the same tasting notes and aromas; they have a sort of natural affinity for each other,” says Figueroa. “The Ethiopian coffee has great acidity and wonderful fruity notes that are also present in the Cognac itself.” For their riff on a Rémy Espresso, Ginsberg and Figueroa integrate cream sherry and fresh almond orgeat to stand in for the traditional flavored liqueur component. A bit of saline and spicy Mexican bitters add integration and equilibrium. “It was important for us to make sure that our Espresso Martini variation did not come across cloying or overly sweet,” says Figueroa. “By using salt and spice we were able to achieve a drink that felt balanced and still fitting to the overall spirit of the drink.”
As the name implies, Orlando Franklin McCray’s Kafé l’Orange plays up the aromatic and bitter notes of coffee with a bittersweet burst of orange. While the bar director at a Brooklyn nightclub makes plenty of Espresso Martinis each shift, McCray’s sensitivity to caffeine prevents him from fully enjoying them beyond straw tests to ensure quality. To stand in for the traditional shot of espresso, McCray substitutes an aromatic coffee and cocoa bitter liqueur from Haiti. “Orange lends itself to coffee flavors, so I think it’s important to use a twist, oil or a piece of orange while shaking,” says McCray. He amps up the citrus profile with a splash of orange liqueur. A bit of cane syrup introduces additional sweetness and texture, while three dashes of aromatic bitters deliver baking spice fragrance and tie the drink together. A final and unexpected touch is the addition of milk powder, which helps achieve a “smoother, more velvety consistency.” Using Cognac imparts a bit more body and a noticeably rounder flavor than the traditional base spirit of vodka. “Since Rémy Martin 1738 is a blended Cognac, I think it lends itself to a cocktail like this,” says McCray. “While there’s oak in its profile, it isn’t particularly tannic like a single-cask Cognac might be, and lends itself to the other like-flavors, orange specifically.”
In her refreshing Counterpoint, Lauren Corriveau, head of creative development and programming at a national hospitality group, strays from the classic Espresso Martini “up in coupe” serve for an on-the-rocks, aperitif-style pick-me-up. Her tonic-topped variation could pass as an Espresso Martini by way of a classic spritz. “In music, ‘counterpoint’ describes the practice of two melodic lines interacting with one another, which in my mind captures the interaction between Cognac and vermouth in this cocktail,” says Corriveau. The base of her drink is a combination of Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal and bittersweet Italian vermouth. “I’ve split the spirituous portion of the recipe between Rémy Martin and Punt e Mes, a bitter vermouth whose dark cherry, chocolate and orange notes pair wonderfully with the fruity, oaked qualities of the Cognac,” she says. A touch of white crème de cacao adds richness and texture. Topped with tonic, the effervescent result is reminiscent of the classic café pairing of espresso and tonic—invigorating and bright. “I also like to think of this recipe as my personal petition to consume a caffeinated cocktail in the early evening, as opposed to the end of the night,” says Corriveau. And the Rémy Espresso delivers on that desire, equally at home as a predinner aperitif or an unforgettable nightcap.