Everything old is new again, even at the bar. Take the espresso martini, one drink from the late 20th-century cocktail pantheon that, along with flannel and wide-leg jeans, is making a comeback.
"We felt like it was very popular at Campiello back in the day," says Lindsay Pohlad, referring to the Uptown Italian restaurant that ran from the mid-'90s to the mid-aughts. (Campiello remains open in Eden Prairie.) Once again, the drink is "very much in vogue." Pohlad, owner of the Grocer's Table in Wayzata, put a version of the espresso martini on the new cocktail menu at the all-day restaurant in order to showcase the coffee program and bakery.
It's popular any time of day, she's noticed. "People have been ordering it at 10:30 in the morning," she says. "People come to pregame with us and then go to another restaurant, or they're even having it as a nightcap."
A true espresso martini has few ingredients: usually just espresso and vodka, perhaps a bit of coffee liqueur, and maybe a twist of lemon or a garnish of coffee beans. It can be powerfully strong and leave you with the jitters, like a vodka-Red Bull for the coffee connoisseur.
But there are countless ways to interpret the drink. Some are drizzled with chocolate syrup, some might be frozen and blended. Milk or cream is optional. It can be breakfast and it can be dessert, depending on your craving.
The most important thing, says Fhima's Minneapolis bartender Nils Larsson, is balance. "You can do all kinds of weird stuff, as long as you have that balance of enough sugar content to counteract the bitterness of the coffee," he says.
But one ingredient the espresso martini always includes? A dash of nostalgia. Like the Appletini, the Cosmo and the Long Island iced tea, this turbocharged cocktail is inextricably linked to turn-of-the-century decadence.
At the Blue Plate Restaurant Co., the espresso martini "entered the scene at our restaurants at a time of the overall '80s revival," says co-owner Stephanie Shimp. Bringing it back was irresistible, she says. "We had to — shoulder pads, spinach dip, espresso martini."
Three to try
The Black Cat
The Grocer's Table, 326 Broadway Av. S., Wayzata, thegrocerstablemn.com
Black Cat Intelligentsia beans are the foundation for this spin on the espresso martini, which also contains amaro, coffee liqueur and vanilla syrup, and comes with a house-baked biscotti.
Fhima's Espresso Martini
Fhima's Minneapolis, 40 S. 7th St., Mpls., fhimasmpls.com
The Spanish liqueur Licor 43 gives it a hint of vanilla, while Irish cream and coffee liqueur make this balanced dessert menu cocktail taste creamy and lightly sweet.
Blue Plate's Espresso Martini
Several Twin Cities locations, blueplaterestaurantco.com
This barely sweet cocktail at Blue Plate's seven restaurants is built from Big Watt's Circuit Bender Cold Press Coffee and Du Nord Social Spirits' Cafe Frieda coffee liqueur, two local brands.