The Case For Using Rum In Your Next Espresso Martini

During the summer of 2021, in what should have been our collective "hot girl summer" (turned lukewarm due to new COVID variants) (via Glamour UK), The New York Times published the article "The Espresso Martini is Everywhere (Again)." The article officially announced the 90s cocktail's reemergence into a quarantine-fatigued and cabin-fevered climate. And, a year and a half later, it seems as if the buzzy and boozy drink is here to stay — at least for a while.

The espresso martini, made of espresso, vodka, coffee liquor, simple syrup, and occasionally a coffee bean garnish, got its start in the 1980s, or so the legend has it, explains The New York Times. Possibly invented in London by a model requesting to be "woken up" and then "messed up," the drink reached its first peak in the 90s.

According to America's Test Kitchen, the reality TV show "Below Deck" may be a source for the espresso martini's comeback where yacht staff, tired from tending to the whims of the superrich, recharge and unwind simultaneously with the caffeinated and alcoholic drink. The New York Times also cites the rise in canned cocktails and pouches. Add the global fatigue paired with the need for resilience during the height of the pandemic, and the espresso martini's comeback seems inevitable, writes America's Test Kitchen. Now that the drink is steadfastly in the milieu, delicious riffs and twists bring the espresso martini to a new level of sophistication.

Rum adds complexity and flavor

Adding depth and complexity to a classic espresso martini doesn't take much. Food and Wine suggests swapping out the vodka for rum. Rum makes the espresso martini more well-rounded and even adds a hint of vanilla. America's Test Kitchen goes as far as to suggest that the rum-based espresso martini is the brooding counterpart to the extroverted vodka version.

Camila Chaparro, the developer of America's Test Kitchen's recipe for the rum-based espresso martini, elaborates: "Aged rum has a lot more going on in terms of flavor — caramel, molasses notes — than vodka, which is flavorless and doesn't bring too much to a drink other than alcohol." Those who prefer lattes can soften the flavors by adding cream. To turn the espresso martini into an elevated desert, try the affogato martini, served in New York's Maialino (vicino). The recipe adds cherry liquor and, of course, a scoop of vanilla gelato, explains Food and Wine.

Though the buzz around the espresso martini seems to emanate from London and New York, many cite the now-closed Bacchus Restaurant in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, as the home of the best rum-based espresso Martini, writes Spruce Eats. The espresso martini with rum seems to be 2023's answer to the overly eager vodka-based drink of our recent past. It's seen more; it's grown up.