The Starbucks Espresso Martini Workshop Is A Chic Experience That Costs More Than A Few Cocktails

For many, Starbucks isn't just a coffee shop or cafe; it's a lifestyle. Your order — from Lavender Lemonade to that extra dollop of sweet cream cold foam — can say a lot about who you are (or at least, how you like to caffeinate). Worldwide, Starbucks' standard stores tend to have a similar vibe to one another; the Starbucks Reserve Roasteries that have opened in six cities so far — New York, Milan, Chicago, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seattle — are a step above. As large-scale, specially designed roasteries, they break the mold of a typical Starbucks cafe, tipping into a caffeinated, high-end, and occasionally boozy world.

One of the high-end elements of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is the ticketed Signature Experiences offered to customers. Besides being home to the roasting and brewing of Starbucks Reserve beans, these allow consumers a deeper look into coffee and cocktail culture within the Reserve Roastery locations. I had the chance to experience the Art of the Espresso Martini workshop, one of the many on offer at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in New York City.

The Starbucks Roastery is a specialty concept in every sense, so it's only fitting that there is more to it than typical Starbucks coffee and baked goods. The Art of the Espresso Martini workshop is an immersive experience, allowing attendees to drink a cocktail, understand the history and process that goes into it, and even make one themselves. I attended the workshop for free, but this did not impact my opinions.

What is the Starbucks Art of the Espresso Martini workshop?

Launched in late 2023 at all U.S. Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations, the Art of the Espresso Martini workshop is an informative and interactive experience that aims to show that cocktails and coffee are meant for each other. Over the hour-long workshop, coffee lovers and cocktail enthusiasts alike are given a little history lesson on the espresso martini and a breakdown of each ingredient that goes into the cocktail. From there, attendees craft a classic espresso martini from start to finish and enjoy a globally inspired three-martini flight. Each part of the martini workshop is also paired with a couple of light bites from Princi, the vendor that supplies all of the baked goods for Starbucks Roastery locations. 

Rather than sit and watch as the mixologists and baristas behind the bar mix everything up for you, the Art of the Espresso Martini workshop allows attendees to build a classic espresso martini and better understand how each ingredient works together in the glass. I enjoyed the interactiveness of the workshop and the opportunity to appreciate the coffee of it all, as well as Starbucks' foray into the cocktail universe. In addition to this special experience, Starbucks Roasteries offers tours of the coffee roasting area, a deep dive into making the cocktails and beverages at the Roastery, and a coffee-tasting workshop, all of which are available to book via the Starbucks Reserve website.

Pricing and reservations at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery

The Art of the Espresso Martini workshop is a ticketed affair, so before you race over to your local Starbucks Roastery and sidle up to the bar, be sure you've booked a seat ahead of time. Each U.S. Roastery location has tickets through the Starbucks Reserve website, with options for any day of the week. 

The hour-long class cap at approximately 10 people, which is a lot of people for an experience like this, where part of the enjoyment is chatting with the baristas and asking questions. I did the workshop with only one other person, and it was just right. I could ask questions and have thoughtful interactions with the baristas, something that might be difficult to achieve with a group of more than five or six at most.

The ticket price for this workshop varies slightly from one location to another, but it is roughly $100 for the experience. Included within the price tag are one full-sized cocktail, three significantly smaller cocktails, and a couple of snacks. Comparatively, it is costlier than other Roastery experiences. That said, it's also a bit more involved, allowing you to take a hands-on approach. The ticket price can certainly be justified for someone looking for a more intimate, unique experience that goes beyond a standard cup of coffee.

Part 1: Make your own classic espresso martini

The Art of the Espresso Martini workshop begins with a history lesson. A barista led us through the background of the espresso martini, which was first born at the Soho Club in London in the 1980s. After learning about its evolution, I got right into the drink I would be mixing up using just a handful of ingredients.

Each Starbucks Reserve Espresso Martini is made with Kalak single malt vodka, Starbucks Reserve espresso, and vanilla syrup. Attendees are given a setup with pre-portioned ingredients: ¼-ounce vanilla bean syrup, 1½-ounces of vodka, and two shots of dark roast espresso. After adding each ingredient individually, we shook the martinis with a few ice cubes until they were frosty and foamy. After pouring it into a glass, I shaved dark chocolate on top to my heart's content. The ratio of vodka to espresso to vanilla in the martini was well-balanced, with just the right amount of sweetness and bold notes of caramel and chocolate from the espresso.

Another highlight of the workshop comes via baked goods — the bakery at the Starbucks Roastery is supplied by Princi — to compliment the cocktail. I was treated to a tropical coconut mousse cake, a light bite that contrasted nicely with the dark, roasted flavor of the martini. Other possible snacks include a cinnamon roll or a sfilatino. If you have any food allergies, you'll have to inform your barista before the class begins.

Part 2: Sip on a three-martini flight

After a few sips of espresso martini, it was on to part two, which comprised a flight of three mini martinis. According to the workshop leaders, the flight represents a three-course meal: an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The flight, in order, starts with an orange cacao martini, then a mole spice martini, and finishes with a cherry limone martini. Each cocktail looks to be about 3 ounces and has the base of a standard version of the standard espresso martini but sized down. From there, the customized ingredients are added to each one. The baristas prepare each martini, and the class garnishes each glass individually.

The "meal" starts with the orange cacao martini, made with dried sherry wine and creme de cacao and garnished with a dried orange wedge. The martini was easy to sip on, with rich chocolatey notes and a bright, fresh finish. In the middle, the mole spice martini is made with Madeira wine and ancho reyes syrup and garnished with black sesame seeds. The heat was present and made for a flavorful sip with the sesame seeds, but it needed something more savory to bring out more flavor and spice and tie everything together.

The final martini, cherry limone, is made with limoncello wine and Luxardo cherry liqueur. A martini worthy of the dessert title, it is sweet and indulgent, with just the right kick of acid from the lemon. I left with the feeling that very meal should end with this martini.

Is the Starbucks Art of the Espresso Martini workshop worth it?

With the opening of the first Starbucks Roastery in 2018, Starbucks began enticing its consumers to explore a new and forward-thinking side of the company. The Signature Experiences offered at each Roastery are tailored to what today's consumer wants: a special, unique opportunity to indulge in something that goes above and beyond an everyday, routine occurrence, like a morning cup of coffee or an evening cocktail. The Art of the Espresso Martini workshop ticks the box in that respect.

However, the price tag for this particular experience is hard to overlook. While it is a special event, and special events don't come cheap, the amount of alcohol consumed during this workshop, approximately 17 ounces or two standard martinis, is disproportionate to the $100 ticket price. Even in a city as expensive as New York or Chicago, where a single martini can cost upwards of $20, this is a lot. There is added value in the snacks and the instructor experience, but the $100 price tag can quickly turn off the casual coffee or cocktail drinker.

That said, Starbucks has named this experience aptly; it is a distinctive event that can be wonderful for a date night or a special occasion, led by well-trained and knowledgeable Starbucks staff. If the price is too much, skip the workshop portion and order an espresso martini at the bar. Either way, you're bound to have a delicious time.