The Caramel Macchiato Espresso Martini Is A Celebration Of Mixology And Creativity At Starbucks

The martini is the cocktail that started it all. In its simplest form, a classic martini has vodka (or gin), dry vermouth, and an olive or twist of lemon for garnish. From there, the possibilities are endless, but for Starbucks, it seemed only fitting for the brand to lean into its coffee expertise and expand into espresso martinis. As Starbucks has furthered its reach in popular beverage culture as both a coffee go-to and now a cocktail destination, it is tapping into the creativity of its staff of Starbucks mixologists to come up with innovative concepts that treat visitors to a good cocktail and a memorable experience.

The Caramel Macchiato Espresso Martini is just one of many cocktails featured in Starbucks' Mixology Creations program. This program offers a rotating selection of seasonal and trendy cocktails created by Starbucks mixologists, who use fresh, quality ingredients and freshly brewed Starbucks coffees and teas in all their cocktail innovations. I had the opportunity to chat with the Starbucks team and the creator of the Caramel Macchiato Espresso Martini, to get some insight into the inspiration behind the cocktail and how Starbucks is making a name for itself in the cultural cocktail zeitgeist.

What is the Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Espresso Martini?

Starbucks has done much over the past several years to get coffee fans excited about cocktails, most notably with its Mixologist Creations concept. According to the brand team, Mixologist Creations is an opportunity for Starbucks mixologists to develop their cocktail concepts and customizations, similar to the creations thought up by Starbucks baristas. Each Starbucks Reserve Roastery location has its own collection of these cocktail creations, and at the New York City location, the Caramel Macchiato Espresso Martini is one of the cocktails of the moment.

The martini is inspired by none other than one of Starbucks' most iconic beverages, the Caramel Macchiato. Made with freshly pulled espresso, steamed milk, vanilla-flavored syrup, and a caramel drizzle, the boozy version kicks things up a notch, incorporating vodka, sweet red vermouth, and heavy cream. Unlike the espresso martini served at the Arriviamo bar at the Starbucks Roastery, the Caramel Macchiato Espresso Martini is slightly outside the box, combining a few different cocktail and beverage concepts in one complete and balanced creation.

The iconic espresso drink inspired the martini

Considering the current renaissance of the traditional espresso martini, it makes sense that Starbucks would use the moment to highlight one of its most popular espresso beverages from its core menu. This time, however, it would go above and beyond the usual concoction, focusing on the drink's aesthetics in addition to the ingredients.

"Mixologist Creations are a fun opportunity for me to express my creativity and hone my mixology craft," said Eleana, the Starbucks mixologist who created the cocktail. "I wanted to explore new ways to play with the flavors featured in the Caramel Macchiato."

Macchiato is the Italian word for "marked," which, if you've ever ordered a caramel macchiato and taken a look at the top before the plastic top goes on, you understand where it gets the name from. The beverage is topped with a caramel drizzle in a crosshatch, or marked, design, giving it a more whimsical look and feel and a salty kick to an otherwise sweet beverage. This same aesthetic is seen on the martini version, with a sweet and salty caramel drizzle crosshatching the drink in the martini glass before serving. While many Mixologist Creations are an ode to coffee and tea, the Caramel Macchiato espresso martini is undoubtedly an ode to Starbucks and the following that the Caramel Macchiato beverage has gained, right down to that caramel drizzle.

The fresh espresso separates the Starbucks cocktail from other espresso martinis

You may think the name "espresso martini" tells you everything you need to know about what's in the glass, but not all espresso martinis are the same. In fact, many bars don't even use espresso; bartenders may use brewed coffee, chai, or even a coffee liqueur instead of actual coffee to get that flavor infusion while also upping the booze factor. Starbucks, however, is true to itself and its coffee. Rather than rely on something that looks or tastes like espresso but isn't, Starbucks freshly pulls each shot of espresso for its Caramel Macchiato espresso martini, using only Starbucks Reserve coffee beans to ensure consistency.

The Starbucks team told me that the roasters and employees approach brewing as an art form, and the same goes for cocktail-making. This attention to detail and reliance on the ability to source the best coffee beans gives Starbucks a leg up in the espresso martini game while encouraging the Starbucks staff to use their coffee expertise in their cocktail creations. Coffee liqueur may be a sweet and tasty sip, but it's a bit of a cheat in an espresso martini. This is Starbucks, and when it comes to coffee, there's no room for cutting corners.

Starbucks sweet and salty caramel balances an espresso martini

An espresso martini is one of the legendary classic cocktails. The Caramel Macchiato is one of the standard-bearing espresso beverages on the Starbucks core drinks menu. The combining of these two drinks, however different they may be, is ultimately a tip of the cap to the classics, making it such a special creation.

The Starbucks espresso martini is robust, relying on the quality of its freshly brewed espresso to deliver the bold and complex flavor foundation. The Caramel Macchiato is rich and decadent, combining sweet vanilla with salty caramel for the perfect balance. The sweet red vermouth introduces fruity notes, which play nicely with the salty caramel and slight bitterness in the espresso. The heavy cream makes for a silkier texture than the standard espresso martini, and the frothy texture in the glass is reminiscent of a chocolate mousse, making this drink a delicate and indulgent dessert disguised as a cocktail.

How to make a Caramel Macchiato espresso martini at home

One of the positives of being a Starbucks enthusiast is that if you don't want to go to a Starbucks to have a coffee, you don't have to. With the right coffee brewing method and the right ingredients, many core menu items, including the Caramel Macchiato espresso martini, can be recreated in your very own home.

To make the Caramel Macchiato espresso martini, you'll need freshly brewed espresso — Starbucks Reserve Espresso if you've got it — vodka, vanilla syrup, sweet red vermouth, heavy cream, and caramel sauce. In a chilled martini glass, drizzle some of the caramel sauce. Combine the vodka, vanilla syrup, vermouth, and heavy cream, and pour into the glass. From there, shake your freshly brewed espresso shot with ice in a cocktail shaker until it's light and frothy, then pour over the beverage. Finally, top with more caramel drizzle in a crosshatch design, or any design you like, as the finishing garnish.