Espresso martinis—a.k.a. the adult Red Bull vodka—are back in a big way. But not all caffeinated cocktails are created equal. Yay to real coffee, nuanced spirits, and a frothy head from vigorous shaking. Nay to those mocha-hued glasses of cream liqueur capped with whip. Here are some of our favorite real-deal-tinis around town.
914 14th St., SE
Barman Nick Farrell led the espresso martini charge when it was making a come back last year. The drink is still one of our favorites, thanks to the combination of house-infused espresso rum, vanilla bean-infused vodka, and fresh espresso. An extra perk: it’s a wallet-friendly $10.
1306 18th St., NW
Not only are the patio vibes strong at the Dupont hangout—stay tuned for a spring decor theme after the winter’s lodge is packed up—but the espresso martinis keep the party going ($16). Its twist: ghee for creaminess, Borsci S.Marzano liqueur for a hint of vanilla and spice, and Galliano Ristretto for that intense coffee kick.
Rako Coffee Roasters
2016 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Leave it to the ladies behind Virginia coffee roastery Rako to mix up a mean espresso martini at their first cafe/bar in Arlington. Ethiopian Sidamo coffee shines here—boosted by allspice dram (think warm, spicy flavors), herbal Benedictine liqueur, chocolate bitters, and of course, vodka. Good news: it’s $2 off (normally $14) during daily happy hour from 4 to 6 PM.
2001 18th St., NW
This Adams Morgan cocktail-and-oyster haunt makes a super-refreshing version with a nutmeg-chicory tincture and a hint of mint gomme syrup—perfect after a beef Wellington ($16), the house special. Factor in Mr. Black cold-brew coffee liqueur and fresh espresso, and you’ll be ready to take on the night.
600 T St., NW
The cocktails at this semi-hidden gem of a bar are some of the best in town—made even better by a wood-burning fireplace in winter, and a cozy back patio in warmer weather. A menu of “coffee expressions” is a caffeine fiend’s dream—including, of course, the espresso martini ($18) with hints of vanilla and anise. For a b-side, try the Scotch and Coffee ($24) with Laphroaig, Highland Park 12, cold brew, and a Harlem Brewery coffee stout reduction .
1337 11th St., NW
Shaw’s seasonal American restaurant and bar doesn’t just serve satisfying plates—there’s a list of “comfort drinks” that includes “Terence’s Espresso Martini.” The drink is brightened up with orange essence in addition to fresh espresso, vodka, and cane syrup ($14).
Never Looked Better
30 Blagden Alley, NW
It’s easy to channel the aughts at this neon-lit, ’90s throwback bar in Blagden Alley. Their rendition ($16) plays perfect tribute to the OG drink with vodka, cold-brew liqueur, and Folgers coffee—zig-zag martini glass included.
1401 Okie St., NE
The rooftop Conservatory—a gorgeous greenhouse-like lounge atop Matt Baker’s Michelin starred restaurant—reopens Wednesday, March 16. Don’t miss a new riff on the Conservatory’s espresso martini made with Maggie’s Farm spiced rum, Hamilton’s pimento dram, oat milk, cinnamon, and vanilla ($20).