Espresso Martini Rating System

What makes the perfect espresso martini?

In Origin Story Pt 1 we talked about the rating system we developed for the perfect espresso martini. There’s a simple reason for creating it: some espresso martinis really suck. Every bartender has his or her way of making one. Some of them are good… most of them are bad. We’ve created a strict rating system, grading espresso martinis on a scale out of ten. Through this we were able to spread the gospel about good martinis, and shame those who made bad ones.

There are several factors that must be taken into account. Taste, Color, Viscosity, and Smell are the most obvious and important.  However there are many other Espresso Martini-specific factors that must be acknowledged as well: Froth, Bean Count, and Overall Presentation. Additional points can be won or lost for wild card ingredients.

One last consideration: a good ‘tini has that “it” factor. What is that special “flair” added to the drink that really takes it over the top? Does your espresso martini have the X factor? Luckily we made a rubric here at NuRange Coffee for you to follow. If all of these conditions are met, you have a ten on your hands. If they aren’t, you have a dud. Do Better. Be Better.

Primary Rating Factors

Taste: The key to a perfect taste rating is finding the balance between sweet and bitter. Ideally, there are strong notes of coffee that are complimented by hints of sugar and cream. Bad espresso martinis typically taste too strongly of stale coffee, or are too sweet like crème liquor. As with all good things in life, a 10/10 ‘tini has balance.

Color: An exceptional espresso martini is the color of a rich espresso. However, unlike espresso, the drink itself must be opaque and let little light through. This may seem trivial to the average martini consumer, but an expert knows that this means the drink isn’t watered down. Think of a strong mocha, and the strength that it conveys. If the color is right, the cocktail usually is too.

Viscosity: Similar to color, there is viscosity to take into account. A drink that is too “thin” or “watery” typically has too much vodka and isn’t the Zen balance we strive for. A drink that is too thick is indicative of too much crème liqueur.  A perfect espresso martini glides over the tongue, but is thick enough to leave just enough for your taste buds continuing to crave more. An ideal viscosity is that of skim chocolate milk.

Smell: Ah, smell. The pinnacle of the senses, the olfactory trump card. Smell is just as important as taste. You should get the smell of a freshly brewed shot of espresso, along with sweet notes of cane sugar. Let it be known, there have been cocktails with no smell. Let it be known again, those espresso martinis have never scored above a four.

Secondary Rating Factors

Froth: An espresso martini without a creamy, frothy head? That’s not an espresso martini that we’ll touch. Ideal froth is light and fluffy, and around half an inch thick. The froth is what allows for a solid Belgian dip, which will be covered in an article all on it’s own. A lack of froth results in an automatic one point deduction from your score.

Bean Count: Most of the conditions we’ve outlined above have a little bit of wiggle room, some space for subjectivity if you will. This is a HARD line – non negotiable. An espresso martini must have three (3) beans on top of the froth. Expect a one-point deduction for anything other than three beans.

Overall Presentation: The drink has to be clean, put together, combining all of the elements outlined above. Good color, excellent viscosity, a thick foam head, and three beans. Too often we see good martinis served in pint glasses. If you’re going to go through this much effort as a bartender, take the time to find the traditional rounded martini glass to compliment your efforts.

X-Factor: Finally, points can be won for fun additions to the drink. Have a little extra left in the shaker? Add a sidecar! Powdered chocolate garnish over the beans? Yes please! This is a chance for the bartender to really showcase their creativity. When you’re rating them, feel free to add points for these exceptional bonuses. Note: you always lose points for a lemon garnish. Why do people continue to do this?

In conlcusion

If the guidelines above are followed, you have yourself a ten out of ten espresso martini. Unfortnately, too often one or more of these factors is entirely ignored in the making of the drink. Only the upper echelon of drink makers remember all of them, and are rewarded with the coveted ten point rating. Don’t be afraid to grade hard in the future, channel your high school chemistry teacher and hold your standards high.

Below, we’ve attached a picture of a ten, and a picture of a zero. If you’ve read all the information above, you can figure out which is which. Happy hunting! Make sure to submit all of your espresso martinis to @espresso.martinis on Instagram.