espresso martini at casa don alfonso photo by david kovaluk

The espresso martini is back

In December 2016, we noticed a shift in the cultural zeitgeist. Guests on yachting reality show Below Deck began demanding rounds of espresso martinis, of all things. “What is this, the ’90s?” we thought. Soon the young professionals summering in the Hamptons on Summer House were replacing their gallons of rosé with espresso martinis too. Is Bravo getting a kickback or something?

As trends do, the phenomenon soon made its way into real life. We began seeing trays of them delivered at Louie, while The Golden Hoosier featured a special on their patio that used spiked cold brew in lieu of espresso. In the age of funky natural wines, light-as-a-feather hard seltzers and sessionable beers, what is the allure of this heavy, boozy throwback?

“I feel like dinner is the new theater,” former Louie bar manager Kaitlyn Gibbs said. “People want entertainment from their restaurant meals and something that feels fancy and gives them a boost to get through a heavy meal.”

Traditionally made with espresso, vodka and coffee liqueur and topped with exactly three espresso beans, an espresso martini certainly feels more elegant than a vodka Red Bull. Casa Don Alfonso’s classic version features Stoli Vanilla and Kahlua and gives us just what we want: a not-too-sweet, not-too-bitter finale to a meal with the added bonus of a second wind so you can really party like it’s 1999.

Louie, 706 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.300.8188,
The Golden Hoosier, 3707 S. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis, 314.354.8044,
Casa Don Alfonso, 100 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton, 314.719.1496,