Did you know tea and coffee can be a match made in heaven? This holiday season, wow guests with a chai espresso martini, a perfectly spiced and festive twist on this classic cocktail. The homemade chai simple syrup, a dose of caffeine and chai-infused vodka are guaranteed to have folks asking for a second round.
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Chai Espresso Martini Ingredients
An espresso martini is not a true martini, as it doesn’t have gin or vermouth, but it’s referred to as such because it’s usually served in a martini glass. The classic recipe consists of just espresso, coffee liqueur and vodka, although liquors like Bailey’s are sometimes added as well.
Bartenders tend to despise having to make an espresso martini due to the extra step of preparing the espresso, which takes time. Luckily for us, that doesn’t matter when we make ours at home! We’ve got all the time in the world.
This chai espresso martini sets itself apart from the original in two ways. First off, we’ll be using homemade chai-infused simple syrup to impart the warm flavor of chai spices.
Second, just to make sure there’s no lack of chai, we’ll also infuse the vodka. The result is warming and sweet, and it makes for the perfect pick-me-up after a long sit-down holiday dinner.
Let’s get to work:
Chai Simple Syrup
I know making your own flavored simple syrup sounds like a lot of work just for a few cocktails, but it’s totally worth it. And since you won’t be using all of it for one round of espresso martinis, you’ll have left-over syrup that will last at least a week or two in the fridge. Perfect for a fancy coffee, shakes, or to drizzle over vanilla ice cream!
The simple syrup has just three ingredients:
- Chai tea (like our hand-blended loose-leaf chai)
All are simmered together (optionally with some vanilla extract added) until the flavors have fully infused. After cooling, the syrup is ready to be used!
If the chai simple syrup was easy to make, the chai-infused vodka is a breeze. Just leave a baggie of chai tea to steep in your vodka of choice.
After a minimum of 15 minutes (though overnight is also an option), you’ll have lovely chai-flavored vodka to use in this espresso martini and other cocktails.
The best you can get! The fresher the espresso and the higher the quality, the better your cocktail will taste. You can use any coffee in a pinch, but keep in mind that you may not get the nice foamy layer.
Any will work, but Kahlúa or Tia Maria are generally considered preferable. I used Tia Maria for my espresso martinis.
This one’s up to you! To stick with the chai theme, I like to use star anise or cinnamon, but the three classic coffee beans generally associated with espresso martinis also look great. You can sprinkle some cinnamon on the foam layer as well.
I rim the glasses for my chai espresso martinis with vanilla sugar, although I bet sugar with a pinch of cinnamon mixed in would also work well.
Tip: Some folks prefer a dirty chai espresso martini, which has some type of milk added. I don’t use any in this recipe, but you can try yours with 2 tbsp normal, coconut, almond or oat milk.
Chai Espresso Martini Method
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, putting together your chai espresso martinis is easy. Before you do anything else, pop the martini glasses in the freezer to chill them (preferably at least 15 minutes). It keeps the foam layer on the final cocktails looking nice for longer.
To make the cocktails, combine all the ingredients plus a generous helping of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for a minute (to make it frothy) and then immediately strain into the chilled cocktail glasses.
Optionally, top with your favorite garnish and serve.
Tip: Did you know there are loads more things you can do with chai? From cocktails to cupcakes, this spice blend is incredibly versatile.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, unless you prepare them with decaf espresso. The Kahlua has a minute amount of caffeine as well, but it’s so small it’s unlikely to affect you in any way (about 5mg, compared to around 100mg in a cup of coffee).
Shake that baby! Up to a minute would be ideal. Use a chilled glass. Some also recommend adding half a teaspoon of aquafaba (canned chickpea liquid). Sounds weird, but it doesn’t affect the flavor at all and it froths like crazy.
Espresso martinis are often served with three coffee beans on top of the foam. This is derived from the three beans served with Sambuca in Italy (“con la mosca”, meaning “with the fly”). They represent health, happiness and prosperity.
Chai Espresso Martini
For the chai simple syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 baggies chai tea about 1 tbsp
- ½ tsp vanilla extract optional
For the chai-infused vodka
- 2 oz vodka
- 1 baggie chai tea about 1 tsp
For the martini
- 2 oz coffee liqueur
- 2 oz chai simple syrup
- 2 oz chai-infused vodka
- 3 oz espresso
- garnish: star anise, cinnamon sticks, coffee beans optional
- rim: vanilla sugar, cinnamon sugar optional
- To make the chai simple syrup, place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Take off the heat and let cool. If you're using loose-leaf chai, strain before using.1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 4 baggies chai tea, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- To make the chai-infused vodka, place the tea in the vodka to steep (at least 15 minutes). You can do this while your syrup is heating up. If you're using loose-leaf chai, strain before using.2 oz vodka, 1 baggie chai tea
- Combine coffee liqueur, chai simple syrup, chai-infused vodka and espresso in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for up to a minute.2 oz coffee liqueur, 2 oz chai simple syrup, 2 oz chai-infused vodka, 3 oz espresso, ice
- Strain into a chilled glass (optionally rimmed with vanilla or cinnamon sugar). Place your garnish of choice on top of the foam. Cheers!garnish: star anise, cinnamon sticks, coffee beans, rim: vanilla sugar, cinnamon sugar