The Arizona Republic
The best espresso martinis in the Valley
Espresso martinis seem to be everywhere these days and it's not hard to see why — the perfectly Instagrammable drink is both delicious and has enough caffeine to get you through the rest of your night.
It's worth mentioning that they are not a new trend, but a 90s throwback that's having a major comeback. And there are plenty of places to get a good one in the Valley.
I happen to love them, so I found myself on a mission to find the very best.
I'm no connoisseur, but I do know good vibes and great-tasting drink, so using those two criteria, I sipped my way through bars new and old to bring you my list of the best espresso martinis in metro Phoenix.
● Espresso martini: 12/10
● Vibes: 7/10
This is the martini against which I judge all others. And I knew why this it was my favorite as soon as I found out what's in it — I make my espresso martinis at home almost the exact same way.
AZ/88's recipe is classic, made with vodka, espresso, Bailey's, Kahlua and a dash of chocolate liqueur. It's delicious, but certainly not cheap. Two drinks (my friend got the porn star martini) can easily cost upwards of $40. And if you go after a hike, you'll probably feel criminally underdressed (no, I'm not speaking from experience).
Details: 7353 E. Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale. 480994-5576, az88.com.
Bitter & Twisted
● Espresso martini: 8/10
● Vibes: 8/10
Bitter & Twisted's espresso martini isn't on the menu, which makes it feel almost illicit to order. Instead of espresso, it's made with cold brew, brown sugar liqueur and the bar's house-made vanilla vodka. It's not as creamy as AZ/88's, but I'd certainly order it again.
The bar itself is lovely, if a bit industrial, with a faint tiki vibe. Be prepared to wait in line if you go on a weekend.
Details:1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix. 602-340-1924, bitterandtwistedaz.com.
● Espresso martini: 7/10
● Vibes: 9/10
Okay, so this one isn't for the faint of heart. For those who like a strong drink, this sipper is made with vanilla vodka, Borghetti liqueur, brandy and nitro cold brew. And it certainly packs a punch.
I had a hard time finishing mine, but I have to give it points for uniqueness. And bonus points for the vibes at Valley Bar, which always has good music (there's also a separate live music venue). And, though the menu is short, the burgers are delicious.
Details: 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 602-368-3121, valleybarphx.com.
● Espresso martini: 8/10
● Vibes: 9/10
A sister bar of Bitter & Twisted, Little Rituals' is one of my favorite bars in the heart of downtown. The menu is full of fun and unique options, which made the espresso martini feel a bit plain by comparison. It's served on tap, which may be why it lacks the creaminess of AZ/88's espresso martini.
Little Rituals is cute and cozy, hidden away on the fourth floor of a Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott. It's a perfect date night spot. But be prepared to wait for a table if you don't have a reservation.
Details: 132 S. Central Ave., 4th floor, Phoenix. 602-603-2050, littleritualsbar.com.
El Charro Hipster Bar and Cafe
● Espresso martini: 10/10
● Vibes: 10/10
As a frequent patron of El Charro, this bar and cafe has something for everyone: delicious food, even better drinks and live music every week. El Charro is family-run neighborhood bar with cozy decor. Owner Francisco Peralta and his wife, Azul, sometimes making the restaurant's paella and their daughter, Gigi, also works at the cafe.
The espresso martini isn't a traditional recipe, which makes it all the more special. Peralta makes his with mezcal, Mr. Black coffee liqueur (Kahlua is too cheap, he says), espresso and agave.
It's served in a stemless martini glass, complete with brown sugar around the rim.
And don't be surprised if someone asks you what you're drinking. When a woman leaned over to ask me what my gorgeous drink was, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and fun day that included more martinis and card games on the bar's patio.
Details: 1325 Grand Ave., Ste 4, Phoenix. 602-730-3247, elcharrohipster.com.
Honorary mention: Litchfield's
This one isn't exactly an espresso martini, but I had to mention it since it has the same vibes. In fact, it makes me wonder if there is a new, peanut-buttery trend on the horizon.
Word on the street is that Litchfield's has an amazing espresso martini (it's made with espresso, vanilla vodka, Bailey's and Kahlua), but I wouldn't know since the espresso machine was broken when I went. But since it uses all of my favorite ingredients, I just know it has the potential to be a favorite.
Since I was already there, I ordered the peanut butter white Russian instead. Invented by one of Litchfield's bartenders, the peanut butter white Russian uses Screwball peanut butter whiskey that's shaken with Kahlua and cream. It comes garnished with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and tastes like peanut butter heaven.
I love an espresso martini, but this drink was so good, it might inspire another thirsty quest.
Details: 300 E. Wigwam Blvd., Litchfield Park. 844-239-1641, wigwamarizona.com.