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The espresso martini is having a moment, and Fox Trail Distillery shares a recipe you need to try

I didn’t intend to write about espresso martinis. I originally reached out to bartenders at Fox Trail Distillery in Rogers to talk about to-go cocktails for a separate story, and I casually asked about the bar’s espresso martini because I’d just read an article in New York Magazine’s Grub Street titled  ‘No more espresso martinis!’ Why bartenders hate the hottest drink on the planet. 

Fox Trail’s lead bartender Trey Fincher didn’t seem to find the Grub Street title hyperbolic.

“The espresso martini is blowing back up right now,” Fincher said. “In the last year it’s all anyone talks about.”

Fincher’s been bartending for over 20 years, and gave me an impressively detailed recall of the historical lore behind the cocktail, which dates back to the 1980s and is credited to the late London bartender Dick Bradsell.

The original story behind the drink: He was bartending in London and a now-world famous actress who was a model at the time came in and requested a drink that would ‘wake her up and then fuck her up,’ ” Fincher said. “He originally called it the vodka espresso and it was basically vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur and some sugar, probably simple syrup, and it ended up being a hit and kind of grew in popularity in the early ’90s then kind of died off,” Fincher said.

The resurgence is real. Google ‘espresso martini’ and click ‘news’ and you’ll find countless stories written this year about the trendy caffeinated cocktail. Fincher mentioned a recent Yelp study that found that in the first six months of 2021, “the rate of mentions of espresso martinis in U.S. food and restaurant reviews is up nearly 300 percent from the same period three years earlier.”

“So, yeah, people are talking about it,” Fincher said. “I notice it on all the bartender Instagram pages. It’s probably going to be one of the hottest drinks this year for sure. Everyone’s doing them now.”

Fincher’s heard the cocktail referred to as the new vodka-and-Red Bull and understands the comparison, but prefers to think of the cocktail as a good introduction to other bitter cocktails such as the Negroni. “For someone that’s not really into bitter cocktails this one has enough bitterness that you taste it, but it has [a] sweetness balance that’s not off-putting to the novice or uneducated palette, I guess,” he said.

The drink’s popularity can be taxing on bartenders that have to pour out shots of piping hot espresso to shake during a rush, especially when that rush consists of a flood of espresso martini orders. For that reason, the bartenders at Fox Trail came up with an innovative solution that keeps them from having to build the cocktail at all. The Fox Trail espresso martini is batched in a keg and poured off a nitro tap — the same way Guinness is typically served.

“We actually shake it from there just because we weren’t getting quite a thick enough head and our tap system doesn’t quite get it as cold as we want it,” Fincher said. “It is a beautiful drink,” he added. “It has a very nice creamy head on top, you could balance a quarter on top of it.”

Fox Trail Distillery
Fox Trail Distillery’s espresso martini.

Fincher said what really sets Fox Trail’s apart from other espresso martinis, which are typically made with Kahlua, is the distillery’s Oak & Bean Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, made with a high-proof Brazilian rum, sugar cane distillate, Hawaiian cold brew, vanilla and cinnamon. Fincher said he’s been a fan of the product since before he started Fox Trail two and half years ago.

“In my personal opinion I think it’s one of the best alcohol products produced in the state of Arkansas,” he said.

Fincher also speaks highly of Oak & Bean’s versatility.

“A White Russian is the perfect application for it,” he said. A popular bartender “handshake shot” at Fox Trail, Fincher said, is equal parts Oak & Bean and Fernet- Branca, an Italian amaro.

“It’s amazing,” Fincher said. “You can chill it or drink it neat.”

Fincher prefers it chilled. He’s also used Oak & Bean to make whipped cream.

“It’s a flavor that most people are very used to, so think of it as coffee and play with it like you would coffee. It can be a straight up coffee substitute in an iced mocha if you want to boozy it up a little,” he said.

Fincher provided us with a recipe for a home bartender version of Fox Trail’s espresso martini in both a single serving and a 750 ml (one-fifth of a gallon) six-serving if you want to put your finger on the pulse and serve the drink at your Christmas party. Oak & Bean should be available in your local liquor store. Markham Liquor was well stocked when I stopped in this week. We will be making the 750 ml batch. Results provided below:

Fox Trail espresso martini (home bartender version)

Single serving:

1.5 oz Boxley Vodka

1 oz Oak & Bean

1 oz fresh espresso or cold brew concentrate (we used Mylo Coffee Co.’s cold brew concentrate)

.50 oz Demerara Syrup (recipe below)

Mix together ingredients, then shake with ice. Strain into a glass.

Glass: Coupe or Martini

Garnish: 3 coffee beans

 

750 ml Batch:  (six servings)

9.5 oz Boxley Vodka

6.25 oz Oak & Bean

6.25 oz Cold Brew Concentrate

3.25 oz Demerara Syrup

Demerara Syrup Recipe:

2 cups Demerara Sugar (we used turbinado sugar)

1 cup water

Bring to a boil, kill heat, stir until translucent, let cool in the refrigerator.

The office verdict: delicious. I currently feel like I have a caffeine buzz and a booze buzz. Don’t forget to eat lunch.

Brian Chilson
It’s a caffeinated, boozy afternoon at the Arkansas Times.

Fincher offered up two other cocktails you can make at home with Fox Trail’s Oak & Bean.

First Snow

1.5 oz Oak & Bean

1.5 oz Pasubio Amaro

1.5 oz oat milk

2 dashes Black Walnut bitters

Mix together ingredients, then shake with ice. Strain into glasses.

Fox Trail Distillery
Fox Trail’s First Snow.

 

Trey’s White Russian 

1.5 oz Boxley Vodka

1 oz Oak & Bean

.5 oz Averna Amaro

2 Dashes Black Walnut Bitters

2 oz oat milk (milk or half & half will work)

Mix together ingredients, then shake with ice. Strain into a glass.

 

 

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