Dec 22, 2023 - Food and Drink

15 buzzworthy espresso martinis to try in Charlotte

Espresso martinis are slaying the cocktail scene in Charlotte, and their reign doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

  • So, I asked our team to get buzzed (for journalism, of course) to find Charlotte’s top tier espressy ‘tinis. 

Why it matters: The espresso martini delivers its rich and indulgent punch in all shapes and sizes. This guide is proof of that.

[Go deeper: 50 best bars in Charlotte, ranked]

Methodology: This list is based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, taste, style, uniqueness in ingredients and potency.

  • We tried every espresso martini on this list, often more than once.
  • This isn’t a ranking or an exhaustive list of all the espresso martinis in Charlotte, just the ones we think are noteworthy.

The “Everything Nice” from Billy Sunday

A warmed, spiced espresso martini served in a teacup.

How it’s made: Vodka, Giddy Goat cold brew, fall-spiced syrup, cinnamon whipped cream

  • Of note: The “Everything Nice” cocktail is seasonal and may rotate on and off the menu depending on the time of year.

Price: $13

Katie’s thought bubble: “I am legit not kidding, this is the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had in my life,” Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff writes.

Location: 1115 N Brevard St., Optimist Hall

Go deeper: Cocktail bar Billy Sunday is now open in Optimist Hall

Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

Link and Pin’s espresso martini

Sometimes less is more. But not here. Link and Pin uses nine ingredients to create its sip-worthy tini.

How it’s made: Social House vodka, Cruzan single barrel rum, Amaro Avern, Amaro Nonino, Frangelico, Kahlua, vanilla Bean, chocolate bitters, nitro cold brew coffee.

Price: $15

My thought bubble: If you’re a fan of espresso martinis that are sweet, but not too sweet, give this one a shot.

Location: Link and Pin has three locations: South End, Arboretum, and Huntersville.

Go deeper: 18 Charlotte spots with alcohol-free drinks

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Slate’s espresso martini shot

Yes, espresso martini shots exist. Best served before your South End escapades.

How it’s made: Shots are batch-made in a Ketel One espresso martini machine (not yet sold for personal use, I know you’re wondering).

Price: $7.50

My thought bubble: It’s quick. It’s efficient. And it tastes pretty dang good. If you’re only a shot taker when it comes to green tea and lemon drops (no judgement), this is a safe add to the rotation.

Location: 200 E Bland St. South End

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Sycamore Brewing’s frozen espresso martini

A go-to in the summer. And spring. And winter. Okay, all the time.

How it’s made: Sycamore keeps its (recipe) cards close to its chest, but we did confirm the coffee is from Sycamore’s roastery.

Price: $14

My thought bubble: Just like iced coffee, I can drink Sycamore’s frozen espresso martini in any temperature. And it seems others agree on this because Sycamore sells it year round.

Location: 2151 Hawkins St., South End

Go deeper: See inside Sycamore Brewing’s new two-story South End location

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Workman’s Friend’s espresso martini

Workman’s espresso martini, which gets extra points for using local coffee, is best sipped on the patio where you can people watch. 

How it’s made: Absolut vanilla vodka, cold brew from Giddy Goat (a popular coffee shop in Plaza Midwood) and simple syup.

Price: $14

Alex’s thought bubble: Whether it’s a nightcap or the caffeine jolt you need to start an evening, an espresso martini at Workman’s Friend is a go-to in Plaza Midwood. Grab a stool on the patio, people watch and feel the breeze while you sip,” Axios’ Alex Sands writes. 

Location: 1531 Central Ave., Plaza Midwood

Photo: Alex Sands/Axios

The “Guilty Pleasures” from Lincoln Street Kitchen and Cocktails

But you shouldn’t feel guilty enjoying this cocktail at all.

How it’s made: House-infused toasted pecan vodka, house-infused Licor 43, salted caramel, espresso

Price: $14

My thought bubble: Lincoln Street has shaken things up with this one, using their house-made syrups and Licor 43 (an ingredient you’d typically see in a Carajillo). While it’s not a “traditional” espresso martini, it’s a must-try for a creamier, sweeter option. 

Location: 1320 S Church St., South End

Go deeper: Hidden bar from top Charlotte mixologist to open in South End

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Indaco’s espresso martini

I get you’re supposed to sip espresso martinis. But if you’re like me, you’ll throw this one back before even placing your dinner order.

How it’s made: House espresso mix, Kalhua and Smirnoff whipped vodka

Price: $14

My thought bubble: Indaco makes my favorite espresso martini in Charlotte. If you’re reading this, go put my claim to the test, but do yourself (and your stomach) a favor by pairing with an appetizer. I go for the focaccia.

Location: 2046 South Blvd., South End

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Vinyl’s espresso martini

Vinyl’s espresso martini doesn’t have a special name, but it’s so good it speaks for itself.

How it’s made: Tito’s vodka, cold brew from Pepper Box down the street, cinnamon syrup, coffee liquor

Price: $15

Laura’s thought bubble: “It’s just a darn good espresso martini. You see that foam? That’s shaken to perfection. Bonus points for the local coffee,” Axios’ Laura Barrero writes. 

  • Also, shout out to Vinyl’s bartenders for churning out espresso martinis like champs during the weekend rushes. If shaking ‘spro was a sport, they’d take the win.

Location: 1440 S Tryon St, South End

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

That Goddamned Espresso Martini from Humbug 

That’s the name of the drink. And in so many words my thoughts when I tried it.

How it’s made: Vodka, espresso liquer, Fernet Branca, cold brew, salted coconut foam

Price: $14

My thought bubble: I don’t know when we decided cold foam belonged on espresso martinis, but I’m so glad we’ve arrived here.

Location: 2501 The Plaza, Villa Heights

Go deeper: Villa Heights cocktail bar Humbug now open

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

The Crunkleton’s espresso martini

You’ll need a membership ($10/year) at The Crunkleton to get your hands on their espresso martini (but it’s worth every penny).

How it’s made: Vodka, Pure Intentions cold brew, Grind Coffee Liqueur, 5 Farms Irish Cream, simple syrup

Price: $15

Alexis’ thought bubble: “I knew I had to order this drink when I got to the bar and there were four men already on their third,” Axios’ Alexis Clinton writes.

Location: 1957 E 7th St., Elizabeth

Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

Spice’s Matcha-Tini

Not big on coffee but wanting a caffeinated option to sip on? Look no further, the matcha-tini has entered the chat.

How it’s made: Matcha, coconut rum, Liquor 43, orgeat, topped with a toasted marshmallow

Price: $20

Alexis’ thought bubble: This drink holds some serious power — our reporter Alexis Clinton credits it with making her a matcha lover.

Location: 515 Ellis Ln., Uptown

Go deeper: New Uptown restaurant Spice offers international cuisine and late-night bites

Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios

Salted Melon’s build-your-own espresso martini

Choose your own spirit, flavor and toppings to create a customized espresso martini for $15.

How it’s made: That’s up to you. Vodkas include Grey Goose, Titio’s and Absolut, with flavors like pumpkin spice, white chocolate, vanilla and caramel. Keep it simple with toppings like cinnamon or add a little flair with chocolate shavings and crushed peppermint.

  • Of note: Flavors and toppings may change seasonally.

Price: $15

My thought bubble: This is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. If one friend likes theirs with all the works and another wants theirs plain and simple, no one has to lose. Everyone’s happy and caffeinated.

Location: 100 W Worthing Ave., South End

Go deeper: Salted Melon now open in South End

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Dilworth Tasting Room’s espresso martini

It’s the neighborhood wine bar’s most popular cocktail for a reason.

How it’s made: Grey Goose vodka shaken with brewed espresso, sugar cane syrup, and a splash of Fernet Branca, finished with cocoa powder.

Price: $15

My thought bubble: Espresso martini purists will appreciate the use of fresh-brewed espresso, not cold brew or coffee concentrate. It’s as delicious as it is Insta-worthy.

Location: Visit the original DTR in Dilworth or its second location in SouthPark.

Go deeper: Dilworth Tasting Room is expanding to Plaza Midwood

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

“The Cafe Expres” at Puerta

As we reported in our Best New Restaurants for 2023, Puerta is one of the hottest spots in town right now — the team knows how to execute vibes and cocktails, including their take on an espresso martini, “The Cafe Expres.”

How it’s made: El Jimador Reposado, curacao, coffee liqueur, Piloncillo syrup, cafe Bustello.

Price: $16

Laura’s thought bubble: “Tequila is not typically my spirit of choice but Puerta’s selection of tequila and mezcal is one of its highlights so I had to try their recommendation with my favorite drink,” Laura writes.

Location: 1961 E 7th St., Elizabeth

Go deeper: Mexican restaurant Puerta opens in the former Stanley space in Elizabeth

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Dahlia’s “Black Satin”

Another win for cold foam lovers, the Black Satin is sweet and rich with a hint of freshness from the mint.

How it’s made: Vanilla vodka, cold brew, coffee liqueur, vanilla foam, mint

Price: $16

My thought bubble: Dahlia’s is a new wine bar in Uptown (near Novelty House) that also knows how to make a mean espresso martini. It’s a cozy hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

  • This cocktail is also available as a mocktail. I tried it and it still passes the vibe check.

Location: 123 E 5th St., Uptown

Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

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