Growing up with a live-in-Italian grandmother meant we got to enjoy many aspects of Italian culture, one of them being good, strong espresso. My family takes coffee very seriously—but luckily my grandma also embraced the spirit of having fun. After all, isn’t having fun and making memories what the holiday season is all about?! This peppermint espresso martini recipe is full of fun, and it's packed with peppermint flavor. If you like candy canes and all things peppermint, you’re going to love this peppermint coffee cocktail!
This espresso martini recipe uses my candy cane simple syrup as an ingredient. Trust me, take the extra 30 minutes and make this simple syrup! Once you do, you’ll unlock so many more seasonal beverages. For other variations on espresso martinis, check out this rum espresso martini or this chocolate espresso martini recipe. You can even combine them with the candy cane syrup for a minty spin on both!Jump to Recipe
💕 why you'll love this peppermint espresso martini recipe
🎄 fun & festive. This cocktail is a festive twist on the classic espresso martini. It has the traditional look of the famous cocktail, but with a bright and minty taste!
☕️ bold & minty . If you are a fan of peppermint lattes, you’re gonna love this cocktail! Not only does it have candy cane simple syrup, but it’s garnished with crushed peppermint candies and a mini candy cane!
🥳 party perfect. This cocktail is easy to batch, so you can make a pitcher of martinis in a flash. The garnish also takes it over the top, making it perfect for a holiday party!
for the cocktail
- espresso - espresso is an important factor in this cocktail, so opt for quality if you can. Brewing espresso in a way that produces crema (the foam on top of the coffee) is important for producing a thick froth and velvety mouthfeel. But you can do just fine with a strongly brewed coffee flavor-wise, too.
- candy cane simple syrup - you’ll need to whip up a batch of this candy cane simple syrup to make this soda. This syrup is made with real candy canes so it has a pure peppermint taste that is unreal! Don’t worry! It comes together quickly. You can make both recipes in one afternoon easily!
- vanilla vodka - my favorite brand of vanilla vodka is Absoluta Vanilia vodka, but you can use whatever vanilla vodka you prefer. You can even use your own homemade vanilla vodka if you have some!
- Kahlua coffee liqueur - Kahlua is a rum-based coffee liqueur that is a staple ingredient in many coffee cocktails like espresso martinis, white Russians, and mudslides. It adds a layer of depth and complexity to the cocktail while playing up the coffee flavor.
- peppermint schnapps - peppermint schnapps is not the same as creme de menth, so make sure you're using the clear-colored peppermint liqueur. This is an optional ingredient, but I like including it because it amps up the flavor of the candy canes!
- ice - yup fam, we are including ice in the ingredients! 😅 Stick with me for a second— the ice you choose matters. Opt to use larger cubes of ice over smaller cubes or crushed ice. When you shake your cocktail, the ice dilutes in the cocktail shaker. When you use smaller cubes, the ice cubes dilute quicker than larger cubes. This can water down your drink faster.
for the garnish
- crushed candy cane - nowadays, you can buy bags of pre-crushed candy cane pieces, which makes garnishing these cocktails super easy. If you can’t find the crushed candy cane pieces in a grocery store near you, you can crush your own candy canes using a zip top bag and rolling pin, or a food processor.
- espresso beans - save some coffee beans for the garnish. You will need three per cocktail to symbolize health, wealth, and happiness!
- mini candy cane - this is an optional garnish that makes for an extra special touch, so it’s worth including if you can find them.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Step 1: If you choose to rim the cocktail glass, dip it in candy cane simple syrup and give your glass a gentle shake.
Step 2: Gently press the glass into a small dish of crushed candy cane pieces to rim the glass.
Step 3: Brew a double shot of espresso according to the manufacturer's instructions on your machine. Set it aside to allow it to cool slightly.
Step 4: Fill your cocktail shaker with ice, and slowly pour in the cooled espresso.
Step 5: Add the vanilla vodka to the cocktail shaker.
Step 6: Next, add the Kahlua liqueur & the peppermint schnapps.
Step 7: Add the candy cane syrup to the cocktail shaker last.
Step 8: Shake the cocktail shaker for at least 30 seconds to get a nice, strong foam in your cocktail.
Step 9: Strain the cocktail into your prepared glasses.
Step 10: Garnish with three espresso beans. Add a dollop of whipped cream and a mini candy cane if you’re feeling extra festive! Serve immediately.
Hint: Use a small plate to hold the crushed candy cane pieces for rimming your glasses. Using a plate helps keep the candy in one place!
💡tips and tricks for getting it right
🍽️ serving tips
How and when to serve your peppermint espresso martinis:
- This festive martini is perfect for holiday parties and happy hours!
- Another classic time to serve this cocktail is at a breakfast or brunch gathering.
Choose your glass
- Usually, the traditional choice for espresso martinis is a coupe glass.
- Choose a glass that can hold 6-8 ounces. Some martini glasses hold up to 12 ounces, so choose wisely! This drink is a bit stronger than other cocktails, so you do want to make sure to choose a smaller glass.
- Espresso martinis MUST be garnished with 3 espresso beans, it’s the law.
- This cocktail is extra festive AF with a half rim of crushed candy cane pieces.
- Be nice and only rim half the glass. This allows your guests to choose whether they want to drink from the rimmed edge or not. No one likes sticky hands when drinking a cocktail!
ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
While this cocktail is a fairly easy recipe to follow, things can still go wrong. Try using these tips to make sure things go right the first time!
- foam - If you aren’t using espresso made in an espresso machine, it may not froth properly. This is because only properly brewed espresso has crema, the velvety foam top that makes an espresso martini frothy. If you are using cold brew or regular drip coffee, you may need to shake your espresso martini in the shaker for up to 60 seconds to get it to froth properly. The foam on a cocktail made with cold brew or drip coffee may also dissipate more quickly.
- too sweet - If your martini is too sweet, you can reduce the amount of candy cane simple syrup or peppermint schnapps in the recipe.
- too strong - If the martini is too strong, you can reduce the amount of vodka or Kahlúa in the recipe.
⚖️ scaling tips
Looking for the perfect holiday martini for a party? Espresso martinis make great batch cocktails! Follow these steps for party perfect peppermint martinis!
- Combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher for as many portions as you need.
- Then, pop the pitcher in the fridge.
- Prepare your glasses with the candy cane rim.
- Just before serving, stir the mix.
- Pour 2-3 portions into a cocktail shaker, then shake, strain, garnish and serve!
🔆 top tip
Shake your espresso martinis for at least 30 seconds to get the famous frothy top!
♻️ substitutions & variations
Missing an ingredient? No need to worry. Check out these tried-and-true substitutions, or comment below with your question. I’m here to help you troubleshoot!
- cold brew concentrate - no espresso maker? no problem! Use cold brew concentrate in place of espresso to make this coffee cocktail. You can even use instant coffee in a pinch!
- peppermint vodka - You can use peppermint vodka instead of vanilla vodka for an extra layer of minty flavor. If you do this, skip the peppermint schnapps so your finished cocktail isn’t overly minty.
- starlight mints - if you are craving a minty libation at a time when you can’t find candy canes, you can substitute starlight mint candies. They are circular peppermint candies that are available year round, so you can enjoy this drink any time of year!
- decaf - want to indulge in this cocktail without staying up all night? Try using decaf coffee beans to make your espresso!
Feeling like a rebel?! 😈 Feel free to stray from the recipe card using these variations, or leave me a comment with your own!
- peppermint mocha - add in .5 ounce of chocolate liqueur or chocolate syrup to make a chocolatey peppermint mocha espresso martini!
- creamy - prefer a creamier cocktail similar to a white russian? You can add in .5 to 1 ounce of heavy cream or whole milk.
- other seasonal flavors - try out this recipe for a pumpkin espresso martini if you are looking for more fun and seasonal variations on the classic espresso-based cocktail!
- mocktail - want to make this into a mocktail? Check out the recipe for an espresso martini mocktail here! Use the candy cane syrup in place of simple syrup for a peppermint twist.
🧰 equipment needed & storage tips
🧰 tools needed
- cocktail shaker - Even though I like to take photos using clear shakers, when I’m mixing up drinks at home, I only use this cocktail shaker by Elevated Craft. It’s double-walled, so your hands don’t get cold while shaking, and it has measurements in the cap.
- espresso machine - You’ll need a way to make espresso for this beverage, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend $1,000 on an espresso machine. If you do want to buy a nice machine, I have and love the Breville Barista Pro espresso machine. It’s changed my life, and that’s no joke! I also have friends who have and love their Nespresso machines, and I prefer those to Kurigs.
- coupe glass - The standard glass for an espresso martini is a coupe glass, not a martini glass. This is because martini glasses tend to be larger than coupe glasses. Opt for any glass that has a 7 ounce capacity.
- OXO measuring beakers - I love using these OXO nesting measuring beakers because you can use them for so many more recipes besides cocktails. They’re perfect for measuring small amounts of liquid!
- small plate or bowl - placing your peppermint pieces on a dish helps to keep sticky messes to a minimum.
how to store any leftovers
As is the case with most cocktails, it is best to enjoy this drink shortly after making it.
If you do need to prepare this cocktail in advance, you can mix all of the ingredients into a pitcher, then shake it over ice and serve it in batches as needed. Do not store the ingredients for longer than 48 hours; the flavor of the espresso will deteriorate.
How do I get my espresso martinis to have a layer of foam?
Make sure to REALLY shake your espresso martinis well using a cocktail shaker to get the strongest layer of foam. Additionally, for best results, use properly brewed espresso. Espresso made in an espresso machine has a crema on top, which helps to get that classic frothy top on the martinis.
What liquor is best for espresso martinis?
While the traditional espresso martini is made with unflavored vodka, Kahlua liqueur, espresso and simple syrup, you can use whatever liquor you like! Kahlua is a rum-based liqueur, so rum also makes a wonderful espresso martini!
Can I make an espresso martini without an expensive espresso maker?
Yes! You can use cold brew or even instant coffee to make your espresso martinis. You can even purchase espresso shots from a local coffee shop in a pinch!
If you make this recipe, please leave a review in the comments and a star rating!
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Peppermint Espresso Martini
- 2 ounces espresso
- 2 ounces vanilla vodka
- 0.5 ounce peppermint schnapps
- 1 ounce Khalua coffee liqueur
- 1 ounce candy cane simple syrup
- espresso beans for garnish
- crushed candy cane pieces optional for garnish
- If you choose to rim the cocktail glass, dip it in candy cane simple syrup and give your glass a gentle shake.
- Lightly press the glass into a dish of crushed candy cane pieces.
- Brew a double shot of espresso according to the manufacturers instructions of your machine. Set it aside to allow it to cool slightly.
- Fill your cocktail shaker with ice, and slowly pour in the cooled espresso.
- Add in the vanilla vodka to the cocktail shaker.
- Next, add in the Kahlua liqueur and peppermint schnapps.
- Add the candy cane simple syrup to the cocktail shaker last.
- Shake the cocktail shaker for at least 30 seconds to get a nice, strong foam in your cocktail.
- Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass.
- Garnish with three espresso beans, and a mini candy cane if you’re feeling extra festive! Serve immediately.
🧯food safety & other information
Food safety is an important ingredient in any recipe for success! Here are some tips to keep you safe in the kitchen!
- Always enjoy alcohol responsibly, and never give alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age. For more information about responsible alcohol consumption, click here.
- Espresso can reach temperatures exceeding 200ºF. Use caution when handling hot liquids.