By Ambar Ramirez & Carmen Macri
It is the perfect pick-me-up. The best dessert drink. Pairs incredibly with just about anything. If you’re like us, one is never enough.
The Volstead: 4/5
Tucked away on Adams Street between a row of businesses is the moody speakeasy Volstead. Walking through what looks like an old barber shop and red velvet curtains, we were met with a dimly lit and surprisingly full bar. The lovely Alexandra greeted us and as soon as we mentioned we needed two espresso martinis, she said we were in for a treat as she won first place at an espresso martini competition at Birdies.
Once we sat down, we quickly got to business. Alexandra was confident in her espresso martini-making capabilities, and so were we. She place two not-so-full coupe glasses, saying something about there needing to be a head in the glass. At first sip, we thought we found a winner (and the fact this was our first stop). The Caffé Borghetti went down smoothly since there was no real bitter espresso taste. And she threw in a few extra espresso beans, which was appreciated. Anyway, let’s get to the ratings.
Sipability: chuggable (5/5)
After driving around aimlessly for what felt like 20 minutes, we successfully found a parking spot in the charming Avondale neighborhood and made our way over to Josephine. This semi-new, Italian-American neighborhood restaurant pays homage to the owner’s grandmother, who inspired the overall warm atmosphere and delicious, innovative menu. But we weren’t there for the food, though, I will say the pizza rolls were to die for.
We grabbed our seats at the rounded bar and quickly ordered two espresso martinis. While I was boasting about how Carmen and I would make great food critics, we weren’t very good at the whole undercover thing as I spilled the beans (haha) to our bartender Katie about our real reason for being there. We were on the hunt for the best espresso martini in Jacksonville, and Katie casually shared that they already won that title. And while we aren’t food critics, we are journalists, and we aren’t going to disservice our readers by believing everything our bartenders say.
The espresso martinis were filled to the brim, and it wasn’t just foam filling the coupe glass. At first sip, it was sweeter than expected but not too overpowering. Katie shared that they add brown sugar to the Titos, brandy, Borghetti and Biscotti liqueur concoction and top it all off with coffee beans.
Salumeria 104: 5/5
Set on the corner of Atlantic and First Street, walking into Salumeria 104 is like walking straight into Italy (we can only assume, we’ve never been). Bottles of Aperol lined the full bar while the restaurant was almost busting at the seams. Salumeria 104 is a rustic, trattoria-style restaurant serving signature salumi dishes and traditional Italian classics, including traditional espresso martinis.
We only went in for the martinis but got roped into sitting at a table. Obviously, we had to order bread service and then one thing led to another and our table was filled with gnocchi and cavatelli. That’s beside the point. We had a mission and that was to find the best espresso martini in Jacksonville, and boy, did we find it. Served in traditional martini coupe glasses filled to the point of overflowing, we were pleasantly surprised to find these martinis were not only made with Borghetti but real espresso. Cha-ching. Classically topped with three espresso beans, it was like drinking sunshine if sunshine tasted like spiked coffee. (I assume it does).
The Tini Martini Bar: 3.5/5
Of course, this hunt for the best espresso martini wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t go to the martini bar in St. Augustine. Situated in the Casablanca Inn, the Tini Martini Bar sits overlooks Matanzas Bay and is engulfed by palm trees and dazzling lights at night.
Sitting on the veranda, we ordered one espresso martini (each), but do not fret it is always a two-for-one special when you order a martini at this establishment. They provide you with an empty glass and a full jigger. And they do not hold back on the liquor or on the chocolate drizzle, making this espresso martini taste more like spiked chocolate milk. Not that I’m complaining ’cause it gets the job done.