Grate Expectations: The Parmesan Espresso Martini Is a Must Try

It may sound cheesy, but the viral TikTok sensation parmesan espresso martini is really delicious.

Published August 29, 2023
Parmesan Espresso Martini

I rolled my eyes the first time I saw a post on social media about an espresso martini with parmesan cheese grated over top. I mean, cheese in a cocktail? Sure, but wouldn't it be more fitting over a Bloody Mary or even a clarified milk punch cocktail of some sort? The espresso martini wouldn't have been my first pick, but of course, I was absolutely going to give it a try. How could I not? There's something curiously alluring about the idea of a parmesan espresso martini. 

What the Parmesan Espresso Martini Tastes Like

After enjoying a few sips, I messaged a friend about my experimentation, and when she asked what the parmesan espresso martini tasted like, I balked a bit and replied very professionally with, "It tastes cool."

I paused a few seconds, then started typing again, "Because of the sweet yet bitter but salty. It's neat. I can't think of how to describe it."

And, reading my mind as she has for the past 25 years, she asked, "Okay, so, kind of like candied bacon or chicken and waffles?" That hit the nail on the head. And while that isn't what it tastes like, they all have the exact same vibe. 

The parmesan espresso martini tastes like a salty, sweet treat. Instead of salt in a salted caramel martini, it's the freshly grated parmesan on an espresso martini. It sounds outlandish, but it was frustratingly tasty. This savory cocktail doesn't miss the mark. It's part of the surge in the rising tide of savory cocktails

Parmesan Espresso Martini Recipe

Parmesan Espresso Martini

For those just starting out with experimenting and playing with espresso martini and parmesan, the best recipe to start with is a blank canvas: a classic, simple, and easy espresso martini recipe.



  1. Chill a coupe glass.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, add ice, vodka, chilled espresso, coffee liqueur, and simple syrup.
  3. Shake well to chill and create a froth.
  4. Strain into the chilled glass.
  5. Continue pouring to ensure you've gotten out all the foam.
  6. Sprinkle a hearty layer of freshly grated parmesan over the espresso martini to garnish.

Parmesan Espresso Martini Variations and Riffs

Parmesan Espresso Martini Variations and Riffs

I get it. I also wasn't satisfied with shaking up just one recipe for this parmesan espresso martini. In fact, the recipe above wasn't even the first one I played around with. Here are a few other things I tried. 

  • While we're a big bourbon house here, the vodka espresso martini reigns king in this castle. I used bourbon for my first go around, and it wanted to be the star. It drowned out the flavors of the parmesan cheese. And I grated a LOT of parmesan cheese on top. 
  • For a creamier martini, you can't go wrong with adding some Irish cream. I'd even go so far as playing around with using a flavored Irish cream, specifically salted caramel.
  • Speaking of salted caramel, a sweet bourbon such as coffee-flavored, maple, salted caramel, or peanut butter would be fabulous. 
  • The same flavors go for vodka, but I'd also experiment with vanilla, whipped cream, chocolate, or other similar dessert flavors. 
  • I could also see this going great with a splash of hazelnut or amaretto liqueurs. 
  • We only recently started dabbling in the art of espresso at home, so if that's not an option, brew a strong cup of coffee instead of using espresso. Cold brew can also work.
  • While playing around with a recipe that used Irish cream, I didn't want to start from scratch. So I reused a previous parmesan espresso martini, complete with the parmesan cheese garnish. I shook that up with a splash of Irish cream and garnished again with additional grated parmesan cheese. And, for me, this was the best version of the parmesan espresso martini. Not so much for my spouse, because he didn't enjoy the texture the way he did in other iterations.  

Tips for Making Parmesan Espresso Martinis

I fell on the proverbial parmesan cheese sword to make sure the world could enjoy the parmesan espresso martini without any hiccups or wasted ingredients. 

  • You're going to want to use fresh parmesan, yes, fresh. As someone who isn't even a cheese aficionado, I can attest that, yes, fresh is best here. Save the green can for something else.
  • Can you grate the parmesan directly over the espresso martini because of the aesthetics? Absolutely. But if you're doing this in front of a roommate, spouse, or at a friend's house, prepare for the glare of, "You got cheese all over the counter/shelf/floor. I know you're going to clean that up." If you're making the parmesan espresso martini for the 'gram, go ahead and grate over the glass for the aesthetics. 
  • If you want less mess, grate the parmesan cheese over a wide plate so you aren't wiping down the shelf/counter/ground for five minutes afterward. I won't say who, but someone spent a lot of time cleaning up errant parmesan cheese. With the added bonus of my spouse commenting, "Remember that time you decorated the entire living room in parmesan cheese?" Remember that time I shared a savory espresso martini with you, SPOUSE? I do. Hush. 
  • Don't be afraid to go big with flavors. Go ahead, use your own personal favorite espresso martini recipe or try out a riff. So long as there's coffee at its base, this parmesan cheese garnish won't go awry. 
  • You will absolutely need to add more parmesan cheese than you think. Whether you artistically only cover half the martini, cover the entire top, or sprinkle it only into the middle or along the edges, go for a thick layer. With that in mind, if you have a particularly pungent parmesan on hand, and you'll know if you do, you can hold back a little. 

Cheese Is for Cocktails Now

Move over crackers. Take a seat pizza. Hold your horses sandwiches. The cheese has somewhere else to be now. And that's in our espresso martinis. Should this cocktail work? No way. And yet, with its subtle, nutty, salty notes and balanced flavors, I can't help but wonder why this hasn't taken the world by storm before now. 

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Grate Expectations: The Parmesan Espresso Martini Is a Must Try