Espresso martinis tap into the nitro coffee trend

Move over Guinness, there's a new tall, dark drink on tap (pictured at Arbory in Melbourne).
Move over Guinness, there's a new tall, dark drink on tap (pictured at Arbory in Melbourne). Photo: Simon Shiff

Coffee aficionados, there's a new kid on the caffeinated block and it goes by the name of nitro. Nitro coffee.

Served black, chilled and foaming, nitro coffee is smooth and full-bodied. Think of it as the antithesis to drinking a regular cup of hot, black coffee, be it a long black or pour-over.

The experience is a little like sipping on a freshly poured glass of Guinness beer; nitro is served from a tap, much like a beer, the bubbles, soft and creamy on your lips, leaving a little moustache, as the rich flavour builds in your mouth and leaves your tongue with a hint of sweetness.

Nitro-charged Onyx espresso martini on tap at Terrigal Hotel.
Nitro-charged Onyx espresso martini on tap at Terrigal Hotel. Photo: Creative Creatures

Made by infusing cold-brewed coffee under pressure with nitrogen bubbles – this creates the creamy texture – nitro has slowly grown in popularity around the world as the perfect cold coffee hit for summer. But there's another area where it has really made a splash: as an on-tap espresso martini.

"It's that nice little coffee hit without the extreme hit of alcohol," says Shane Gunning, manager of the Terrigal Hotel. "As soon as people taste it and realise there's no additives or added sugar, they love it."

Since the pub on the New South Wales Central Coast installed an Onyx espresso martini tap in its main bar, the quick-pour cocktail has become so popular it now dominates weekend cocktail trade.

"During the week it makes up about 30 per cent of cocktails we serve," Gunning says. "On weekends it's one of our top two cocktails."

Of course, much the same as a bartender carefully crafting a mixed drink behind a bar, creating a tapped cocktail like this is not as simple as pumping cold-brewed coffee at high pressure through a nitrogen system. That's where Onyx Coffee Spirits comes in.

"We've spent the past three years perfecting our process, ensuring the coffee, spirit and nitro infusion is flawless," says Onyx co-founder Mitch Faulkner, a two-time Australian Coffee Cocktail Champion.

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You could be forgiven for thinking a batched coffee cocktail, delivered by tap, may not deliver the highest standard of flavour. But the bean blend behind the Onyx espresso martini should satisfy even the most discerning of coffee drinkers.

The trio behind Onyx have a combined 50 years experience in the coffee industry; from blending and roasting, to brewing and coffee cocktail mixing. Now they're pioneering a new era of alcoholic coffee for Australians.

"Our cold brew is a blend, years in the making," says Faulkner. "Brazil natural process, bringing chocolate and sweet caramel praline notes; Ethiopian Djimma contributes a natural fermented fruit character; while the Indian [bean] binds the whole blend together with a rich cocoa aftertaste – full bodied, low-acid, smooth and rich.

"Nitrogen infusion emulates sweetness on the palate and creates an extremely creamy mouthfeel and has a tendency to improve the drinkability and refreshment qualities of a beverage – especially coffee."

These flavour characteristics have proven attractive for a number of coffee stores around the world. In the US, Starbucks recently rolled out nitro coffee to 40 stores, creating an instant hit among those who crave a sweet, cold coffee without the heaviness of milk.

We're yet to see this level of nitro availability in Australia, but with the popularity of espresso martinis on tap helping grow awareness, it's inevitable that your corner cafe will soon offer a smooth nitro coffee to savour with your smashed avo.

Melburnians can experience a nitro espresso martini by the Yarra River at Arbory Bar and Eatery (see below for more venues with nitro coffee on tap).

Sydneysiders can trot down to 169 Darlinghurst where Brendan will pour you a drink faster than you can say, 'shaken not stirred'. "People love it because they can get a cocktail in seconds. Staff love it because there's very little wastage." .

When it comes to cocktail bars, installing an espresso martini tap appears a blessing for every single punter. The average espresso martini can take a bartender two minutes to shake from scratch. On tap? About 10 seconds.

"It's really freed up our staff to serve everyone better," says Gunning. "I recently had a buck's party of 20 guys all order espresso martinis – we had all those drinks on the table in a couple of minutes."

The batched cocktail horizon is looking very bright.

"Espresso martinis have been a gateway into the world of coffee cocktails, but it's only the beginning," Faulkner says. "As a teaser, we're working on whisky-infused variations, Irish cream liqueurs that use specialty grade coffee, and barrel-aged coffee cocktails on tap."

Thanks to a little science and some creative coffee brewing, this new chapter in the espresso martini story is proving quite the taste explosion.

Nitro-charged Onyx espresso martini on tap at Terrigal Hotel NSW. For Good Food coffee story by Mark Gambino.

Espresso martinis - coming to a tap near you. Photo: Matt Veitch

Enjoy a nitro brew at these venues

*espresso martinis available

NEW SOUTH WALES

169 Darlinghurst* 169 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, (02) 9331 8811, 169darlinghurst.com.au

The Argyle* 18 Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney, (02) 9247 5500, theargylerocks.com

Christopher Robin 4/90 Tennyson Road, Mortlake, (02) 7833 8145, christopherrobin.com.au

The Observer Hotel* 69 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney, (02) 8629 8801, observerhotel.com (tip: ask for the salted caramel espresso martini)

Salts Meats Cheese* level 2 Gateway Building, 1 Alfred Street, Circular Quay, Sydney, (02) 9281 5048, saltmeatscheese.com.au

Terrigal Hotel* 176 Terrigal Drive, Terrigal, (02) 4384 1033, terrigalhotel.com.au

VICTORIA

Arbory Bar & Eatery* Flinders Walk, Melbourne, (03) 8648 7644, arbory.com.au

Aunty Peg's 200 Wellington Street, Collingwood, (03) 9417 1333, proudmarycoffee.com.au

Fargo and Co.* 216 Swan Street, Richmond, (03) 9810 0077, fargoandco.com.au

St Rose 19 Rose Street, Essendon, (03) 9331 4488

The Noble Experiment* 248 Smith Street, Collingwood, (03) 9416 0058, thenobleexperiment.com.au

CANBERRA

88mph* basement 8-10 Hobart Place, Canberra, 88mph.bar

Lazy Su* 1/9 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, (02) 5105 3812, lazy-su.com.au

QUEENSLAND

Big Bad Wolff Espresso Bar 140 Gerler Road, Hendra, (07) 3174 5069, wolffcoffeeroasters.com.au

Little Boaty 194 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville, (07) 5440 5070, noosaboathouse.com.au

Munich Brauhaus* 153 Stanley Street, South Bank, 1300 686 424, munichbrauhaus.com

Pourboy shop 4, 271 Grey Street, South Brisbane, (07) 3844 0256, pourboy.com.au

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Bar 9* lower ground, 5/100 Rundle Mall, Adelaide, bar9.com.au

First Pour 111 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, (08) 8267 1273, venezianocoffee.com.au

Pedla pedla.com.au (check website for location – it's served from a bicycle)

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Benny's* 10 South Terrace, Fremantle, (08) 9433 1333, bennys.com.au

Pixel Coffee Brewers 2/226 Oxford Street, Leederville, 0448 085 889

Primal Pantry Brookfield Place Cafe Court, 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth, (08) 9226 0091, primalpantry.com.au