The Story Behind The Hard Start Espresso Martini

Sitting pretty as the fourth most popular cocktail in the world, the Espresso Martini is an ideal choice to keep you awake all night as you spread holiday cheer. The version, served at Grand Army Bar, combines the original’s classic ingredients with a split base of Mr Black Coffee Liqueur and Hard Start, Grand Army’s house shot.

Consisting of equal parts Fernet-Branca and Branca Menta, the Hard Start combines bitter herbal notes with an abundance of fresh mint flavors. When the two amaros are combined and added to the Espresso Martini’s build, Dennison says the flavor reminds her of one of her favorite holiday guilty pleasures, the peppermint mocha. For those not familiar with amaro — or for those who are adamant that they don’t like it — this cocktail is sure to get them on board.


  • 1 ounce Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
  • 1 ounce Hard Start*
  • 1 ounce cold brew concentrate (Dennison likes Grady’s)
  • ¼ ounce rich simple syrup (2:1)
  • Garnish: fresh nutmeg


  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass.
  3. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

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Updated: 2023-12-07

*Hard Start Ingredients

  • ½ ounce Fernet-Branca
  • ½ ounce Branca Menta

*Hard Start Directions

  1. Combine Fernet-Branca and Branca Menta
  2. Can be made in larger batches in a 1:1 ratio.
The Hard Start Espresso Martini