THE HOTEL MARTINI is a rich, alluring, and slightly dangerous cocktail — a fitting mix for a bar named Guilhotina (Portuguese for “guillotine”).
"My ultimate goal when I started to think about the recipe was to reach something like a hybrid between an espresso martini and an Irish coffee,” Spencer Amereno Jr. writes. What he landed on was something more complex than either — layers of coffee, spice, citrus, and cream that travel across Brazil. The cocktail is one of many he introduced at Guilhotina this year after becoming the head bartender at the São Paulo bar. His menu includes many other deceptively simple cocktails made from South American ingredients, all with minimal garnish. “Of course I gave the Brazilian touch, which happens naturally.”
Like a hybrid between an espresso martini and an Irish coffee.
Tonka beans provide the most Brazilian of those touches. The beans come from the same tree that produces Brazilian teak. The FDA prohibits the use of tonka beans as a food ingredient. According to Title 21, Section 189.130, foods containing the tonka bean or its extract are considered “adulterated” due to their high content of coumarin, which can be toxic. That same chemical is also responsible for the legume’s alluring scent and taste — something between vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. “We say that tonka is Brazilian vanilla,” writes Amereno Jr. But vanilla doesn't quite capture its allure, and many chefs consider this flavor worth the risk. Some spice shops in the U.S. carry tonka beans, but keep quiet about it. In other words, this may be an ingredient easier to source offline — or in the real Amazon (not to be confused with the corporate giant).
Sobieski premium vodka tastes smoother and slightly creamier than many other vodkas, lending the drink’s base a bit of heft without interfering with the tonka’s delicate flavor profile. The peanut falernum adds spice and a depth of flavor akin to bitters. The separate coffee flavors create additional richness — in addition to infusing the vodka, Amereno Jr. adds Merlet C2 liqueur, which blends coffee and cognac. The combination of classic after-dinner drinks ensures you won’t have to choose between a cocktail and a pick-me-up. Why not both?
The Hotel Martini
- 60 ml Sobieski premium vodka infused with coffee*
- 22.5 ml peanut falernum
- 15 ml Merlet C2 cognac and café liqueur
- 15 ml tonka bean cream (or vanilla cream)
- 1 piece cacao nib edible glass (or cacao nibs) (garnish)
- *To infuse the vodka, combine 1 liter of Sobieski vodka and 20 g of ground coffee. Allow to steep for 24 hours, then filter and rebottle.
- Add coffee-infused vodka, falernum, and Merlet C2 to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice cubes for eight seconds.
- Transfer, with fine strain, to a previously chilled Nick and Nora or coupe glass.
- Top with aerated tonka bean cream.
- Garnish with cacao nib edible glass and tonka bean, or with cacao nibs alone.
Jessica Suarez Writer
Jessica Suarez is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Grant Cornett Photographer
Grant Cornett is a photographer and director based in upstate New York. He likes to take pictures of pristine detritus and austere moments.