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Eating with Emma

Express yourself with the best espresso martinis in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota

These caffeine-fueled cocktails give you the perfect juxtaposition of jolt and joy.

The espresso martini from Speaks Clam Bar.
The espresso martini from Speaks Clam Bar.
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When my sister introduced me to the espresso martini a few years back, it scared me just as the Red Bull and vodka combo had in the early 2010s. Mix an upper with a downer: What’s the worst that could happen?

Well, there were two outcomes: a prolonged anxiety attack or a night next to the porcelain god. (Sorry, Mom.)

However, the sophisticated caffeinated buzz of an espresso martini hits different. Exhausted from decision-making? Espresso yourself. Finished a grueling week and want to celebrate getting through it? Fresh espresso and a bit of booze is the duo you desire. Need a reason to feel chic and ever-so-slightly inebriated? Pour me an espresso martini, please.

Topped with full-bodied foam, the trendy cocktail is becoming the favorite flavorsome adult beverage ready to tickle you with its tricks and treat you to a well-earned tipsy time.

Here are three tasty local versions of the espresso martini that I guarantee will give you the perfect juxtaposition of jolt and joy you are searching for.

Sage Restaurant

1216 First St., Sarasota; 941-445-5660;

My parents talked about the historic Sarasota Times building every time we came into town from Longboat Key. Reminiscing about booze-filled nights at the building's previous incarnation, a tapas restaurant, they let us know how much they were looking forward to taking us there when a new place opened and we were of legal drinking age. That time came when Sage opened in 2019. We splurged on an extravagant and delicious family dinner where Mom, Dad, my sister, my husband and I all debated, “To espresso martini, or to not espresso martini, that is the question.” Three out of the five in our party opted in; the other two don’t drink coffee, so we politely excused their decision.

The chicory found in Sage's espresso martini adds richness, earthiness and nuttiness.
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Espresso Yourself: Bar manager Cliseria Padilla-Flores shared that New Orleans-style coffee inspired this cocktail ($16), made with 1.5 ounces of vanilla bean-infused vodka, a half-ounce of Borghetti espresso liqueur, a half-ounce of Hoodoo chicory liqueur and one shot of fresh espresso. “The chicory adds richness, earthiness and nuttiness that play well with the vanilla bean and espresso, and make for a well-balanced cocktail," Padilla-Flores said.

Where You Bean All My Life: Pair the espresso martini with the flourless chocolate cake ($15), served with coffee toffee sauce, spiced walnuts and house-made ice cream.

Speaks Clam Bar

8764 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch, 941-232-7646; 29 N. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota, 941-232-7633;

My late dad loved spending the day on the beach, under the umbrella that stood far from other patrons. He would occasionally pull out his phone to check email or the stock market. But he would mostly rest his eyes in between dips in the Gulf of Mexico and wait for the perfect time to head to Speaks and order his late-in-life love, the espresso martini. Dad fell in love instantly with what could be described as the coffee addicts' perfect bar pour. This longtime Jack Daniel's-only connoisseur would beg anyone in our family to join him in this frothy, decadent and booze-filled caffeine ride at the Prohibition-style bar. Cheers to you, Dad! May you be sipping all the espresso martinis you want.

Dessert shots ($4 each) and espresso martinis are the perfect pairing at Speaks Clam Bar.
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Espresso Yourself: Speaks adds gold rum to stand apart from the rest of the martinis in town. Eric Holmes, the sommelier and bar manager at Speaks, shared with me that Speaks uses Don Q Reserva 7-year rum with equal parts Madagascar 360 vanilla vodka, Kahlua and chilled espresso to concoct this cocktail. Then, shaken and double-strained, it’s poured into a coupe glass topped with freshly made Italian sweet cream. When sending me the recipe, Eric wrote, “It’s my pleasure to share this memory with you and your family.”

Where You Bean All My Life: I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Dessert shots are a perfect pairing to any meal (or cocktail). For $4, choose from tiramisu (made with ladyfingers dipped in coffee, among other ingredients), Oreo cheesecake or chocolate peanut butter.

Brine Seafood and Raw Bar

2250 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota; 941-952-3039;

The almond joy martini ($15) at Brine Seafood and Raw Bar.
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Growing up in Connecticut, I and my fellow Nutmeggers were raised to be proud of the seafood dished out at local eateries. From lobster rolls to fresh oysters and everything in between, we relished the notion that our seafood reigned supreme. Eight years ago, when I moved to Florida, this New Englander at heart had a tough time believing that fresh seafood dishes were not as fresh as most Gulf Coast places said they were — Brine being a notable exception. The seafood classics curated here are sourced from, as Brine describes it, “the most reputable watermen in the United States.” So it was no shock to me that this sensational seafood restaurant takes just as much pride in their cocktails as it does in their amazing appetizers and mouthwatering main courses.

Espresso Yourself: You might not see the words, “Espresso Martini” on the bar menu, but don’t fret — the spin Brine serves is stupendous. The Almond Joy martini ($15) is made with Stoli vanilla, chocolate and coconut liqueur, amaretto, coconut cream, espresso and finished with a chocolate and toasted coconut rim.

Where You Bean All My Life: Don’t skip Brine’s brunch, offered Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. While their espresso martinis aren't bottomless, their mimosas and Bloody Marys are. Snack on the oysters Rockefeller ($16), order the crab benedict ($23) or feast on the French toast, with the chef’s daily preparation ($15).



Emma Burke Jolly

Emma Burke Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group since 2018 as the digital fulfillment specialist. Originally from Connecticut, this Gulf Coast transplant loves being by the water, reminiscing about what Longboat Key looked like in 1990, navigating life with her husband and their two Maine Coon cats, and sharing her foodie findings with you.

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