Carajillo Vs. Espresso Martini: Which One Should You Choose?

Wondering which one is your better fit between Carajillo and Espresso Martini? Read our Carajillo vs. Espresso Martini guide to find out.

Carajillo Vs. Espresso Martini
Carajillo Vs. Espresso Martini

Carajillo and Espresso Martini share a few traits in common. They go great as post-dinner drinks, using strong coffee and liquor as the backbone. However, for those new to the cocktail scene, choosing which one to order for the night is not a piece of cake. 

Read on to find out the difference between Carajillo and Espresso Martini to pick your favorite.

What Are Carajillo And Espresso Martini?

Originating in Spain, Carajillo is a beloved after-dinner cocktail and a dessert course using strong coffee, especially espresso, and Licor 43, a fruit-forward liquor, as the drink’s backbone. 

Even though the Spanish introduced Carajillo, it became a thriving cocktail as soon as it landed in Mexico and was quickly adopted throughout North American and European countries.

Carajillo comprises an equal ratio between espresso and Licor 43, shaken and poured over ice. Licor 43 is one of the best-selling spirits hailed from Spain with a high level of sugar and spice.

On the other hand, Espresso Martini is another highly-appraised post-dinner drink. Espresso Martini also uses espresso as the drink’s base, but instead of Licor, they mix in Vodka and Kahlua to complete the tasting profile. 

Espresso Martini uses espresso as the base

The art in the making of Espresso Martini also lies in the shaking technique that provides a beautiful, surprisingly balanced caffeinated drink. Espresso Martini will have a few coffee beans sprinkled on top for decorating.

What Do Carajillo And Espresso Martini Have In Common?

Both Espresso Martini and Carajillo use strong coffee and liquor in the recipe to create a gorgeous-looking frothy drink with a strong spicy note and an enhanced aroma of high-quality coffee. Espresso is the most common type of coffee used in both drinks, even though you can replace it with other strong coffee alternatives. Many people go for Carajillo and Espresso Martini as an after-dinner drink over the weekends to feel alive again. 

If you like this post, you might also be interested in our guide on the best coffee drinks with Kahlua.

Carajillo Vs. Espresso Martini: The Differences

CarajilloEspresso Martini
Uses Licor 43 in the recipeUses vodka and Kahlua in the recipe
Sweet vanilla, chocolate, and citrus notesSweet, punchy, rich, smooth, and utterly creamy
Created in SpainCreated in England
Served in a tumbler glassServed in a Martini glass
No coffee beans garnished on topHas coffee beans garnished on top
AffordableMore on a steep side
Served hot and coldServed cold

What’s Better About Carajillo?

How to make the best carajillo recipes?
Carajillo is not the type of drink you want to finish in seconds

Carajillo is a good-old, classic dessert cocktail that costs just a few dollars. The best thing about Carajillo is the golden-hued Licor 43. This traditional sweet Spanish spirit adds magic to the drink with 43 different spice-forward notes such as coriander, vanilla, orange, and lemon blossom.

When Licor 43 is poured over the ice, it creates a heart-warming layered effect that sparkles in the dimly-lit vibe of the bar. Carajillo is not the type of drink you want to finish in seconds. 

The nicely intense aroma and flavor of espresso paired with the citrus and fruit juices, vanilla, and aromatic herbs of Licor 43 will produce a full-bodied, well-rounded cocktail with a leading sweet note.

What’s Better About Espresso Martini?

Kahlua Espresso Martini
The balance between sweet and bitter defines the key that unlocks a high-quality Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini is simple to make, but it’s not an easy call that everyone can tackle. You can tell how good a bartender is by ordering an Espresso Martini. The balance between sweet and bitter defines the key that unlocks a high-quality Espresso Martini. 

When you take a sip of an Espresso Martini, the distinctive espresso notes come forward, making space for the hints of sugar and cream to follow in the aftertaste. Espresso Martini will be in any fancy hidden cocktail lounge.

It should be opaque and let little light through. The texture of an Espresso Martini must have a recognized level of creaminess that glides over your tongue. And since vodka and Kalua’s appearance, it will have a decent level of thickness that lingers on your taste buds a few seconds after you finish. 

Who Should Go For Carajillo (And Why)?

Carajillo was one of my first-ever introductions to the cocktail world as it’s not crazy expensive and fits my love for coffee just right. If you love everything coffee-related, go for a Carajillo. 

However, Carajillo is not downright a crowd-pleaser as it’s still on the adventurous side of the menu. So those who are up for something new and fun to cap off their Friday night, Carajillo is the right way to go.

You’ll love our round-up of the best Carajilo recipes.

Who Should Go For Espresso Martini (And Why)?

Espresso Martini is classic. It might be out of style, but it’s always found a way back. And even though Espresso Martini is considered a fancy drink, it still meets the taste of a wide range of people. 

Espresso Martini has a more complex flavor compared to Carajillo. You should offer it to someone with a decent knowledge of cocktails to appreciate each tasting note.


  • Oanh Nguyen

    Born and raised by a traditional mama-barista, Oanh is a typical Viet coffee aficionado who would spend her entire precious Sunday showing you how to categorize coffee beans just by the looks and smells. She enjoys writing about everything drinks-related while sipping her favorite rosebud tea. Find Oanh on LinkedIn.