Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Cognac & Other Brandy Cocktails

Kirsch au Café

Kirsch au Café / Tim Nusog

The Espresso Martini. It is a divisive but undeniably delicious concoction, and a drink that has received plenty of derision over its lifetime. But luckily, it’s also experienced a comeback story in recent years, as well as numerous improvements, tweaks and alterations as bartenders play with the formula. The Kirsch au Café, from bartending veteran St. John Frizell, is one such creation. With brandy and two kinds of cherry liqueur, it certainly stretches the definition of an Espresso Martini, but that’s simply following in the tradition of the original, which itself stretches the definition of a Martini.

The base of the Kirsch au Café is cognac. The beloved French brandy is a consummate cocktail ingredient, and can range wildly in price points. For a mixed drink with espresso and cherry spirits in it, it’s best to go with something affordable. With cognac, it’s hard to find a poor quality bottle, so whatever best fits your budget will likely work.

While the cocktail is called the Kirsch au Café, it actually has equal parts of two cherry spirits. Unsurprisingly, one is kirsch, which is the general term for cherry eau de vie, the clear, un-aged fruit brandies. Normally it comes from Germany and surrounding areas like Austria and Switzerland, though there are versions of it in the United States. For instance, Clear Creek Distillery in Hood River, Oregon, makes a fabulous kirschwasser (another term for kirsch).

The Kirsch au Café also receives an equal amount of Cherry Heering. Unlike kirsch, Heering is a specific (and historic) brand of cherry liqueur. With a storied history, it’s still made in Coppenhagen essentially the same way it has been for the last 200 years. The vivid red color gets lost amidst the espresso in the Kirsch au Café, but its sweet and herbal cherry flavors come through, and they add a depth and complexity that would be lacking if the drink only included kirsch.

The rest of the drink is pretty much a straightforward Espresso Martini: simple syrup for additional sweetness and espresso for that silky sweet burst of caffeine. Unlike most versions, however, it also has an egg white to double down on the silkiness and to provide a thick, foamy head. After a few of these, you may never go back to the traditional Espresso Martini again.


  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 3/4 ounce kirsch
  • 3/4 ounce Cherry Heering
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce egg white
  • 1 1/2 ounces espresso


Serves 2.

  1. Add the cognac, kirsch, Cherry Heering, simple syrup and egg white into a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) vigorously.

  2. Add the espresso into the shaker, fill with ice and shake again until well-chilled.

  3. Double-strain into two small cocktail glasses.


Consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.