Chili's Substitutes Tequila For Vodka In The Classic Espresso Martini With Awesome Results

Chili's new espresso martini
Chili's new espresso martini - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

Coffee cocktails are the ultimate after-dinner drink. Combining liquors with coffee not only provides the perfect pick-me-up to keep the night going, but depending on the liquor used, these drinks can be a delicious way to end a meal. While an Irish coffee or Black Russian are obvious choices, nothing is more popular these days than the espresso martini: a simple drink that exudes sophistication. That popularity has led to this modern classic showing up on menus all over the country from local watering holes to high-end restaurants. It's even found its way onto the menus of several chain restaurants. The newest franchise to jump on the espresso martini bandwagon? Chili's.

Since I love cocktails, especially coffee cocktails, and would never pass up a decent plate of chicken quesadillas, I was thrilled to be invited to taste Chili's newest libation. The restaurant may be known for its margaritas, selling well over 20 million every year, but why should the Mexican chain rest on its laurels? Now the only question is will the restaurant capture that same lightning with its newest cocktail as it has with its margaritas? Read on to find out if this espresso martini is destined to be Chili's newest hit or a total miss.

Read more: The 40 Absolute Best Cocktails That Feature Only 2 Ingredients

What Is Chili's Espresso Martini

overhead shot of Chili's espresso martini
overhead shot of Chili's espresso martini - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

If you've ever enjoyed an espresso martini, you know it's a strong cocktail whose ingredients include espresso or coffee, vodka, and simple syrup. Occasionally a splash of coffee liqueur or rum will be added, as well. It's then shaken up, strained into a coupe glass, and garnished with a few espresso beans. Like so many popular cocktails out there, bartenders have taken this modern classic and turned it on its head, adding to the original recipe or changing it entirely. Chili's is no different.

Since the restaurant has done so well with its array of margaritas, it keeps with the theme and substitutes vodka with tequila for this twist on the modern classic. But Chili's doesn't use just any tequila, and with so many different tequilas to choose from, the restaurant decided to go with a reposado tequila as the cocktail's base, instead. Unlike a white or golden tequila which is bottled immediately after distillation, reposado is aged for at least two months, creating a mellower spirit. Then, because Chili's always seems to go the extra mile when it comes to its drinks, the restaurant goes one step further by adding a shot of Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Rum to the mix.

Where Can You Get Chili's Newest Cocktail

Exterior of Chili's restaurant
Exterior of Chili's restaurant - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

Because of its wild popularity, it's no surprise that Chili's has joined the long list of restaurants slinging this particular drink. But where other restaurants have simply added the tantalizing tipple to their menus, Chili's has partnered with two reality stars to help get the word out about its newest cocktail -- Scheana Shay and Katie Maloney.

If you're a "Vanderpump Rules" fan, you know these two are well-versed in everything Chili's and tequila. See, Shay used to be a waitress at the restaurant chain, and Maloney is affectionately known as "Tequila Katie," since she's such a big fan of the agave spirit. Not only have the two put together a cute commercial publicizing the drink, but their faces adorn cards on every table as they hold up the cocktail in all its glory. But you may not see these famous faces for very long. Currently, Chili's plans on publicizing the martini until spring ends, but I heard that if the drink does well, it could become a permanent addition to the cocktail menu.

Chili's Espresso Martini Is A Steal

Chili's espresso martini with its base spirits
Chili's espresso martini with its base spirits - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

These days, it's practically impossible to find a cocktail for under $15. Sure, maybe if it's happy hour at your favorite hole-in-the-wall and a well spirit is being used as its base, you might luck into a cheaper tab. But if you want a drink with multiple name-brand spirits, the odds are that cocktail is going to be at least $15 and will probably be closer to $20. I've even seen drinks go for well over $1,000. But that's not the case at Chili's.

I was surprised to discover that this impressive drink which uses not one, but two different liquors clocks in at a mere $12. With a price tag like that, I'd have no problem sipping this cocktail at the beginning and end of my meal. I'd even be happy to order a batch for the table. That nice price tag also means I can order more food, as well. Maybe instead of just one course, I could have two or three. I mean, is there any better compliment to a chocolate molten cake than a stunning coffee cocktail?

Taste Test

hand holding an espresso martini
hand holding an espresso martini - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

I've had my fair share of espresso martinis over the years, and I can definitely say it's one of my favorite after-dinner drinks. This one easily measured up to those I've enjoyed in the past. Replacing the standard vodka with reposado tequila and spiced rum made me nervous, as I was afraid the distinct flavors of tequila and spices would overpower the strong coffee notes of this delightful libation. But after one sip, I knew I'd have no problem enjoying every last drop.

Using a reposado instead of the harsher silver or gold was a smart choice because it's a mellower and slightly sweeter tequila. It's a tequila that allows me to savor all that rich agave flavor without needing a lime chaser. Plus the subtle sweetness that also comes from aging heightens the sweetness from the agave syrup making it the ideal choice for a dessert drink. And since this drink comes from a restaurant with "chili" in the name, you know there has to be a little spice. But rather than use peppers or tajin, the restaurant uses spiced rum. That subtle spice gives the cocktail a wonderful depth and a nice bite on the finish. Add to that the beautiful froth that acts as a comforting entrance to this drink, and you have a cocktail that goes down easy from start to finish.

Chili's Espresso Martini Compares Well To Other Espresso Martinis

Espresso martini with tequila and rum
Espresso martini with tequila and rum - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

So, how does this espresso martini compare to others out there? It absolutely stands up to the competition. What makes espresso martinis so interesting are all the different routes bartenders can take. Since vodka tends to be a spirit without any distinct flavor, bartenders might use a stronger espresso or flavored vodka to create their espresso martinis. If they opt for a coffee or espresso that's too strong or too weak, the cocktail turns into something that will either hide the liquor completely or make it way too obvious. On the other hand, if they use flavored vodka, that artificial flavor can take over and create a drink that's more candy than a cocktail, which is why picking the right vodka for your espresso martini is so important.

While I don't want to be bowled over by the liquor in my cocktail, I like to know it's present. Otherwise, what am I paying for? There are definitely vodkas out there that stand up to the challenge. But so do the reposado tequila and spiced rum in Chili's martini. They each make their presence known without taking over the whole production, adding distinct flavors that only enhance the drink. These two liquors allow the espresso to really shine, creating a drink that's thoroughly enjoyable.

Chili's Espresso Martini Is Worth The Trip

Espresso martini and quesadilla
Espresso martini and quesadilla - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

Now the answer you've all been waiting for: Is Chili's new espresso martini worth a visit to the restaurant chain? Absolutely! While my first sip was full of caution and apprehension, those emotions were quickly eclipsed with ones full of desire and devotion. I really did love everything about this drink from the very first taste. Those flavors, coupled with the fact that it's a steal at $12, make it a no-brainer the next time you visit the restaurant.

But what I really appreciate, is the fact that it's something completely different for the franchise. Don't get me wrong, I love a good margarita, especially when its flavor profile goes outside the typical citrus box, but I don't always want one. While it's the perfect partner for a taco or fajitas, it's not the cocktail I automatically think of when I'm ordering a burger or fried chicken sandwich. An espresso martini on the other hand, well, that drink is the ideal choice for a quesadilla, steak, or slice of cheesecake, especially if you're looking to add a note of elegance to your night out.

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