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What's a matcha martini? Experts explain the cocktail that's giving the espresso martini a run for its money.

Just as the espresso martini has its riffs utilizing various spirits as bases, there are many ways to make the matcha martini.

Matcha martinis are giving espresso martinis a run for their money, but what are they? (Photo: Illustration by Ron Keebler)
Matcha martinis are giving espresso martinis a run for their money, but what are they? (Photo: Illustration by Ron Keebler)

The espresso martini has reigned headlines (and happy hours) for years. Regaining popularity from its ’90s fame, in 2020 the caffeinated cocktail's mention in U.S. restaurant reviews was up nearly 300%. In 2022, the espresso martini succeeded the classic Manhattan in the top 10 list of most-ordered cocktails at U.S. bars, according to research firm CGA by Nielsen IQ, so when another caffeinated beverage comes on the scene, it's strange to think the beloved espresso martini could be replaced. Enter the matcha martini.

Matcha is a type of powdered green tea with Chinese origins; matcha leaves are ground into a powder and mixed into a drink rather than steeping the leaves and removing them from tea. Since the entirety of the leaves are digested, the health community celebrates matcha for its variety of benefits, including its rich antioxidants and less jittery caffeine boost.

But matcha-drinking goes beyond your morning coffee shop order: TikTokers have been consuming matcha as more than just a tea or latte. Videos of the trending #MatchaMartini have climbed to 4.3 billion and counting on the social media platform.

TikToker Nasim Lahbichi first posted an iteration of the matcha martini in November 2022, sharing the idea of a matcha-based martini came from a friend who loved the idea of espresso martinis but hated espresso's flavors. "I figured if one caffeinated beverage could become an iconic cocktail, why not another with even more health benefits and a palatable flavor profile?," explains Lahbichi.

Kelly Pettit also shared her version of a matcha martini at the end of last year. The creator says she was inspired to create the recipe as "matcha is a more subtle, less-caffeinated and earthy substitute for espresso."

"I think people are interested in exploring healthier options for their favorite things," Pettit tells Yahoo Life of the unexpected popularity of her TikTok, "and really, what's not to love about a beautiful, delicious, green martini?"

Three months into 2023, it's safe to say matcha martinis are trending. In fact, Lauren Wonn says she first heard about matcha martinis from TikTok. "[My friend] wanted to try this drink and they didn't offer it at the bars we went to, so I got super tunnel-visioned and made it for my group of friends and everyone loved it," says Wonn about her matcha martini. "Growing up Asian, I've grown to really like matcha so this is a fun take on the espressotini. It's also a bit sweeter and my recipe only uses one other liqueur (créme de cacao) so it's a little less strong."

While the TikTok community is just catching on, matcha cocktails have been on menus for years across the globe. Natalie Migliarini, the content creator behind Beautiful Booze, says she first tried a matcha martini at Mixology Salon, an eight-seat bar in Tokyo, while on a trip to Japan in January 2020. "I really loved the flavor profile of the cocktail," recalls Migliarini of the drink, a blend of vodka, passionfruit, vanilla and matcha tea sourced from Kyoto. "It was more complex than a typical matcha martini with the addition of passion fruit and vanilla. I also loved that they prepared the matcha in front of me at the bar."

Does a matcha martini give you as much caffeine as an espresso martini?

According to the USDA, one-ounce of espresso contains 64 milligrams of caffeine, while Healthline says when prepared the standard way, matcha contains between 38 to 88 milligrams per two ounces. When divided to the one-ounce comparison with espresso, using Healthline's breakdown, one-ounce of matcha contains 19 to 44 milligrams of caffeine, meaning no, it does not give you as much caffeine as an espresso martini.

Will a matcha martini give you the same energy for a long night out?

Even though matcha contains less caffeine than espresso, it is still a caffeinated substance, so imbibers will gain a caffeine boost. Gary Gruver, beverage director for Marriott global operations, says the boost will be "more gentle," which is another reason people may prefer it to espresso. "[It] comes in easy, and leaves your system less dramatically without the crash," says Gruver. "Think: it gives you a moderate boost for the night ahead without the bookend spikes."

Still, Gruver adds a note of caution: "Moderation is key; too much matcha tends to make you nauseous as matcha is an ingested medium, where espresso is brewed."

Does the matcha make it better for you? And how?

In theory, matcha is better for you than espresso. "It stabilizes blood sugar and lowers stress in the mind and body alike," says Gruver. Matcha is also packed with antioxidants, which some believe promote the brain, heart and liver health, adds Ben Chesna, beverage director for Himmel Hospitality Group. "It also helps cognitive performance, but combining it with alcohol surely counters some of the health benefits," Chesna says.

The matcha martini may not replace the espresso martini any time soon, but it's increasing in popularity thanks to TikTok. (Photo: Nasim Lahbichi)
The matcha martini may not replace the espresso martini any time soon, but it's increasing in popularity thanks to TikTok. (Photo: Nasim Lahbichi)

Will matcha martinis replace espresso martinis?

"Not a chance," declares Gruver, explaining that at his bars and restaurants, the espresso martini is having its second golden era of reign. "Behind the margarita and an old fashioned, it's the number three cocktail that is selling," he says.

Matcha has been around for awhile and has yet to replace coffee in the mainstream café. Gruver furthers that, as with any matcha drink, high quality matcha is required, which many bars don't have access to. "I love matcha," adds Migliarini, "but it has to be done correctly to taste good and be balanced with the right ingredients, especially in cocktails."

Ready to try a matcha martini at home? Just as the espresso martini has its riffs utilizing various spirits as bases, there are many ways to make the boozy green drink. Gruver and Chesna share their recipes below.

Classic Matcha Martini

Courtesy of Ben Chesna

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1/2 ounce Irish cream liqueur (Chesna recommends Bailey's)

  • 1/4 ounce matcha

Instructions:

Put all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. The finer the strainer the better, as matcha can get clumpy. You want the cocktail frothy but not with lumps. If you want a richer style drink, a splash of cream will add to the texture and flavor.

Matcha Libre

Courtesy of Gary Gruver

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces tequila (Gruver recommends Casamigos Blanco)

  • 3/4 ounces amaretto liqueur (Gruyer recommends Disaronno)

  • 1 1/2 ounces matcha-infused oat milk (made by combining 2 tablespoons of matcha and 750 milliliters of oat milk)

  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup

  • Small pinch of salt

Instructions:

Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a tiny pinch of matcha powder.

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