The delicious coffee based drink has long been a cocktail bar staple, but the toxic concoction of caffeine, booze and sugar makes the espresso martini a terrible choice for a good night’s sleep.
According to legend, the Espresso Martini was invented in London’s Soho Brasserie, when a customer asked bartender Dick Bradsell for a cocktail that would “wake her up and f*** her up”. The original recipe contained vodka, sugar syrup, two different types of coffee liqueur and a freshly made espresso.
The modern version of the cocktail is typically made with vodka, a hot shot of espresso, coffee liqueur and a splash of sugar syrup, and served in a tall, chilled glass, garnished with coffee beans and a lemon zest twist. Sophisticated, edgy and unexpectedly strong, it isn’t hard to see why the drink was an instant success, and is now a cocktail bar staple the world over.
Delicious though it may be, however, the Espresso Martini is one of the most unhealthy cocktails available to drinkers. The relatively high alcohol content of the drink (which tends to contain at least three shots of spirits, or around two standards, per glass), combined with its sugar and caffeine content, means regular drinkers of the cocktail are likely to find themselves bouncing off the walls before bedtime, and struggling to get a good night’s sleep afterwards.
The reason why caffeine has such a negative impact on sleep is because of its role as a stimulant to the mind and body, according to renowned sleep coach Elite Sport Sleep Coach Nick Littlehales.
“It acts like a stimulating boost; making you more aware or alert, and that can be a little pick me up, especially after coming out of a sleep state,” he explains. “It’s a little bit like light exposure; our brains are triggered by it to produce serotonin, which is telling the brain to un-suppress everything and make you active and motivated as a human.”
“Caffeine is a little bit like that particular process. Bu if you take it in close proximity to going into a sleep state then it becomes far more difficult because you are then overriding a natural process.”
“It also has quite a lengthy half life, so if you took 50 mgms when you woke up in the morning then three hours later there is probably still going to be at least 25 mgms in your system,” he continues. “So you can keep topping it up throughout the day, but that will affect your sleep later on.”
It isn’t just the impact of caffeine that counts against the espresso martini’s health credentials. The alcohol contained within the drink also work as diuretics, increasing urine output and reducing the amount of H20 in your body. This increases the risk of dehydration and is likely to worsen your quality of sleep, and the severity of your hangover the following day.
What’s more, alcohol can also increase hunger and reduce the feeling of satiation, meaning you’re more prone to binge eating on a night out. Salty, fatty foods such as chips, kebabs and fried chicken are only going to worsen the impact of dehydration, and in excess can also lead to a whole host of other health problems such as obesity.
When it comes to alcohol and salty, fatty foods, Littlehales suggests that a healthy and balanced approach is always best.
“Most people we work with make their own choices,” he says. “We try and tell people to take a healthy and balanced approach to things in moderation. With it [alcohol and fatty/salty food] you have to also consider the impact on the person’s own mental wellbeing. If someone wants to have a cold beer in a social environment with friends then that should be seen as a good thing, but two, three, four of them, then you’ve got a problem.
“We tell our athletes to pick their moments throughout the week and to use alcohol to help with the mental approach, but in general terms they would tend to avoid it. Once you make it part of a process it can easily turn into something that happens more often and then every day.”
Perhaps then, given its propensity to keep us up and tossing and turning, we ought to start thinking about the Espresso Martini as a drink better consumed alongside the Bloody Mary over breakfast. An occasional treat over a boozy brunch, rather than a late-night cocktail bar special.