London Food & Culture

How to make cocktails at home: mojito and espresso martini

Mixologist Nathan O'Connell at Somers Town speakeasy the Cosy Kettle gives us the lowdown on two party classics

Nathan O'Connell pours martini. Photo: LBTM
Nathan O’Connell pours martini. Photo: LBTM

Mixologist Nathan O’Connell has put nine years into his craft, with stints everywhere from Leicester and Northampton to the Caribbean and Australia. He’s been working at the Cosy Kettle, Somers Town’s secret subterranean speakeasy on Chalton Street for eight months, its low-key interior – a mish-mash of eclectic colours and textures – the ideal backdrop to dream up new pairings, and his own takes on the classics.

Creating a simple mojito

It’s all in the method: a mojito. Pic: Stephen Emms
“Take a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar, and put four wedges of lime on top of it. The acid breaks down the sugar easier.

Muddle with the back of a wooden spoon and make sure it’s all completely dissolved. Add about eight to twelve mint leaves depending on their size. Continue to muddle and then add crushed ice until the glass is almost full. Crush ice at home yourself with a tea towel on a wooden floor – but never on soft tiles as they might crack. Or better still, buy a manual hand-crusher which takes a handful at a time and works the same way as a sausage grinder.

Here at the Cosy Kettle we use a double shot of Havana Club Especial (you could try Captain Morgan’s Spiced for something cheaper, although it might be a bit too sweet for some palates).


Now bring the sugar, mint and lime from the bottom all the way up: the quickest way to do it is get the back of a bar spoon and pummel it. Some people top with soda, but I really don’t like that, it’s just a filler; much better to top up with a bit more crushed ice. Finally, garnish with mint.

Tip: The muddle is the most important bit to make it all level and bring the flavour up. Don’t forget to use nice fresh lime and mint, and brown, not white, sugar.

…and how to knock up a classic espresso martini

Balanced: the perfect glass. Photo: Stephen Emms/ LBTM
Don’t forget, you’ll really need a cocktail shaker for this drink. But they’re inexpensive and last forever. I start by putting a double shot of Ketel One vodka over the ice in a shaker. Add 15ml of Kahlua (half a shot), and a half of sugar syrup. It’s important to add a single shot of hot espresso – always use hot as the consistency is better and it sits nicely in the glass afterwards with a better crema. We use a Nicaraguan blend here. Finally, take a chilled martini glass, fine strain and garnish with coffee beans.

Bitter or sweet? The whole secret of cocktail-making is about balancing sweet, sour and sharp flavours and ingredients – and learning how to perfect that. If you make a drink too sweet it’s not enjoyable and easy to turn it into something childish. But without any sugar at all – we add just half a shot – coffee and vodka can be too bitter. Remember too, that once vodka is colder it loses its edge and gets a lot smoother. Tip: Use a premium vodka in espresso martini if you can.

Enjoy trying that? Find out how to make two classic whisky cocktails courtesy of Tufnell Park’s Aces & Eights here, and how to make a Bloody Mary and Tom Collins via Bermondsey bar The Hide here

For loads more easy cocktail recipes visit

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