The LIFC cocktail review pt 1: The Espresso Martini at Frank’s Bar

Writer, presenter and historian, Lucy Jane Santos, explores the origins of cocktails while sipping them gently, in some of Norwich’s finest independent restaurants and bars. 

Frank’s Bar

Whereas some cocktail writers like to measure the ability of the bar tender (and the overall quality of the cocktail menu) through their handling of classics like an Old Fashioned or a French 75 I like to test a place through its ability to make the maligned cocktails delicious. 

And there is an unassuming and much underrated icon lurking at Frank’s Bar in Norwich which was perfect for the test. 

The Espresso Martini

Created originally by Dick Bradsell the drink was apparently conceived of when a young model walked into his bar (whether this was at Fred’s Bar or the Soho Brasserie is less than clear) and ordered something that would ‘Wake me up and then Fuck me up.’

So Bradsell created a mixture of cold espresso coffee, vodka, liqueurs and sugar syrup that does indeed fit that particular request. 

Since the early 1980s the Espresso Martini (which was originally called the Vodka Espresso as vodka was the drink du jour at the time) has gone through many reiterations as our drinking tastes have changed and cocktail culture has developed. It has also, rather unjustly, gone through some abominations especially in the late 90s/early 00s when over-excited cocktail makers added cream liqueurs, whipped cream, double cream, single cream, milk and even chocolate sprinkles sometimes. You get the picture. 

Done properly an Espresso Martini is rich, indulgent and creamy without the need for any extra help as the natural oils in the espresso create a beautiful creamy layer on top. It is also boozy, bitter and sweet. 

© Sonee Photography

The Espresso Martini at Frank’s Bar is all of those things as well as being beautifully presented. It came served with a sunny smile by one of their excellent and friendly staff. 

Almost all of the drinks on Frank’s small cocktail menu are vegan (and those that are not are clearly marked) and featured the Espresso Martini, an Old Fashioned (which we also tried and tasted delicious despite the rather erroneous lemon wedge garnish) as well as more unfamiliar cocktails such as the Apple Crumble & Custard, and the Dark and Swarmy (not vegan as has honey tequila in it). There are also some tasty looking alcohol free options. 

Whilst I knew that Frank’s was a great place to go for food – specially breakfast- I hadn’t previously thought of it as a venue for cocktails. But very much left agreeing with the chalkboard sign outside – they do have ‘whaley nice cocktails.’  

About the Author

Lucy Jane Santos

Lucy Jane Santos is a freelance writer, presenter and historian. Her debut non-fiction historical book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium will be published by Icon Books in July 2020.