Razing Hell Espresso Martini | a Holy Saturday cocktail


  • 1.5 oz Smoky Lenten Bourbon
  • 1.5 oz Espresso or Cold Brew Concentrate
  • .75 oz Coffee Liqueur
  • .25 oz Demerara Syrup
  • Garnish: 4 drops Angostura
  • Rim: Cocoa Bitters and 1/8-1/4 tsp each of Salt, Smoked Paprika, Cayenne Pepper based on spice preference.

Wet the rim of your coupe or martini glass with cocoa bitters and dip it in the spice mix to coat. Place in freezer to chill. Shake all other ingredients (except Angostura) with ice and fine strain into the chilled glass. In the foam of the drink, add 4-5 drops of Angostura bitters and use a toothpick to “draw” them into the shape of a cross.

View other Holy Day cocktails.

* * * *

It’s Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent. During this past Holy Week, I’ve needed to find various ways to say “man, a lot happened on this day”. Not so today. Here is the entirety of what the Bible says about Jesus and his disciples this day:

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Lk 23:56b)

That’s it. This vacuum has invited a lot of theological speculation on just what might have been happening in the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Most of Christian history has answered this question with some version of what’s called “The Harrowing of Hell“, based largely on an odd verse in 1 Peter 4 about Jesus preaching the gospel “even to the dead” and captured in the Apostle’s Creed when it says Jesus “descended to the dead”.

Different versions are more or less literal about it, but at the very least, this means that whatever “hell” is, Jesus endured it on behalf of those who never will. And in so doing it, he conquered it in some way, de-fanging it of its power and authority. He harrowed it, razed it–overcame it.

Today’s cocktail honors this act. It uses Holy Tuesday’s Lent-Infused Bourbon to make a smoky, sweet espresso martini that represents death. The Angostura drops in the shape of a cross represent Jesus himself in the midst of death. This part of the drink is really smooth and great on its own.

But the real highlight is the rim. This salty, smoky, spicy goodness represents the fires of hell which Jesus had to pass through in order to give us life, delight, and the “spirit” (get it?).

The two parts of the drink play off one another really nicely, with the burn hitting your mouth and being neutralized by the creaminess of the drink. And the smoked paprika and smoky bourbon complement each other really well.

Seriously, this is one of the best drinks I’ve crafted this week. It definitely captures the weight, mystery, and seriousness of this day while also being one freaking delicious drink. But before you go making it, be sure to read the notes below.

Ingredient Notes

The most important thing to nail is the rim. I used equal parts salt, smoked paprika, and cayenne. A friend of mine who tried this thought the rim was perfect as it was, but I thought it was overly spicy. So adjust according to your preferences.

Also, I used cocoa bitters to wet the rim, and maybe it made a difference, but not enough that you can’t use nearly whatever you want–even water or simple syrup. But avoid using a citrus juice for it.

The base spirit for the drink itself is the Lenten Bourbon I wrote about a few days ago. The smoke is a really nice touch. I haven’t tried it, but I suppose you could use regular bourbon if need be. Just add some orange bitters with it.

Alternative: If you have liquid smoke or (better yet) the salt and smoke bitters I’ve written about before, you could add those. Or, if you must, maybe you could add a 1/4-1/2 oz of a really smoky scotch, but make sure it’s a meaty barbecue kind of smoke like Ardbeg and not a more iodine-forward Islay like Laphroaig. Either way, also add some orange bitters.

You can use any sort of espresso, or strong coffee or even cold-brew concentrate. I’ll confess, I used Nespresso. That’s not actual espresso, and the flavor isn’t that strong, but it’s effective for cocktails. I would shoot for a lighter roast that won’t over power everything else.

I used Mr Black Coffee Liqueur and Liber & Co Demerara Gun syrup, but use whatever you have–even regular simple syrup. If you have a really sweet coffee liqueur, like Kahlua, maybe cut back a little on the other sweetener.

All in all, I’m really proud of this drink and hope some of yo out there try it!

Recipe Card


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