I’ve gushed at length about the novelty and creativity that goes on behind some of the minds at Everyman, and in retrospect, a lot of that creativity has to do with the simple yet powerful concept of subverting one’s expectations. These guys, as well as their contemporaries around the country/world, take pages from both the artist and the engineer to precisely modulate balances and sensations via tools and techniques, to articulate a culinary story that they want to tell. And every good story involves a good twist. In this case, a twist of citrus.
There’s really no reason (apart from simple precedent) for people to stay close to milk for their coffee-modifying needs.
Given how much time and effort is placed into accurately and precisely describing the flavor profiles in a well-made shot of espresso, it comes as no surprise that eventually someone might think of mixing these highly refined coffees with the same decorum as one might handle top-shelf liquor. There’s really no reason (apart from simple precedent) for people to stay close to milk for their coffee-modifying needs. If an espresso is bright with orange citrus notes, why can’t you mix it with other stuff that emphasizes those features?
Sam the Awesome Barista turns around a clever mixed drink with this in mind every so often. Recently, he came across a batch of Rwandan espresso that had dark caramel flavors, as well as rum notes to it. So what does he do? Throw it in a cocktail shaker with lime juice and simple syrup, just like rum. Basically, he made an espresso daiquiri.
Super straightforward and easy to make, both very attractive features when you’re trying to push drinks out of a busy espresso bar. But most of the time, “cold coffee drinks” usually evoke the image of giant, chocolate chip laden, whipped cream-topped, milkshake-esque monstrosities, not a tiny wine glass filled with a crisp, citrus bite that was still unmistakably coffee.
Some drinks draw can homage to traditional cocktails while others take on a life of their own.
Amanda Whitt, of Amor y Amargo (Love and Bitters) in the East Village (and also briefly a barista in various places around NYC), also delves deep into the crazy, mad-scientist convergence of liquor and coffee bar shenanigans, using the flavor infusions of traditionally alcoholic bitters to spike and modulate the existing flavor profiles of expertly crafted espresso. She presents the coffee and alcohol in two ways – either mixed together as a single entity, or paired as a cocktail and ice coffee in concert so their individual aspects can be played against each other. Some drinks draw homage to traditional cocktails but others take on a life of their own, like a new color introduced to the palette of the palate.
The imagination that propagates through this school of thought is pretty mind-boggling. Like, who would come up with something crazy like pimento bitters, let alone decide to mix it with an espresso and lemon to get something that tastes like apples? Sure, there’s still a place for mochas and caramel lattes (and 鴛鴦 for the Chinese crowd), but with a little bit of unconventional thought and a lot of talent and premeditation, one can really pull out some unusual and wonderful tastes.
Until next time, I hope you can take a moment to play with expectations the next time you take a sip.