Food and Drink

Why We Can't Stop Shaking Our Espresso

Pretend you're on a Greek island with a freddo espresso or frappé.

silalena/Shutterstock
silalena/Shutterstock
silalena/Shutterstock

When we think of places with distinct coffee cultures, countries like Italy, Ethiopia, or Columbia often come to mind. But on a recent trip to Greece, I was thrilled to discover a very robust coffee scene-one that put the Europeans-don’t-drink-iced-coffee notion to shame. Beyond fried kasseri cheese and stringy knafeh, it was the humble freddo espresso that made a lasting impression on me.

It’s a drink that shines in its simplicity, a natural answer to sweltering Mediterranean heat. You pour a shot or two of espresso over ice, mix the liquid with a shaker or electric blender, and, thanks to the contrast of hot and cold, create the most satisfying top layer of foam. Enjoy it straight, with a little bit of sugar, or combined with a layer of frothed cold milk for a freddo cappuccino.”Pretty much everyone in Greece-90 to 95% of people-drinks freddo espresso, whether it’s summer or winter,” says Petros Chiskos, co-owner of European-inspired Roast & Brew coffee shop in Houston, Texas. “It gives you a nice kick in the morning. It’s straight espresso. And you can adjust how sweet you want it. I like to add a dash of sugar and honey, which helps to feel the whole blend of the espresso.”

The freddo was invented in the ’90s, when espresso made its way over to Greece, and specialty brands like Illy began to pop up. It became the chicer cousin of a more established-and equally as good-Greek iced coffee: the frappĂ©. The story goes that the frappĂ© was invented, by accident, in 1957. Yiannis Dritsas, a representative of NestlĂ© Greece, was at the 22nd Thessaloniki International Fair, tasked with presenting a new iced chocolate drink for kids: a concoction made from shaking milk and cocoa powder together.

But during a break, an employee of the same company, Dimitris Vakondios, went to the kitchen to prepare his regular Nescafe. But he couldn’t find hot water, so he replicated his boss’s technique, instead mixing the instant coffee with cold water and ice cubes. From there, the frappĂ© was born. And it was only a matter of time before we started seeing whipped coffees on TikTok, whether in the form of a frappĂ© or dalgona coffee.

Photo courtesy of Roast & Brew
Photo courtesy of Roast & Brew
Photo courtesy of Roast & Brew

Unfortunately for us Americans, the freddo espresso and frappĂ© are not as easy to find in coffee shops across the U.S. “Usually you will find them only if the place is owned by Greek people or if the owners happened to travel to Greece,” Chiskos says. A few examples include the cafes and markets that dot Greektowns across the U.S., like Atropolis Bakery in Chicago, Bakalikon in Detroit, and Karella’s Cafe in Baltimore.

Chiskos and his business partner/best friend, Thomas Soula, were born in Albania, but both moved to Patras, Greece when they were just five years old. “We spent our whole lives there,” Chiskos says. “And it was always our dream to open a place that would remind us of home.”I asked Chiskos for advice on how to make these specialty Greek coffees at home. Since returning from Greece, I’ve been making an ad-hoc version, brewing one shot of espresso, tossing it into an ice-filled cocktail shaker, giving it a mix, and then pouring it into a glass over ice.

It’s a happy medium between a hot espresso-which I could not bear to wash down in humid New York City-and an iced latte, which, frankly, I’m getting a little bored of. It’s refreshingly bitter, yet still foamy, and doesn’t give me the heart palpitations I usually experience after drinking cold brew.

While a cocktail shaker will do, Chiskos believes using a handheld milk frother will bring the freddo even closer to cafe quality, “especially if you are adding any flavor, because you want to break what’s inside of the espresso,” he says. If you go the cappuccino route, Chiskos recommends using skim milk, which will create a longer-lasting foam. The frappĂ© is the drink you opt for when you need a little more caffeine. Use the same electric frother to mix water and instant coffee, but be mindful of the amount of water you add to the cup-too much will make the drink too foamy, and you’ll miss out on the coffee.

“You want to add about a finger of water, maybe an inch max,” Chiskos explains. “Once you start to see the foam becoming more creamy, add some ice, a little more water, and stir it for a bit. Let it sit for 30 to 40 seconds, and it will be ready to drink.” To make it sweet, you can add some sugar in the initial mixing stage. To lessen the strength of the espresso, add some milk at the end. With these two coffees, the foam will help to lock in the flavours, but you want to make sure they don’t get watered down by the ice. The solution? Drink them fast. “They’re not really drinks you want to be sitting on for a long time,” Chiskos says. “They’re meant to last you 30 to 40 minutes max.” But trust me when I say, you’ll want to scarf them down immediately.

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Food & Drink team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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