Food and Drink

Why Combining Orange Juice and Coffee Weirdly Works

This refreshing recipe from Nam Coffee has a Vietnamese twist.

Photo courtesy of Nam Coffee
Photo courtesy of Nam Coffee
Photo courtesy of Nam Coffee

Orange juice and coffee make sense together in the morning. Imagine the conventionally ideal breakfast spread, something you’d witness on a ’90s sitcom: perhaps there are eggs, pancakes, some type of breakfast meat-and always a glass of orange juice and cup of coffee. Why not put the two together?

This concept first went viral on TikTok when user @bundaddy encouraged followers to put espresso into their orange juice. “I’ve not seen one person who likes espresso and orange juice not like them together,” she proclaims in the video. Since then, people began trying the citrus coffee combination with shockingly refreshing results. This includes Vince Nguyen, the founder of new Los Angeles-based coffee roaster, Nam Coffee.

Nguyen has been around coffee his whole life. “I helped my mom with a coffee cart when I lived in Vietnam,” he explains, “so I’ve been loving Vietnamese coffee all my life.” But when he moved to the U.S., he had trouble finding beans from his home country. He missed the captivating smell of Vietnam’s robusta beans and its eye-widening, strong flavour, so he decided to start his own Vietnamese coffee brand and bring the flavours stateside-for himself and other Vietnamese immigrants.

The brand currently has three roasts: Dalat, District One, and Orange County, all named after places significant to Nguyen.

“Part of me starting this brand is me wanting to uplift Vietnamese culture and people,” Nguyen says. That includes showing consumers that Vietnamese coffee isn’t a one-note drink that only works with condensed milk.

Nguyen first began experimenting with citrus coffee when he paired lemon juice with his coffee, hoping for a refreshing twist on his favourite caffeinated beverage. What it needed, however, was more sweetness. With inspiration from his Orange County coffee, he opted for orange juice.

Orange County, which is a 70% arabica and 30% robusta blend, is bold enough to stand up to the fresh fragrance of orange juice without overpowering it. The two create a sweet and bitter balance that is the perfect marriage of America’s favourite breakfast drinks. To make it a bit more Vietnamese, Nguyen included the addition of lemongrass.

“Lemongrass is a signature ingredient in Vietnam, Thailand, and throughout Southeast Asia,” Nguyen explains. “I’d had lemongrass in tea before so I always thought of it as a tea drink, but what if it was in coffee?”

The combination, to Nguyen, encapsulates the perfect summer drink. “This is just something different the community should try,” Nguyen encourages.

So if you’ve seen videos of orange-flavoured cold brew, or espresso shots being added to tall glasses of OJ, this is your sign to try out this new coffee trend. It might just become your next favourite way to start your morning.

Lemongrass Orange Iced Coffee Recipe from Nam Coffee

Ingredients:

  • 60ml Nam Coffee (Orange County blend)
  • 45ml Lemongrass syrup (150 grams of sugar, 100 grams of water, 100 grams of lemongrass, boiled together)
  • 60ml orange juice
  • Lemongrass stalks, orange slices, or rosemary for garnish

Directions:
1. Steep coffee using pour-over method or cold-brew method (overnight).
2. Fill a highball glass with ice
3. Add lemongrass syrup and orange juice, then stir
4. Top off with coffee and garnish with lemongrass, orange, or rosemary

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

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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