On a dog day of summer, you can still get your caffeine fix and daylong buzz from your cup o’ joe if you swap the steamy mug for a chilly, frothy tall glass of iced coffee. Here’s a primer on the perks and pleasures of this “hot” summer treat.
The Ice Ages
Many countries lay claim to the creation of iced coffee. The French have a solid one as any, naming the chilled libation after a town in Algeria, part of the Mediterranean territory that France occupied in the mid-1800s. French soldiers were known for fortifying themselves during battles with cold coffee spiked with brandy or adding seltzer for relief from gastro problems that frequently plagued their delicate constitutions. They called this latter concoction mazagran, after the city that inspired the birth of the beverage.
The 17th century Viennese also take credit for the invention of iced coffee following an unsuccessful Turkish invasion that left them with a glut of abandoned coffee beans, plenty of shaved ice from the Alps, and some creative culinary minds.
Today, Israelis whet their whistles with coffee slushies, the Thai’s jazz up their beverage with a sprinkling of cardamom, the Vietnamese use condensed milk, and the French still drink mazagran. In America we do it all — cold-brewed, instant and drip-brewed, shaken or stirred with simple syrups, fruit essence infusions or chocolate and caramel shots, cream, soy, almond or moo milk, frappuccinoed with sky-high whipped cream and chocolate drizzle, iced lattes or straight-up on the rocks.
Starbucks is shaking up the summer with a high-octane caffeinated iced-African coffee blend, customized to your taste buds, or invigorating “refreshers” with a lightly caffeinated green-style coffee in cool lime or berry hibiscus flavors.
So as not to dilute the potency of the brew, make a tray of coffee ice cubes, dialed up with chocolate or simple syrups and a coffee bean in the bulls-eye middle. To spike your cubes, pick your poison and blend a few drops of your favorite liquor with the coffee.
Kahlua will add a double-dose of coffee flavor with a sweet, roasted essence, while Irish cream is a classic in coffee. For nutty flavors try Frangelico with a hazelnut, vanilla nuance, or Amaretto for a kick of sweet almonds. For the fruit lovers, Grand Marnier adds a fresh, orange tang; try cherry brandy or crème de cassis for a hint of blackberry.
Tricks of the Trade
Iced-coffee purists use the cold-brew technique –blending coarse ground coffee in a pitcher of spring water (at a ratio of 1 cup of ground coffee to 4½ cups of water), and refrigerating overnight, then strain in the a.m. Pour over ice, and add milk or sweetener. One word of caution: Although this brew has relatively low acidity, it packs a powerful caffeine punch. So standing advice is drink in moderation.
You can cheat and do the hot-brew technique, cooling coffee to room temperature, then refrigerate immediately to maintain its flavor. Or pour fresh brewed coffee over flavored-ice cubes, for instant iced coffee.
Pick a rich, dry roast, like a French roast, and use a heavy-hand when scooping the grains, unless you use coffee ice cubes that will not dilute the brew. Instead of coarse, granulated sugar, which does not dissolve well in cold beverages, use a superfine sugar or a simple syrup (simmer equal parts of sugar and water until sugar is dissolved).
Flavored syrups add not only sweetness, but an extra layer of flavors such as hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla bean, raspberry or mint.
Finally, if you like sweet and creamy, do a two-fer with sweetened condensed milk that’ll transform your iced coffee into a dessert-delicious treat.
Perks of Iced Coffee
Like its steamy sister, iced coffee has been found to pack a motherload of antioxidants to put the skids on free radicals. Caffeine (in moderation) will help you focus, while studies have shown that the beverage might lower your risks of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and strokes in women. Once again, moderation prevails especially when adding cream and sugar, which pack on fat and calories to the diet.
Iced Blueberry Coffee Blast
¼ cup chilled coffee
¼ cup frozen blueberries or berries of your choice
1 tablespoon almond, hazelnut or chocolate syrup
¼ cup half and half cream (almond or soy milk for cholesterol-conscious)
1 cup vanilla bean gelato, frozen yoghurt, almond or rice milk
Directions: In a blender or food processor, puree ingredients for about 30 seconds or until smooth and creamy. Pour into a tall glass and float blueberries on top.
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