Italy's Answer to Iced Coffee


Photo by Faith Willinger

It makes sense that the Italians would invent a most exquisite coffee drink for the summer. It's a shaken-over-ice, slightly sweetened espresso called shakerato, served in a stemmed glass, prepared in bars all over the county.

The shaking process yields a thick crema that floats on the espresso. In Italy, ice is viewed with suspicion, and you'd never be served a tall glass of coffee over lots of ice, the way iced coffee is in the U.S. Too dangerous!

All that ice could cause congestione, a digestive block, and the consequences, according to most Italians, are grave, even life-threatening. No wonder they serve ice so sparingly. Recent sanitary codes forbid making and chilling espresso for a simple cold espresso, which isn't nearly as sexy as a shakerato.

Making a shakerato at home isn't too difficult. Instructing a local barista may be an even easier option.

So the shaken-instead-of-chilled solution is ideal, providing the same jolt as an espresso, chilled but not too icy. And the spectacle of a barman with a cocktail shaker is always a thrill. It's appropriate to order a shakerato any time of the day.

Making a shakerato at home isn't too difficult. Instructing a local barista may be an even easier option.

Here are some guidelines: Ideally you should have some sugar syrup on hand, but you can use a little superfine sugar if you're too lazy to make the syrup. For the ice cubes, size does matter--the point is to melt the ice while shaking with the hot espresso, and smaller cubes melt faster. A metal cocktail shaker works best.

For each shakerato:

    • 1 espresso coffee
    • Sugar syrup (or a little superfine sugar)
    • 4 small, 3/4-inch ice cubes

Shake a just-made espresso, ice, and sugar syrup energetically until ice is almost completely melted--you'll know by the sound of the cubes. Strain into a stemmed glass. Don't try to make more than two or three at a time.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at
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