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.

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.