Thursday, February 7, 2008

Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee

Hot times! Summer's finally here and we can't help but think of swimming holes, shady porch-swings and a tall cup of coffee.


Sure! Coffee's not just for breakfast any more... or the blustery days of winter, either. When the mercury climbs – or whatever that stuff is they put in thermometers today – all you need are a few handy tools and a little know-how and you can make easy and refreshing treats to see you through the summer heat.

The tools.

You may think you need a fancy blender to make a smooth iced coffee drink. Not so! Our favorite drinks require little more than ice, coffee and some kind of leak proof container to shake ‘em up. Of course, there's really no better tool for the job than a cocktail shaker... We like those that are made of durable, dishwasher-safe stainless steel, and feature a built-in strainer.

For drinks that are stirred, not shaken, you might also consider ice-cube trays. Even if you've got one of those automatic ice-maker gadgets in your freezer, the humble ice-cube tray has its uses... and one of those is to freeze coffee into cubes so that as the ice melts it doesn't dilute your lovely iced coffee beverage.

The ingredients.

We like our iced coffee with a little bit of creamy dairy goodness (Vermont is a dairy state, after all!) and a little bit of sweetener. Having said that, you've got a lot of options... you can use skim milk, or heavy cream, or anything in-between. (Heavy cream often has carrageenan, a natural thickener, added to it to give it added body – this is especially nice in frozen coffee drinks!) As for the sweet stuff: sugar is fine, honey is heavenly, but calorie and carb-neutral sweetening products will work as well – sometimes better. (More about that in a moment.)

The basic technique.

Brew fresh coffee. This is important! Who wants to drink coffee that's been left to cool (and loose its aromatics and flavor?) We like coffee that's to be iced brewed strong... even double-strength.

If you're adding sweetener, add it to the just-brewed, hot coffee and stir to dissolve. Neither sugar nor honey are soluble in cold liquids (but many sugar substitutes are, and can be added directly to your cocktail shaker.)

Fill your cocktail shaker with ice. Don't skimp... too little ice will leave you with a luke-warm, watery mix.

If you're adding dairy products, pour them over the ice in the cocktail shaker. It's a good idea all around to keep cold with cold until we're ready to bring them all together.

Shake, shake, shake! Add your hot coffee to your cocktail shaker, top with its lid and shake vigorously, all at once rapidly chilling the hot coffee, mixing coffee, sweetener and dairy, and frothing the whole mixture. Shake for no less than ten seconds and rarely more than twenty. Shaking done, simply strain your coffee concoction into a tall, cold glass – maybe even a classy martini glass or two – and enjoy.

With the basics in-hand, you can make iced coffee treats tailored to your tastes. To help you get started, here are some of our favorite coffee cocktail recipes.

Here's to a sweet summer!

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