Italian-Style Iced Espresso: Caffe' Shakerato

Caffè shakerato
Akha Ama/Wikimedia Commons

While most Italians aren't into giant Frappuccinos and iced anything can be hard to come by in Europe, that doesn't mean that you can only drink hot coffee in Italy on sweltering-hot summer days. One of our favorite summer drinks, which we first discovered in Florence, is the popular caffè shakerato, in which a cocktail technique is used to transform espresso into a frothy, frosty drink with a thick layer of creamy foam.

How to Make It

Just place one to two shots of espresso into a cocktail shaker (or tightly closed jar) with some sugar or simple syrup (to taste) and a handful of ice cubes. If you are using granulated sugar, be sure to stir it into the hot coffee until it's completely dissolved before adding the ice, otherwise, it will not dissolve and your shakerato will be gritty. Then shake vigorously (you need to really put some muscle into it!) for about 30 seconds, until the ice is dissolved and the coffee is extremely frothy. Pour into a chilled tumbler or martini glass and your shakerato is ready. If you are extra-patient, you can add the espresso to the sugar while it's hot in order to dissolve the sugar, then let the coffee rest until it cools to room temperature, for better results. You can even (though this might be anathema to some coffee purists) use instant Nescafé powdered coffee, and frankly, we've done this many times and it works quite well—in Greece this instant version is very popular and known as a "frappé."

There Are Many Variations

There are many variations on this simple, yet elegant beverage. You can add milk or cream, or flavored syrups (such as vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, or almond). For a refreshing after-dinner drink, you can add a shot of amaretto, nocino walnut liqueur, Irish cream, Kahlúa (or any other coffee-flavored liqueur), sambuca, rum, etc.

We had a wonderful version made with almond milk while traveling through Puglia, and in fact, you can use any non-dairy milk you choose and the vigorous shaking helps to avoid the unpleasant grainy texture those options tend to have when mixed with hot coffee. Finally, you can use vanilla gelato (or any other flavor that would pair well with coffee) in place of both the ice and sugar— even simpler and this gives a richer, creamier version that could be served as dessert. For fancier presentations, you can "paint" the inside of the glass with chocolate syrup, or dust a little cocoa powder on top of the foam before serving.