The Espresso Fizz has the air of a classic cocktail, even though it’s made with espresso, not spirits, and was introduced to the coffee menu of the Manhattan restaurant Maialino earlier this year. Created by Ryan Clur, the head barista, it’s a shot of espresso floated over chilled tonic water that’s flavored with orange bitters and an orange twist.
Bitter, sweet, citrusy, fizzy: It’s like an amaro and soda, only you can drink it before noon without apology.
The composition of the drink is simple, but the flavors are surprisingly complex. The quinine and the orange play off the subtle acids you find in a well-roasted coffee, while the sugars in the tonic and in the espresso add a touch of sweetness.
It turns out that espresso and tonic water are a natural pair. The Espresso Fizz is a refined take on the espresso tonic that first appeared on the menu at Koppi, a small but influential roaster in Helsingborg, Sweden. The drink caught on last year, and has since surfaced all over the globe at the kind of sophisticated shops that pay attention to what’s going on in the Nordic coffee scene, one of the most creative in the world. The espresso tonic is threatening to be the it-coffee of the summer.
Mr. Clur’s Espresso Fizz is the latest example of the swing away from the cloying dessert-like iced coffees that have become ubiquitous. Rather than mask coffee’s pleasantly bitter notes, those flavors are enhanced. There’s no room for milk or added sweeteners because there’s no need. The drink is perfect as it is.
To make the drink at home, it pays to be particular about the ingredients. Best to use the same ones as Mr. Clur: Hologram espresso from Counter Culture Coffee, Fever-Tree tonic water and Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6. Use other brands at your own risk; you will change the flavor of the drink, though not necessarily in a bad way.
Serve it neat in a lowball glass, as he does, and have it right away. It’s the kind of drink meant to be savored in a few delicious sips at the bar, not poured into a plastic cup and carried out to the sidewalk.