Toronto isn’t supposed to get that hot in the summer, so I was not expecting to be dripping with sweat a few hours into my morning. Killing time before a lunch appointment, I wanted to find a cool spot and a drink to lower my temperature.
On College Street near Little Italy, I spotted a postage-stamp-sized coffee bar half a storefront wide and ducked inside. I took one of the three stools at the counter and tried to figure out what I wanted. An iced latte didn’t appeal to me because of the milk, and an iced Americano just seemed too ordinary.
The barista looked over and, seeing me dab my face with napkins, asked, “Have you ever tried a caffe freddo?”
In some coffee bars, a freddo is espresso shaken with ice and sugar, if desired, then strained into a glass. It’s also known as a shakerado.
However, this barista had just come back from Italy, and he had concocted a version that was made with sparkling water, espresso, and ice. “This is what I drink all day,” he told me. “If you don’t like it, I won’t charge you for it.”
I liked it instantly. The espresso was fresh and dark. It held up beautifully to the sparkling water. I noticed that the fizzy water came out of a spigot, not a bottle, meaning it was most likely seltzer from a tank, like in an old-fashioned soda fountain.
That freddo was so good that I went back to the café twice more on that trip. On the third visit, the barista simply smiled and said, “The usual?”
As soon as I got home to Michigan, I started ordering it at coffee shops. Once I completely confounded a Starbucks barista who couldn’t believe I wanted to add Pellegrino (Starbucks’ fizzy water at the time) to espresso.
“Nobody’s ever asked us for that,” she said through the drive-thru speaker. I learned that I had to give specific, detailed preparation instructions, and even then, the freddos I drank stateside never really matched the drink I had in Canada.
So I started playing around with my own recipe. After a lot of trial and error, I came up with this method. Fizzy coffee is a great summer afternoon pick-me-up, and since Americans basically can’t travel to Canada right now, it’s a way to bring Toronto home to you.
You will need a coffee mug, a tall glass, ice, and the fizziest water you can find (Topo Chico is ideal for this, but an effervescent seltzer will work, too).
Brew two shots of espresso into a large coffee cup. If you want sugar, place it in the cup and brew the espresso onto it. I have a Nespresso, so I pull two shots from one capsule. Stir to mix the espresso and the sugar.
(If you have time to wait, you can brew the espresso, add the sugar, and put the mix in the fridge for half an hour or more. You may lose some of the deep espresso flavor by chilling it, but you get the benefit of a drink that isn’t diluted by ice.)
Add about six ounces of fizzy water to the cup of espresso. It will foam up. Let it settle, then add a little more fizzy water.
Pour the espresso/fizzy water mix into the tall glass and stir. Let it settle once more. Add more fizzy water, if desired. I’ve made this in as big as a 20-ounce glass, but a 16-ounce glass should work.
Add ice to the top of the glass and stir. Crushed ice is best, but any type of ice cubes will work. Ideally, the espresso will have cooled down enough from the fizzy water that the ice won’t immediately melt. But if that happens, just take a long sip and add some more ice.
Some people cover the glass and shake it, like a shakerado. Make sure that the lid is on tightly if you try this. I’ve had fizzy coffee explode across my kitchen floor.