The first time I had iced coffee in Italy I was in Taormina. Taormina is a small town on the east coast of Sicily. The village of Taormina is perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian sea. Besides the ancient Greek theatre, it has many old churches, lively bars, fine restaurants, and antique shops. Taormina is approximately a forty-five minute drive away from Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna.
I was sitting in one of Taormina’s many outdoor cafes and saw “iced coffee” on the menu. It was quite warm outside so I thought I would rather have that than something hot. And I wasn’t in the mood for Granita, which is a Sicilian lemon ice made from fresh lemons grown on the island. A treat I have only had in Sicily and never found anything comparable anywhere else.
I gave the waiter my order and sat back in my chair to relax and enjoy the wonderful breeze that was coming up from the cliff in front of me off of the Ionian sea. It was a perfect day for people watching.
The iced coffee came and the waiter placed it in front of me. I was anticipating an ice filled glass of coffee when he arrived. But I got something totally unexpected. Inside the glass were two scoops of vanilla gelato floating in sweetened espresso coffee. I thought, I could like this.
The rich roasted flavor of the espresso coffee and the cool creaminess of the vanilla gelato was just wonderful together. You tasted the vanilla cream with a background of rich espresso coffee. Delicious! I knew I was in Italy!
I have never had this before. Such a simple concoction, yet such a delicious treat. That was over 25 years ago and since that time I have never seen coffee served that way anywhere. But that certainly was not the last time I enjoyed Italian iced coffee.
Every summer I make this desert and serve it to family and friends with the same enjoyable results. And it’s really quite simple to make.
Brew your espresso ahead of time. Place it in a glass bottle or jar and sweeten it with 1- 1/2 teaspoons of sugar for each espresso size glass you make. An espresso cup holds approximately 2 oz of liquid. There are many different ways of making espresso. If you have an espresso machine that’s fine. But they only make one or two cups at a time and you could be there all day brewing 10 cups of espresso. There are many on the market and they go for big bucks. I have one myself, and quite honestly, it’s more bother than it’s worth. And it’s another one use kitchen appliance that takes up room on your counter top.
For my money I’ll go with the way my grandmother used to make it, with a flip over drip Neopolitan espresso maker or the aluminum pot that you brew on the stove top. I’ve also used a French Press for making espresso with very good results, but the fine grain of the espresso coffee make it a little difficult to press the coffee.
Once you have your espresso made, I use 1 tablespoon of espresso coffee for each 20z of water, sweeten it and place it in the refrigerator to cool. When your ready to serve place about two scoops of premium vanilla or french vanilla ice cream into a tall glass. Pour about two espresso cups (4 oz) of espresso over the ice cream. Serve with a spoon and straw.
You will never think of iced coffee the same way again!
As a side note, during the summer I always keep a bottle of sweetened espresso coffee in the refrigerator. I may not always have vanilla ice cream with my espresso, but it’s a great little pick me up straight up any time of day when the weather is warm outside. You can even make iced “cafe latte” with it. Just fill a glass with ice, place about 4 oz of espresso in the glass and fill the rest with milk.
Oh, you might be wondering, what gourmet Italian roasted coffee I use? The same my grandmother always used…Medaglia D’oro Caffe Espresso.