Espresso, Sparkling Water and Lime — Trust Me

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Espresso, Sparkling Water and Lime — Trust Me

A few days ago, temperatures in Boston randomly hit 85 degrees in mid-April. My morning coffee routine, carefully carved out after months of cold weather in the Northeast, was suddenly disrupted. I no longer wanted the slightly watery, hot espresso straight from my aging Nespresso machine, sometimes but not always with a splash of milk (cow’s milk, shoot me). I was craving an iced coffee, and I knew it was finally time to try a coffee drink I’ve been thinking about over the last few months.

In March, I went to Puerto Rico, and on the last day there, my friend purchased a coffee drink that consisted of sparkling water, a shot of espresso and a slice of lime. It was—not to be dramatic—revelatory. Most mornings, I wake up and enjoy both an espresso and a sparkling water. And to think… all this time, I could’ve been consolidating it all into one drink.

I don’t know if there’s any consensus about what this drink is actually called. I’ve seen “sparkling Americano” and “spritzy Americano” (as an Americano is simply a watered-down espresso) and simply “sparkling water and espresso.” The origins of the drink are also murky. Alex Delany for Bon Appétit said the combination of espresso and soda has existed in the U.S. since the 1800s and before that in Europe. The drink is also similar to an Algerian beverage called mazagran, which is a cold watered-down coffee served with a slice of lemon or other citrus. One blogger claims that in Taiwan, espresso and sparkling water is called “Roman iced coffee.” In 2007, a Swedish company called Koppi Roasters Cafe introduced an espresso tonic, using tonic water in place of sparkling water. Do a bit of googling, and you’ll find that there are many drinks that contain some combination of citrus, carbonated water and espresso from many corners of the world.

No matter what you want to call it or where it comes from, though, espresso, sparkling water and lime (my citrus of choice) is the perfect summer drink. It’s light, it’s fresh and, best of all, it’s easy to make at home, unlike many of my other favorite coffee drinks. I don’t care what the cocktail forecasters are saying—I truly believe this should be the drink of the summer. It’s time for the Aperol spritz and the espresso martini to make room for espresso, sparkling water and lime.

Make It at Home

Making this drink at home is undeniably easy as long as you have a way to make espresso. First, pour your chilled sparkling water into a glass filled with ice. Use an espresso machine or a Moka pot to make the coffee, then pour it into the glass with the sparkling water. Add a slice of lime for a citrusy aroma, or squeeze some lime juice into the drink for a more pronounced lime flavor. Sip through a straw for the bubbliest experience.

Switch Up the Citrus

Perhaps I’m partial to the lime in this recipe because that was how I first tried the drink, but I found several recipes that call for citrus other than lime. Orange is a good choice if you want something sweeter and less sour, and grapefruit is perfect if you want to enhance the pleasant bitterness coffee is already known for. Lemon is a solid standby and doesn’t taste drastically different from lime. Basically, whatever kind of citrus you have on hand is probably going to taste amazing when paired with espresso and sparkling water.

Sweeten It with Some Syrup

Some of us like our coffee bitter, biting and bracing—and those people are probably the ones who will love this recipe as is. However, for the sweet coffee people out there, I have a solution for you. Some espresso and sparkling water recipes also called for flavored syrups, which can add an interesting flavor dimension to the drink while providing a bit of sweetness in the process.

Try Flavored Sparkling Water

The first few times I made this recipe, I used plain, unflavored sparkling water, which seemed like the best option to allow the flavor of the lime to shine. But when I ran out of unflavored sparkling water, I figured I’d give the drink a try with the coconut LaCroix I had sitting in the fridge. The results were positive; the warm notes of the coconut worked well with the flavor of the coffee. I skipped the citrus in this version of the drink, though.

Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to experiment with this drink to find what tastes best to you. The fact that it’s so versatile means that there are countless riffs out there just waiting to be created. That’s a task I’m definitely up for this summer.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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