The ice is right
When the outdoors feels like a warm, wet blanket, steel yourself with one of these ten takes on iced coffee.
When it comes to straight-up iced coffee, there are two schools of thought: heat-extraction, by which coffee is brewed hot then chilled, and cold-brewing, wherein coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for about 18–24 hours. Most third-wave coffee shops, such as Intelligentsia, swear by the cold-brew method.
As Karen Gerod, owner of Swim Café (1357 W Chicago Ave, 312-492-8600) explains, steeping the coarsely ground roast (at Swim, a combination of bright Central-American beans and rich, chocolatey ones shipped from Madison’s 100 percent fair-trade Just Coffee) in a container called a Toddy creates a strong, smooth flavor. The Wormhole (1462 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-661-2468) takes the same route, but with a single-origin Metropolis roast.
Never one to get on board a coffee trend-wagon, Star Lounge (2521 W Chicago Ave, 773-384-7827) owner Jesse Diaz is against cold-brewed (or as he says, “dumbed-down”) coffee, which he thinks kills the roast’s finish. Instead, he defends the oft-maligned heat-extraction method, brewing double-dose coffee hot, then letting it sit to come to room temperature before adding ice, yielding flavor profiles that he says would otherwise be stunted by cold-water brewing.
Combinations of coffee and ice go beyond the cold-brewed/heat-extracted smackdown. Love the earthy hot chocolate at XOCO (449 N Clark St, 312-334-3688)? The same housemade chocolate is melted into an iced mocha at Rick Bayless’s River North restaurant. At the Cuban sandwich-shop Cafecito (26 E Congress Pkwy, 312-922-2233), there is sugary, milky, sweet café con leche on ice. The Vietnamese are almost as crazy about coffee as the Star Lounge dudes: Find Vietnamese iced coffee, in which black coffee is poured over ice with sweetened condensed milk, at Nhu Lan Bakery (2612 W Lawrence Ave, 773-878-9898), along with that other product of French colonialism, the banh mi sandwich. The Thai have their spin on it—follow up a meal at Me Dee Cafe (4805 N Damen Ave, 773-989-4444) with a Thai iced coffee: black coffee combined with cream and sugar.
Let’s take this one step further: Eiskaffee. Sounds like “iced coffee”; means two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a double shot of espresso “mit schlag” (with whipped cream). Get it at Julius Meinl (3601 N Southport Ave, 773-868-1857). Imagine those ingredients blended together, and you’ve got the newest item on M Burger’s (161 E Huron St, 312-254-8500) secret menu: a double-shot Black Cat espresso milkshake, available until mid-July.
Finally, nothing plays crazier with coffee than liquor. The owner of Late Bar (3534 W Belmont Ave, 773-267-5283), Kristine Hengl, is a former Starbucks barista—she makes Adult Iced Coffee by pouring double-strength coffee and 100-proof espresso-flavored vodka over ice, with a touch of soy milk or cream for sweetness. Meanwhile, Tony Mantuano has teamed up with Illy’s master barista to create a drink called a Shakerato. It’s a double espresso shaken with pistachio butter, Tito’s vodka, simple syrup and melted Valrhona chocolate, then poured into a martini glass garnished with chopped Sicilian pistachios. You can find it at Cafe Spiaggia (980 N Michigan Ave, 312-280-2750)—but if you drink it, you can never make fun of complicated Starbucks orders again.