On the everlasting quest to switch up my iced coffee routine, a friend recommended that I try tonic and espresso. As a fan of gin and tonic and a fan of black coffee, it seemed like a good option for me. However, its intense, unique flavor definitely isn't for everyone.
Since Lux serves both espresso drinks and cocktails, it seemed like the most logical place to find what other coffee shops in the country call a "Kaffe Tonic." After speaking with the bartender, he gave me a cup of ice, a bottle of Canada Dry tonic (though most places that serve the drink use Fever Tree), and a shot of espresso. He also warned that he's tried the combination before and it was "not awesome," in his experience.
In fact, almost everyone I told about the drink combination thought it sounded gross, but I still wanted to try it. I figured about two parts tonic water and one part espresso would be a good ratio to dilute the espresso a bit but still retain the coffee flavor.
At first taste, the drink is definitely unlike anything you've had before from an iced coffee drink and probably more closely resembles an amaro spritz. The bittersweet quinine flavor from the tonic added a kick to the espresso, which my coffee companion compared to "coffee with a taser."
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However, the combination made sense after a few sips when some of the bitter shock wore off. After all, espresso is traditionally served with a palate cleansing side of soda water. Think of this as an option to streamline that process into one cohesive drink. It's kind of like the midway point between coffee and cocktail. I'd be interested in taking the drink a few steps further toward the cocktail direction by adding a liqueur or flavored bitters to the drink to see what happens. Next time.
True, not everyone will like this drink. But if you enjoy bitter flavors and are looking for a clean, simple way to enjoy coffee without added dairy or artificial flavors, it's at least worth a shot. Like a Negroni or a cappuccino, your first few sips might not convince you, but let the drink's composition sit with you for a bit. It rounds out nicely.