Italy’s Must-Try Cold Coffees
Italy’s Must-Try Cold Coffees
Posted on
April 30, 2024

At first glance, the only morning breakfast beverage permitted in Italy is steamingly hot in temperature and smooth and sweet in flavor. But when the warmer months roll around, and temperatures begin to soar past no return, many Italians and bars swap their morning shots of espresso and cups of frothy cappuccinos for colder, varied options that even the pickiest coffee snob would enjoy. From cold coffee topped with fresh cream to coffee-melted gelato, if you are heading to Italy this summer, look out for some of our favorite cold-caffeinated drinks that are non-negotiable in order to survive an Italian summer. 

Cappuccino Freddo

As the name describes, cappuccino freddo is your traditional cappuccino made cold. Made with cold whole milk and pre-chilled espresso, this is my go-to morning pick-me-up at home or the local bar most days in the summer. Use your handy Moka-pot to make a batch of freshly brewed espresso the night before and pop it in your fridge for the morning after. If you head out for breakfast, most bars sweeten the espresso beforehand, and don't be surprised if your cappuccino freddo doesn't come with ice! 

Caffè Leccese 

A traditional coffee drink from the city of Lecce and throughout the Salento area of Puglia, Caffè Leccese is made with a shot of espresso paired with borderline oversweet almond milk or almond syrup typical from the region, then poured over ice. It's a refreshing and slightly sweet coffee beverage perfect for warm weather or as a pick-me-up any time of day. To add to the morning sugar rush, pair it with the region's typical breakfast dessert, pasticciotto: a mini pie-like pastry filled with a rich and creamy custard-like filling. 

Caffè shakerato

The name of this refreshing coffee drink comes from the Italian word "shakerare," meaning to shake, referring to the preparation method. To make a caffè shakerato, start with a brewed and chilled espresso shot. The chilled espresso is poured into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and sugar, the amount depending on personal preference. The mixture is then vigorously shaken until it's well chilled and frothy. The frothy concoction is strained into a chilled martini glass, often garnished with a twist of lemon or orange peel for added flavor, aroma, and aesthetic. 

Caffè del Nonno

Also referred to as la crema fredda al caffè, Caffè del Nonno is more of a gelato-like dessert than an espresso beverage, but in the summer, we welcome all types of concoctions that involve our beloved caffè. Thick and creamy, this nostalgic drink sparks joy in many Italians' hearts. Typically prepared in a churning machine behind the counter at a neighborhood bar, caffè del Nonno at home involves espresso, panna fresca (aka fresh cream), and sugar, topped with a sprinkling of cacao powder or drizzled Nutella. 

Caffè Affogato

Typically served as an after-dinner dessert or afternoon delight, caffè affogato is simple yet indulgent, combining two of my favorite ingredients: espresso and gelato. Prepare a serving of espresso. While brimming over the stove top, add a scoop (or two) of vanilla gelato into a glass and pour your hot espresso inside. The hot espresso mows the gelato slightly, creating a delicious contrast between the hot coffee and the cold, creamy gelato.

Caffè Freddo

Sometimes, the most simple drinks are the best. Like cappuccino freddo, the name of this chilled drink speaks for itself. Caffè freddo is simply cold, lightly sweetened espresso. But don't be fooled—there is also an art to this two-ingredient drink that I have learned throughout many hot summers spent in a Neapolitan kitchen.

Typically stored in Italian homes in the summer, caffè freddo is prepared ahead of time with a freshly brewed pot of coffee using a moka pot. Once the batch is ready, pour the coffee into a plastic bottle with a heaping spoon of sugar and pop it into the fridge. When guests arrive, let it defrost for about ten minutes then pour into a glass, leaving you with a slushy-like, delicious, and energizing summer version of espresso. 

Granita di caffè

A bit difficult to make but easy to enjoy, granita di caffè should be left to the professionals. Originating from Sicily and made from coffee, sugar, and water, this treat is similar to a shaved ice dessert yet smoother in taste and texture. Served in a glass, my favorite way to enjoy granita di caffè is in a to-go cup with a dollop of freshly whipped cream on top. 

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Words by Gabriela R. Proietti

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