"No cream or sugar, please," is the sentiment I often cling to when ordering any kind of espresso drink. While I'm not above a light and sweet gas station coffee on the road, you could say I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to drinking it at home.
A quick little shot of something warm: Livorno punch from Italy | (Emilly Dryden/Courtesy Food52)
But, lately, I've been testing the waters with espresso drinks, either while visiting new places in the U.S. or abroad, or mad scientist-ing in the kitchen to find combinations of flavors that don't go crazy with the sugar. (Well, I try at least.) Take a little inspiration from below for your own coffee time — whether it's solo or for a party:
Start with pulling a couple espresso shots and get to mixing! Then consult the chart above for what you've got a hankering for, and follow the guidelines below.
1. This is something I like to call Carnival Coffee, inspired by a local restaurant that really does coffee drinks right. Here's how to do it: Pick out a tall, nicely shaped glass that will make you feel fancy. Pull two shots (or two ounces) of espresso and dump them in the glass over ice. Grab the best dang cream soda you can find and fill nearly to the brim. Dollop on a tower of whipped cream on top, and then sprinkle with sea salt. Stick a spoon in there, too.
2. Horchata lattes are very fashionable right now, so much so that even big chains are serving them these days. And for good reason: The beloved rice-based beverage has been a staple across Mexico and Central America for, well, forever, and it's inexpensive, made mostly of pantry ingredients, and can easily be served vegan. Warm up the blended base, add a few shots of espresso, and top it with steamed coconut milk and cinnamon. Skip the warming and steaming for an iced version and it'll be just as good.
From your travels
3. Espresso and lemonade, mingling together in a glass? It's true, and it's good. Seemingly Scandinavian in origin, this concoction has fans across the globe; there's just something about how it synthesizes into a caramel-y, citrusy beverage that doesn't taste quite like anything else out there. Different coffee shops make it their own way, but the easiest way to do it would be a few ounces of espresso over ice topped with simple lemonade.
4. There's something about the combination of spiced tea, espresso, and steamed milk that seems like it should be a cozy contender, but it somehow is the perk-up that makes even the coldest morning brighter. All you need is some freshly-made espresso and a little chai concentrate or homemade syrup steamed with your preferred milk. You could even use this recipe and skip the bourbon.
5. There's a smattering of evidence around here that suggests I have an unhealthy obsession with amaro (examples here, here, AND here). Inspired by the bitter and sweet notes in both espresso and Cynar (an Italian bitter liqueur made with artichokes), plus my adoration for bourbon, I stirred up this cocktail that somehow synthesizes all of those flavors into a rich, chocolatey-tasting cocktail, with sweet vermouth and orange bitters rounding out the edges.
6. I love a good fizz — a creamy, shaken cocktail made with egg white — and I also really enjoy High West's Campfire whiskey. I wanted to marry the two in a smoky, frothy, coffee-laden drink that had notes of citrus and herbs, so here's where we are. I started with a "dry shake" to prep the egg white — that's when you shake the egg white by itself, then added in the Campfire whiskey (infused with rosemary smoke!) before shaking the whole thing with ice.
From your travels
7. How do Italians drink espresso? Quickly, no idle time. The screamin' strong Livorno Punch — born in the port town of Livorno on the west coast of Tuscany — is no different. Of the drink, our Italian correspondent Emiko Davies says:
Think of this warm drink as a variation of a caffè corretto (an espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquor) or even of a hot toddy that substitutes tea for strong coffee. It's drunk fast, while still hot and even before the sugar has had time to dissolve properly. Not for the faint-hearted.
8. Just as coffee lemonade has crept into coffee bars Stateside, so has the coffee tonic, which is simply what the name nods to: Topping off cold coffee or espresso with ice and tonic water. Infinitely adjustable in ratio, the combination also takes to many boozy additions, too, like a shot of orange liqueur.
This story was originally published on Food52.com: From fun-loving to inspired by travel, 8 espresso drinks for many whims.