Brazil has hot summers, and, depending on where you live in the country, summer lasts pretty much the whole year. The country is also the world’s largest coffee producer and a heavy consumer of cafezinho, as we call it here (hot filter coffee served in a china demitasse). It would be logical that we venture into the art of preparing cold drinks made with coffee as well, since we love coffee so much. But sometimes it’s just too hot outside to even imagine sipping a quick espresso. However, we are a little behind—Brazilians are rather traditional in the way they drink their coffee, and are still somewhat reluctant to try alternatives like iced coffee or even cold brew.
In the big cities, though, things are starting to change. Thanks to climate change—record-high temperatures this summer felt like 122ºF in Rio, for instance—or to the younger coffee consumer crowd, we now have some creative coffee shops and bar owners willing to challenge Brazilians’ taste buds with coffee-based cold drinks. To our delight, these drinks have come to stay, and we selected five of them for you to try when you come for a visit, or even to prepare in the comfort of your air-conditioned home in whatever season you like.
“Tropicália” at Café Secreto
One of the good things about living in Rio de Janeiro—or any other beach city, really—is relying on an endless supply of fresh coconut water. Gabriela Ribeiro and the Café Secreto crew always wanted to work on a coffee drink that used that ingredient, she tells me. First they started with filtered coffee (actually brewing the coffee with coconut water) but they realized the flavors didn’t come out right. Then they tried it with espresso—pulling a shot regularly and then mixing it with coconut water—and it was an instant hit. I tried it and it is indeed delicious—and I’m not much of a fan of cold espresso drinks. Ribeiro was kind enough to share the recipe with us, but when in Rio, don’t forget to try this refreshing concoction at Café Secreto.
One shot of espresso, around 30 milliliters
150 milliliters of fresh coconut water
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail mixer. Strain to serve. Enjoy.
“Caipicoffee” at Noete Café Clube
Caipirinha is Brazil’s national drink, and the original one is made with cachaça, Brazil’s national liquor. Guilherme Costa and Gabriel Cabral, founders of Noete Café Clube in Belo Horizante, thought they ought to come up with a way to incorporate coffee and cachaça together. After all, Minas Gerais, the state where they are located, is world famous for its highly rated specialty coffee and award-winning aged cachaças.
The result is a sweet and delicious drink that could perfectly fit as an appetizer for a late summer afternoon. If you have a good cachaça—or vodka, as Cabral suggests—at home, it is also easy to reproduce. Here is Noete's caffeinated take on caipirinha:
75 milliliters of aged cachaça
1 tablespoon of honey (Noete uses honey extracted from coffee tree flowers)
25 milliliters sparkling water
75 milliliters cold brew
Half a lemon, squeezed
3 slices of lemon
Mix the honey, cachaça, sparkling water, and squeezed lemon together. Pour it in a glass with ice cubes. Add the lemon slices. To finish, top off with cold brew. Stir and enjoy.
“White Brew” at Um Coffee Company
A few months ago, Midori Martins, one of the baristas at Um Coffee Company, was challenged by the coffee shop owners Garam and Boram Um to come up with coffee-based cold drinks for their summer menu. After a few iterations, the White Brew was created. Martins tells me she always wanted to do something with coconut and coffee, so she started by adding coconut milk and then changing the proportion of the other ingredients until she found the ideal recipe.
When I asked for the exact measurement of each ingredients, Martins and Garam Um laughed and just tipped me off about the proportions. I did it at home using the proportions below and got a very dessert-y, liquor-y type of drink. Now, in order to try the original White Brew, you need to go to their beautiful shop located in the Bom Retiro neighborhood in downtown São Paulo.
Sweetened condensed milk
Cold brew (at Um Coffee Company they use their natural Yellow Bourbon cold brew)
1 large ice cube
* The proportion suggested is that the cold brew amount is nearly half the amount of the three milk ingredients together. Experiment with it until you find your sweet spot (pun intended).
Mix the 3 milk ingredients with a wire whip.
Place the ice cube in a large glass—the ice helps keep the three parts of the drink separate. Add the milk mix. Add the cold brew very carefully, so that it doesn’t mix with the rest. Martins tops it off with milk froth.
Pro tip: serve it with a straw so that the drinker can stir the three parts together before drinking.
“Coffee Mojito” at CoLAB
Judging by the name, you were probably thinking this drink involved rum. Wrong. At CoLab in Rio de Janeiro, the coffee replaces the rum in their version of a caffeinated mojito. The taste reminds me, of course, of a mojito, and it indeed feels like an alcohol drink—perhaps from the concentration of the espresso joined with the lime zest. A very good drink for a hot summer afternoon (or morning, why not?).
Approximately 10 mint leaves
30 milliliters sugar cane syrup
1 shot of espresso, around 30 milliliters
15 milliliters lime juice
Lime zest (to taste)
Gently crush the mint leaves so that they release their oils and aroma. Combine mint, lime juice, sugar cane syrup, and espresso into a glass. Stir. Add the crushed ice and top it off with sparkling water. Garnish with mint leaf, and enjoy.
“Café Spritz” at Birita Casa de Cocktail
Diogo Cypriano is a mixologist who happens to love coffee. He is now working with a good range of specialty coffee drinks and beans at Birita Casa de Cocktail, a cocktail bar in Vitória, Espírito Santo. One of his inventive drinks is the Café Spritz, which uses pitanga, a very acidic and energizing fruit native to Brazil. Again, cachaça is brought together with coffee in this drink, but in a more elaborate manner. This feels like a real cocktail, one that demands time to make—and to drink. Extremely aromatic, citrusy. Perfect for closing a hard workday.
50 milliliters French press coffee (Cypriano suggests preparing it with 10 grams of coffee to 100 milliliters of water, 2 minutes infusion time)
6 ripe pitangas
40 milliliters of lemon syrup
40 milliliters of cachaça
6 ice cubes
120 milliliters sparkling Muscatel
1 slice of orange
1 slice of lime
Macerate the pitangas about 5 times and then shake them together with the other ingredients in a cocktail mixer. Put the ice cubes in a wine glass. Top it with the Muscatel and the coffee. Add the pitanga mix and then the orange and lime slices. Enjoy.
Juliana Ganan is a Brazilian coffee professional and journalist. Read more Juliana Ganan on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Cicero Rodrigues, Servulo Coutinho, and Andrea Son.