Looking for a way to spice up your daily caffeine routine? We’ve found just the ticket—Cheapside Café’s Espresso Chinotto. The secret: homemade tonic that co-owner Rom Wells spent four years meticulously perfecting. His star ingredient, cinchona bark (the base for quinine) has recently topped the FDA’s list of suspect ingredients used for cutting heroin. While this has led to a crackdown on the availability of the bark, Wells fortuitously stockpiled the stuff. If that still gives you pause, he swears he’s only using it for the soda. The syrupy-sweet tonic foils the bitter espresso, yielding a bold flavor even Wells admits isn’t for everyone. “It’s the IPA of coffee drinks,” he says. “Not for the faint of heart or squeamish.” Beverage smack-down, anyone?
Ingredients (makes one serving)
1 oz. tonic syrup
1–1.5 oz. espresso
8 oz. soda water
1.5 oz. ice
1. Measure the ice into a 10-ounce glass and add the tonic. Wells recommends using San Pellegrino’s Chinotto for those of us who don’t make our own; it doesn’t have any tonic in it, but provides a similar flavor profile.
2. Pour the espresso over the tonic. It should melt the ice and create a clean layer between the heavier tonic and lighter espresso.
3. Top it off with homemade or store-bought soda water. The separated liquids will mix and create a foamy head, similar to Guinness.
Tip: Use espresso beans that have a brighter flavor (Cheapside buys from Deeper Roots Coffee, a local distributor); they blend with the citrus tonic better than an espresso with notes of chocolate would.
Originally published in the September 2014 issue