I’m not really one for fancy beverages. LaCroix? The appeal is utterly lost on me. Why not just drink water? Lemonade? Too sweet. Iced tea? Too bitter! Cocktails? Overpriced. Beer? Good until it was ruined by maniacal frat boys and pretentious IPA lovers. Soda? It will kill you!
The only good nonwater beverage is coffee. I could drink it all day. In fact, I do, much to the detriment of my health: My doctor was aghast when I told her about my five-espresso-a-day habit and told me to cut back for the sake of my blood pressure.
You can imagine my shock and disgust, then, when I awoke this morning to Slate insisting I try a concoction straight from the devil’s toilet: coffee mixed with lemonade.
This is an abomination, I thought. I must try it.
In search of coffee lemonade, I set out to my nearest Starbucks, whose baristas I thought might be friendly enough to indulge an odd request. Sure enough, one gave me a dumbfounded look when I asked if they served coffee lemonade. But he graciously offered to mix lemonade and iced coffee for me. A consummate professional.
Not knowing much about coffee lemonade alchemy, I took his suggestion for a 50-50 mix of the two beverages. Here’s what it looked like:
Okay, McDermott. What Does the Damn Thing Taste Like?
Look, at risk of sounding like a snob — and no offense to those who take their coffee with tons of sugar—but coffee’s lingering bitterness is its whole appeal. You gotta curdle those taste buds awake in the morning.
So the bitterness of coffee loses all its appeal when combined with lemonade. When the tannic elements of coffee meet the tart, acidic lemon, it results in something almost unpalatably bitter; my throat and tongue felt dry and my face puckered. The coffee aftertaste in the back of my throat was unpleasant, instead of the soothing, lingering effect I get from straight coffee.
And yet I found myself casually sipping it. It was one of those situations where you encounter a taste so new and foreign that you find yourself repeatedly trying it out of curiosity and not because it’s pleasing.
Perhaps this is an acquired taste?
Back at the MEL office, I passed my coffee lemonade to resident Food Knower Eddie Kim, and his nuanced review was, “I don’t hate it.”
I had to concur. This infernal elixir was growing on me with each gulp.
Perhaps I just had the wrong mix. I did some research and found that the coffee-to-lemonade ratio was way off. A 1:1 ratio might be ideal for an Arnold Palmer, but it’s far too much lemonade when mixed with coffee.
After choking down half my coffee lemonade, I tried to salvage the beverage: I added two shots of espresso and topped the rest of with seltzer water to give the beverage some much-needed lightness. (Most recipes suggest tonic water, but I’m not a monster.)
My new beverage was even worse! The espresso-lemonade-seltzer combo was a wretched amalgam of too-strong flavors. The unpleasantness came in waves — a burst of sweet-and-sour lemonade flavor, followed by a rush of bitter coffee, then a smack of carbonation, and ending with a gross, earthy coffee taste. It left my mouth feeling as though I’d eaten a clod of dirt.
I’ll give Slate the benefit of the doubt and say that, in my ignorance, I fucked up making coffee lemonade and simply got the proportions all wrong. Or that Starbucks was a poor candidate for coffee lemonade and I should’ve tried some artisanal bullshit in Brooklyn.
I asked the in-house barista for MEL’s corporate overlord, Dollar Shave Club, what she thought about coffee lemonade, and her initial reaction was that she would need to get managerial approval to serve such a beverage. After explaining that coffee lemonade was an inorganically manufactured food trend, she said that she couldn’t imagine that marriage of flavors would ever be appetizing.
I’m inclined to agree. Don’t believe the hype. Coffee lemonade is trash.