As cooling caffeine-delivery systems go, your standard issue cold brew is pretty hard to beat. Hard... but, it turns out, not impossible. The evidence? Consider the Thunderbolt, an icy, tart, insanely refreshing drink that’s just a simple combo of espresso and lemonade. (And which I’ll be drinking every afternoon from now until November.)
I first encountered the Thunderbolt two years ago at Smith Canteen, a cafe in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and was immediately hooked. Since then, I’ve discovered that the formula, though inspired, is not wholly original—and actually has a devoted following among coffee geeks everywhere from Sweden to Mexico.
The best part about this new breed of icy beverage? It really couldn’t be easier to make at home—no fancy gear required. Just grab yourself a glass, fill it with ice, and combine lemonade with a shot or two of chilled espresso or cold brew concentrate. Store-bought lemonade is fine (I’m partial to Newman’s Own) as long as it’s not too sweet.
Or, if you really want to play around, try swapping out the still stuff for some sparkling lemonade instead. Indeed, while its origins are hard to pin down, with its tart, citrusy edge, the Thunderbolt does have a lot in common with the espresso tonic, another (seemingly Swedish-derived) coffee trend that’s been the darling of craft coffee shops for a few summers now. (For the uninitiated, it is exactly what it sounds like: a glass of tonic water over ice, topped with a shot of espresso.)
Coffee and soda hybrids of all stripes might just be the “it” drinks of the summer. During a recent swing through Charleston, SC, I stopped in at the Daily and sat in the sun sipping a delightful combination of grapefruit soda and espresso, garnished with a twist of orange peel. At Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham, NC, you can order a dark and sweet Kokytu, which consists of an espresso over an iced cane sugar Mexican Coke. And, at the new Stumptown cafe in New Orleans’ Ace Hotel, they’re serving the “Endless Summer,” a julep-inspired concoction made from cold brew laced with mint simple syrup and sparkling water.
But why stop there? We’re already dreaming of an amped-up espresso Dark and Stormy and a cherry cola cold brew.