People sneered back in 2006 when Coke introduced Coca-Cola Blak: the fate of the coffee-flavoured soda was sealed after Anderson Cooper taste-tested it on TV and spat it out on the floor. But this summer, cold, fizzy coffee is the latest must-order for the caffeinated geek set, though not all bubbles are created equal.
The level of fizz depends on the fizzifier, which could be the same blast of CO2 given to pop, a subtler suggestion of mild effervescence from an infusion of nitrous oxide, or a simple, bubbling top-up of tonic water.
"We call our nitro-infused coffee 'morning beer,' " laughs Rob Kettner, the owner of Victoria's Hey Happy Coffee. "CO2 gives a sour acidic taste, but nitrogen lends itself to sweetening things up. You can compare carbonated coffee to fizzy lager and nitro-infused coffee to Guinness; it's not fizzy, but it cascades and has a head with a softer, creamier flavour profile."
The desire for nitro-infused brews is only likely to grow as cans from American roasters land on Canadian shelves – hopefully soon to be joined by offerings from Canadian companies.
In April, Toronto's Pilot Coffee Roasters launched Canada's first nitro coffee in a can. "We've always had a passion for cold brew and we love the texture that nitro provides," says Brett Johnston, the company's head of innovation. "We've worked hard to represent the body and smooth chocolate qualities that people expect from cold brew, adding fruit forward and floral elements." It's currently only available in Ontario, but Johnston hopes Pilot's cans will soon be available Canada-wide.
In Newfoundland, Dan Meades of the Third Place Tonic takes his afternoon espresso mixed with a fizzy shot of tonic. "I'm in love with this drink. It's incredibly popular in Spain, which is how I got into it," he says. "It's refreshing and it's amazing how it brings out the citrus notes of the coffee."
Vancouver's new David Hawksworth restaurant, Nightingale, has on tap a carbonated tonic-infused gin, which switches out the traditional quinine for angelica root and gentian – and has cold-steeped coffee in the mix, too.