Such are my priorities when back home in New York: Family first, coffee close behind.
The story behind the zinger was the third big coffee exclusive entrusted to me by James Freeman, a coffee lunatic from Oakland, California who’s progressed from disaffected freelance musician to bi-coastal super-roaster of international renown. I don’t know what it is. I’ve never met Freeman face-to-face. I call him and he tells me things: The origin of the Gibraltar, San Francisco’s cult coffee. The inspiration behind the SG-120, a coffee in a glass of its own. The what, how and why of the zinger.
I raced up to the bar at Blue Bottle and asked the New York barista to make me a zinger. I don’t recall being smug about it.
– A zinger?
– Yes, a zinger. Ever made one?
– Never heard of it.
The zinger, I explained, was an insider’s iced coffee created by his Blue Bottle counterparts in San Francisco to achieve the effect of melted coffee ice cream in a small glass. They made their zingers by filling a Gibraltar glass halfway with cold-brewed, chicory-flavoured New Orleans ice coffee (see Blue Bottle’s recipe) and topping it with half and half (“half cream” in the UK) and a single ice cube. I boasted that I had learned of the zinger from none other Freeman, the boss of his boss.
– James Freeman?
The increasingly skeptical barista made eye contact with a colleague to check my story. The second barista made a face. It wasn’t a sympathetic face. He too knew nothing of the mysterious iced coffee.
At first they refused to make me a zinger for fear of the naughty things I might do with my photos and my suspect claims. But soon they relented if only to shut me up, half-filling a Gibraltar glass with New Orleans iced coffee and a single ice cube and leaving the rest to me. I slowly poured in the half-and-half but unfortunately there was no swirly effect, as there is when milk is added to Blue Bottle’s regular New Orleans ice coffee.
If somehow I hadn’t got the drink right I wasn’t going to let on. I took 73 photos of my zinger from several angles and then savoured the drink in a prolonged series of increasingly noisy sips. I needn’t have bothered. The baristas didn’t so much as look my way. By then they were 100 percent sure I hadn’t even met Freeman and, maddeningly, they were 100 percent right. If they had no quick response to my zinger I had none to theirs.