- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2011

It wasn’t too long ago that a cup of cold coffee wasn’t worth beans. These days, however, iced coffee is one hot brew.

“Iced coffee has completely evolved in the past decade,” said Buffy Maguire, who with her husband runs two Java Beach Cafes in San Francisco and is opening a third.

Last year, the restaurant industry served up 500 million orders of iced, frozen or what are categorized as “slushie” coffee drinks, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD Group, a major market-research firm.

That compares with 400 million in 2006, an impressive performance considering there’s been an intervening recession, which typically nips at discretionary items, including specialty coffee drinks.

Iced coffee drinks on today’s menus involve more than just pouring regular coffee over rocks. The beans used are premium, just as with hot coffee, and there are special preparations taken to bring out the best of the flavor.

At Java Beach, coffee is steeped overnight or sometimes longer using a coarse grain and cold water, no heat. “What that process does is, there’s virtually no acidic quality to the coffee. It just brings out this really caramel-y, chocolate element of the coffee that’s really divine,” Mrs. Maguire said.

Who’s selling iced coffee?

Just about everyone, from big-timers like Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Caribou and McDonald’s to most local shops, like Java Beach. Even 7-Eleven now offers an iced coffee beverage in two flavors.

At Dunkin’ Donuts, iced coffee is “fast becoming as hot, pardon the pun, as our classic cup of hot coffee,” said Scott Hudler, the company’s vice president of brand marketing.

Dunkin’ Donuts uses a double brewing process that keeps the flavor consistent. “It’s never bitter; it’s not watered down,” Mr. Hudler said.

Iced coffee is a caloric chameleon. It can be as Spartan as black coffee on the rocks or as hedonistic as a syrup-flavored, whipped cream-infused dessert-in-a-cup.

COFFEE BANANAS FOSTER SMOOTHIE

Recipe from Alison Ladman.

1½ cups strong brewed coffee, chilled

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 small ripe bananas

6-ounce cup vanilla yogurt

½ cup fat-free half-and-half

1 cup ice cubes

In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth and frothy.

Serves two.

PARLOR COFFEE FLOAT

Recipe from Alison Ladman.

1½ cups strong brewed coffee, chilled

¼ cup chocolate syrup

¼ cup half-and-half

1 cup chocolate or coffee ice cream

Whipped cream, to serve

Maraschino cherries (optional)

In a blender, combine the coffee, chocolate syrup, half-and-half and half of the ice cream. Blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into 2 tall glasses and top with a scoop of the remaining ice cream. Top with whipped cream and a cherry, if desired.

Serves two.

NIGHTCAP ICED COFFEE

This very adult iced coffee even sports a spiced sugar coating on the rim of the glass. Recipe from Alison Ladman.

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cardamom

1 ounce Godiva milk chocolate liqueur

1 ounce Navan vanilla cognac

1 ounce Kahlua Especial

2 ounces espresso, chilled

1 ounce sweetened condensed milk

To prepare the spiced sugar, in a small bowl, mix together the turbinado sugar, nutmeg and cardamom. Place on small plate. Lightly moisten the rim of a double old-fashioned glass or other large tumbler, then invert the glass onto the plate so the sugar sticks to the rim. Fill the glass with ice.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the Godiva, cognac, Kahlua, espresso and sweetened condensed milk. Shake for 1 minute. Strain over the ice in the glass.

Serves one.

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