I’m not a big fan of Starbucks, but I do respect the chain for promoting the concept of a “cafe” or, as Europeans say, “bar” experience in the United States (the “bar” experience in Italy isn’t, of course, about sofas, extra large portions, and wanna be Existentialists, but, like most things American, we can’t leave well enough alone).
While Starbucks has certainly aimed to open cafes in every town and city in the US, it hasn’t done much to spread the word about high quality espresso. That is to say, outside of the larger cities (and enlighted medium sized cities and towns like Portsmouth, NH, Burlington, VT, Madison, WI, Amherst, MA and various places on the West Coast) it’s very difficult to find a proper espresso, caffè latte, or cappuccino. Click here for my definition of a “proper espresso.”
My dissatisfaction with Starbucks is centered on the idea that the chain doesn’t get any of the aforementioned espresso based drinks correct; however, they do a much better job on average, than, for example, a typical Italian American restaurant with a $200 “espresso machine” sitting in the backroom. In my view, Starbucks baristas overdraw their espresso and it’s often watery, bitter, and void of any real flavor (click here for our guide on making espresso at home). The espresso found at European style cafes in the United States gets better, especially in a city like New York, but the Italians are light years ahead of the Americans when it comes to coffee. In Italy, espresso is a national pass time and you can find high quality coffee at a local “bar” in Calabria, on the Autostrada in Emilia-Romagna, and in the homes of most Italians.
There is, however, one semi-novel espresso based drink coming out of the corporate behemoth wearing green and white, namely the Frappuccino. The Starbucks Frappuccino has it’s roots in the espresso granita perfected in places like Bagnara Calabra, but the Starbucks version contains a laundry list of ingredients including syrups, sugars, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150), et. al. and tastes like a thermonuclear sugar bomb exploded in your mouth (why must everything be so damn sweet?!). The effort is there but, in my view, the Starbucks Frappuccino can be simplified and perfected.
Here’s our modified, ScordoFrappuccino, which in the tradition of Italian food and drink doesn’t add the unnecessary:
Recipe For Homemade Frappuccino and My Rant Against Fake Espresso
A double espresso (or espresso doppio) - 2-3 oz. total volume
1 - 1.5 cups of whole milk
2-3 tablespoons of sugar
Freshly whipped cream (I have canned whipped cream in the photo above)
Utilizing a powerful blender crush the ice into a fine slush. If your blender is having a hard time, make sure to lift the blender out of the base and with one hand on the top cover give the unit a good shake. Thereafter, re-blend and repeat until you get the correct consistency. Next, add the cooled espresso (note: add the sugar to the espresso prior to placing the coffee in the fridge to cool) and milk and blend for 4-6 seconds. Serve in a large glass and top with whipped cream.
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