The Making of a Drink: Red Medicine Vietnamese Iced Coffee

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Vietnamese Iced Coffee Los Angeles

Up-and-coming chef Jordan Kahn is opening a modern Vietnamese restaurant in Beverly Hills called Red Medicine with Noah Ellis and Adam Fleischman. Since Vietnamese iced coffee is practically required at Vietnamese restaurants, the team turned to seasoned coffee pro Nick Griffith from Intelligentsia Coffee – who will be supplying Red Medicine’s coffee – to help develop a refined version. Kahn understood that some hallmarks include “over brewed, way strong” coffee and of course sweetened condensed milk. “You give me a Vietnamese coffee, even if it’s your version, and it doesn’t have sweetened condensed milk in it, it might not taste the same,” says Kahn. “I might not like it. That’s a flavor profile that’s identified with that drink.”

Griffith regularly developed signature coffee beverages during his barista competition days and subsequently worked with accounts like The Bazaar on unique coffee drinks. For this project, he ordered Vietnamese iced coffee at an L.A. restaurant so he had a point of reference, then locked himself in the Intelligentsia lab to start making improvements. He found that the biggest challenge was making sure that the drink tastes good at first and last sip. “As the ice melts, it dilutes, and flavors change,” says Griffith. “It’s like a Manhattan where the ice melts and changes the flavor the bourbon.”

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Los Angeles
“You can’t use light-roasted, single-origin coffee for this,” says Griffith. “It has to be more robust.” He went with El Diablo, which is one of Intelligentsia’s darker roasted coffees, currently a single-origin Brazil. “It still smells like sweet coffee and retains the essence of coffee,” he says. “It doesn’t smell like burnt oil.”

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Los Angeles
Still, in this case, coffee wasn’t enough. “There wasn’t enough earthiness,” so he added a particular type of tea to the bottom of the filter-lined ceramic cone and brewed it with coffee on top using the pourover method. “You lose the vanilla and red fruit,” says Griffith. “What’s left is cedar and a sweet earthiness.” The coffee brews directly on top of sweetened condensed milk into a pint glass. Stir, add ice and sip. “The bold flavors mellow with time.”


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Vietnamese iced coffee is THE best iced coffee out there. How can you not like sweetened condensed milk. If only regular milk was that good then maybe I’d actually drink it!

I want to jump through the computer and drink that right now.

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