It’s exactly what it sounds like-delicious! But in all seriousness, a good deal of confusion seems to surround this tasty drink, and rightly so.
For starters, the upside-down part in any coffee beverage usually refers to reversing the order of the recipe ingredients. For example, If espresso goes first in your recipe, then milk is added right after, an upside-down version of this would be to put the milk first then pour the espresso over the top.
So, what’s an upside-down caramel macchiato? At the very bottom of your cup, a layer of caramel is poured, espresso is added next, then a large body of steamed milk. At the top goes a drizzle of vanilla syrup.
While this is the traditional Starbucks version, there are some variations of this drink where the espresso shot is pulled onto the vanilla syrup, then milk is added, while the caramel drizzle still goes on top.
And since all of the heavy layers are added above, a dazzling, marbled drip is created. These sugary morning wake-up calls can be iced, hot, and with the milk of your choice – perfectly customizable.
But, what even is macchiato? Why not just call the whole thing a vanilla latte and be done with it?
Is an Upside-Down Macchiato a Latte?
Technically, yes. Some cafe employees usually complain about how the ‘upside-down’ macchiato is just a latte, and they’re partially right.
While not many people think too hard about what order their coffee is poured in, to a barista, it can be crucial. After all, these terms weren’t just thrown out there for no reason. So, what’s the difference?
Upside-Down Caramel Macchiato VS. Latte
If you look at the structure of your classic latte, the order – from the bottom – is espresso, steamed milk, and a frothy layer of foam. An upside-down latte, on the other hand, is merely a latte where the espresso portion is added last.
Now, If you look at the latte upside down vs the caramel macchiato, things start to make sense.
To sum it up, With the vanilla at the top and caramel drip gracing the very bottom, an upside-down caramel macchiato is just a fancy caramel latte with a drizzle of vanilla. I know, I know, a macchiato is more fun to say, but trust me, the look of relief on the barista’s face when you call it a latte is beyond worth it.
Upside-Down Caramel Macchiato VS. Regular Macchiato
Macchiato is an Italian word that loosely translates to “Marked” or “Stained”. In its essence, a Macchiato is basically milk stained with a shot of espresso.
|Regular Macchiato||Macchiato latte||Caramel Macchiato|
|Espresso with a dash of foamed milk (Aka Espresso Macchiato)||Milk at the bottom, middle layer of espresso, topped with foam.||Vanilla at the bottom, steamed milk in the middle, coffee hangs at the top, with a drizzle of caramel.|
Now, when we think of a macchiato, the first image that comes to mind is a yummy crosshatch of caramel drip over a thick layer of foam. But what’s under that? The real body of a classic, non-caramel, right-side-up macchiato, is just espresso and foamed milk.
While opinions differ on what exactly makes a macchiato its own thing, and it can be made in many ways, most agree on this basic idea.
What I’ve just described could be termed an ‘espresso’ macchiato, which is usually served in a classic, low coffee cup, kind of like a latte without the milk. The second, main category of macchiato could be called the latte macchiato.
Unlike the upside-down caramel macchiato, the espresso of a latte macchiato is the middle layer, and it has a portion of non-foamy milk at the bottom. Milk, espresso, foam. Almost like a caramel macchiato, but not quite
Latte Macchiato is certainly closer to being a caramel macchiato than a regular espresso macchiato would be. When looking at it like this, I hope it’s easier to see how much more of a latte this ‘upside-down macchiato’ really is.
On the other hand, an upside-down caramel macchiato looks nothing like a regular espresso macchiato, having milk where the espresso macchiato has only foam.
Why call it a macchiato then? Well, café employees never did.
The truth is, the upside-down caramel latte simply had the same top-design as the familiar crosshatched macchiato. So, customers began to call it the ‘upside-down’ version of the caramel macchiato.
So, when a barista hears a call for an upside-down caramel macchiato, he may grit his teeth but eventually go with it. Coffee’s coffee, right?
Iced Caramel Macchiato VS. Upside-Down Caramel Macchiato
Iced caramel macchiatos and caramel macchiato are actually quite similar because the espresso in the iced version is usually poured in the same fashion. Only a few key parts switch up in the transition between piping hot and ice-cold; mainly, the ice.
The vanilla syrup remains at the bottom, but instead of milk next, a scoop of ice is added first. Naturally the milk they add atop the ice is also chilled, as is the espresso that goes atop that.
A finishing drizzle of the iconic caramel completes the cold drink, poured directly over the rising ice to cause a half-mixed ombre effect through the clear plastic. The only thing left out in the iced caramel macchiato is the delicious thick foam, something only practical for a heated drink.
Be warned, though, never stir your macchiato! Iced or upside-down, the pour order creates a piece of whorled art that the barista worked hard for, stirring yours is like smudging a painting.
Besides, why go through the trouble of ordering it all kinds of wacky upside-down ways if you’re just going to whisk the layers away?
How to make your own Iced Caramel Macchiato
Ingredients: 1 glass (12-14 oz)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla coffee syrup
- 5 ice cubes (more or less)
- 8 oz milk (any) chilled
- 2-3 oz espresso (depending on taste) chilled 1 tablespoon caramel drizzle
This is easier than you’d expect, actually. For now, let’s just get the basic process down. At home, you’ll first want to make sure your glass can hold 12-14oz, just to be safe.
Next, you’ll need some type of vanilla syrup, preferably coffee syrup, but whatever you’re willing to drink should be fine.
You’ll need about 2-3 teaspoons of this for the very bottom of your drink, depending on how strong you like your vanilla flavor.
Once that’s done, add your ice. Around five cubes should do the trick, but some people just love their ice. Be careful, though, more ice might seem like a great idea…until your drink becomes a watery mess in a few minutes.
Once your ice cubes are all set, go ahead and pour 8 oz of your desired milk – skim, whole, soy, almond, etc. – over top.
After this step, a good thing to do would be to stir up the contents, so that the vanilla mixes with the milk and doesn’t coalesce at the bottom.
After stirring, you’re ready for the espresso! Depending on how strong a drink you want, use 2-3 oz of chilled espresso. Pour evenly over the ice and milk already in your glass, but don’t stir, it will disperse on its own.
Finally, drizzle about a tablespoon (or however much your sweet tooth desires) of thick liquid caramel over the ice and espresso, evenly coating the area.
? A good tip would be to drizzle more heavily along the edges of the glass, to create the most long-lasting taste and to avoid a collection of caramel at the bottom.
Just like that, you’re all finished!
This recipe makes around 12 oz of iced caramel macchiato, depending on how much extra you add.
For the best taste, while enjoying, I suggest a straw. It really helps bring out the different flavors!
I hope that you can confidently go up to a barista and say the words ‘I would love a vanilla latte with caramel drizzle’ knowing exactly what you’re getting.
Remember, even if it seems overly complicated, the better you know your espresso drinks, the better you can decide what you want. If you know all the components, you will be able to order whatever suits you – maybe even creating a new menu item, who knows?
Today we learned the truth about what, exactly, an upside-down caramel macchiato is, where its name came from, and what it really should be called. Do you feel like making your own now? Cheers if you do!
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