I quit drinking coffee last year in an unsuccessful attempt to silence the voices in my head. Apart from a few Starbucks-fueled road trips I’d been relatively caffeine free for months. So I was pretty out of shape when I drank—fairly inhaled—the Military Latte at Sawada Coffee. That’s the signature drink of champion latte artist Hiroshi Sawada, the namesake of the newish coffee shop attached to the back of Hogsalt Hospitality’s Green Street Smoked Meats. Sawada has five coffee shops back in Japan, but this, perched on an elevated platform facing Green Street in the back of GSSM, is his first stateside. You can get your pour-overs, your cortados, cappuccinos, and americanos, chai and green tea lattes, but what really seems to be fueling the spot is this double-barrel espresso-matcha convulsion in a cup.
Sawada is often described as sort of a latte Jedi in terms of focus and technique. I can imagine how difficult this intricate camo-colored design—meant to evoke a martial insignia—is to duplicate consistently in the hands of a mortal. Here’s what mine looked like:
But if you think of it in terms of snowflakes—no two Military Lattes are alike—it’s still really beautiful. And it’s delicious, the faint bitter vegetal note of the green tea floating in the foam just above the deep, roasty espresso, its own bitter edge softened with vanilla syrup ($5.50). Dangerously stimulative, though, if you’re out of practice. I was vibrating like a Hitachi Magic Wand.
All good coffee shops should serve booze for such emergencies, and Sawada offers a half-dozen spiked drinks including two “steamers”—kind of like lattes, with booze subbing for the coffee. Scotch, almond liqueur, honey, and orange peel brought me back to earth ($7).
Sawada Coffee, 112 N. Green, 312-754-0431, sawadacoffee.com
Correction: This post has been amended to reflect that the Military Latte contains vanilla syrup.