The Dirty is a Bear Pond Espresso original drink, arguably as famous as their espresso shots. Like all great creations, it looks deceptively simple.
A drink with layers of cold milk and espresso.
Bear Pond's owner, Katsu, was kind enough to talk about some of the intricacies of the famous Dirty during his visit to Joe's Coffee in New York this week.
The shot is the most important part.
So important in fact that only Katsu is allowed to make the Dirty.
It can't be too watery. As anyone that has attempted to make a Dirty purely from reading the description has found, you just end up with a cold latte. A thicker shot requires fine tuning your grind. This also means if you have one of those capsule machines at home, you're out of luck. Bear Pond's shots are so thick that if left out for a few minutes, you can flip the cup over and nothing will spill out.
From there, the rest is simple. Layer cold, whole milk into a chilled clear glass. (Bear Pond likes to use mason jars in their shop. For the event, they brought small plastic cups.) Pull the shot directly into the cup. Prepare the next shot and repeat.
During this entire process, the thick layer of espresso slowly seeps its way through the cold milk. It's beautiful to watch. The visual aspect as important to the experience as the taste.
"Please do not stir," Katsu says to me before I take my first sip.
"First layer, 80% espresso, 20% milk. Second layer, 80% milk, 20% espresso. Like milk chocolate," he says.
And it's true. The first sip is a shock to the tongue. Strong and chocolately. It's followed by a layer of milk to sooth and mellow out the intensity.
Much of what Bear Pond is famous for is its their rules. (No espresso after 2pm, no espresso or Dirtys if Katsu is not working.) But Katsu explains to me that the most vital part about a Dirty is how the customer chooses to drink it.
A customer comes in often and orders the Dirty. He takes the first sip, sits down, letting the espresso seep further while he reads. When it's all settled, he continues to drink. Others are too busy talking, not noticing that Katsu has finished making their drink. They miss out on the first sip experience.
One customer in particular likes to talk to the espresso, cheering it on as it moves through the milk.
"He's talking only to himself. So very strange!" he says.