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May 30, 2008 01:32 AM

Coffee newb question - Gibraltar in Vancouver?

I don't drink a lot of coffee so when I do I want the good stuff. I'm very partial to 49th Parallel, and won't turn up my nose at Artiggiano either. When I was in San Francisco recently, I had the best caffeinated beverage I've ever enjoyed. It was at Blue Bottle and it was called a Gibraltar. The BBCC barista said it was a cross between an espresso and a macchiato IIRC. It is apparently always served in a short glass, and should not be done decaf or with skim (at least according to another coffee co there called Rituals whose version I have not had the pleasure to sample). I've Googled a bit and am still not entirely sure what I'm looking for. One commenter said it was just a short latte but even my limited coffee cred tells me that this would not encompass the Gibraltar experience :-). Any coffee aficionados out there care to help out this plebe?

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  1. As far as I know, the gibraltar is pretty specific to a few shops in SF (there may be one in New York making them too). Its name simply stems from the name of the glass that they poured it in at Blue Bottle (and later ritual). I think you're going to have to find a place in town that will serve you a 6 oz latte. Most of the shops around town should be happy to make that for you so long as they have the proper size of cup. I don't think anyone has the proper gibraltar glasses though and I've never been served one or seen them offered.

    The piccolo latte at 49th might be your best starting point. Elysian and Wicked just down the road will both be more than capable of putting one together too.

    4 Replies
    1. re: peter.v

      Aha.... in a thread on a coffee forum on the origins of the gibraltar, Chris Baca (of Ritual), lays down the RitRo rules:

      "Rituals rules for the Gibraltar are as follows: 4.5ounce Gibraltar glass, always a double, and whole milk or soy (for the hippies) only. No single Gibraltar, no decaf Gibraltar, no non fat/low fat Gibralter, and obviously no Gibraltar to go. The shots for the Gibraltar used to be pulled only via bottomless portafilter only but that rule is no longer in effect."

      Liz Clayton, NYC blogger at says:
      "The geographical journey of the drink being called Gibraltar is interesting to me, and Ford's reluctance to discuss it — largely because he doesn't want it to turn into the next Starbucks Caramel Triple Gibraltarchiato, I think — is kind of interesting to me, too."

      Ford is Steve Ford, formerly of Blue Bottle, currently of Barefoot (I believe). He is credited with creating the gibraltar.

      Kind of odd origins on the drink, and apparently no set "recipe" exists. I still stand by my initial piccolo latte rec at 49th, although make sure it's a double as they tend to go single on some of their smaller drinks.

      1. re: peter.v

        Interesting peter.v. So it's named after a type of glass tumbler (if I'm interpreting all this info correctly). Google certainly seems to confirm this.

        1. re: fmed

          Yup. That's what I'm getting out of it too. It's a brilliant play on words by Libbey, the manufacturer of the line of glass tumblers used for the gibraltar drink. Rocks glass - rock of Gibraltar. I love it.

        2. re: peter.v

          And that, folks, is why I love Chowhound :-). Thanks, peter.v for your sleuthing skills.

      2. cross b/t macchiato (3 oz) and a cappo (5.5 oz, sometimes 5, sometimes 6) would be a "piccolo" which is 4 oz, at least that's how I'm seeing it done.

        5 Replies
        1. re: John Manzo

          Clearly I need to brush up on my coffee! Thanks for your input. I will investigate further as all the shops JM mentions are in my hood. Maybe at the end of the day it's not such a bad thing for the Gibraltar to be a specialty I can look forward to enjoying on my next trip to SF...

          1. re: grayelf

            I talked to Amy at Prado this morning about Gibraltars. She didn't actually know that that is what they are called...but that is how many people like their machhiato (more milky, etc.). She made one for me to try out....delish and obviously less fattening than a latte. I may switch from my daily latte to her Gibraltaresque milky macchiato.

            1. re: fmed

              That is cool, fmed but the burning question is: what kind of receptacle? I think part of what made this drink so enjoyable was the glass, heavy and beveled, like a little tumbler. Oh and standing in front of the skinny outdoor counter while knocking it back didn't hurt either :-).

              1. re: grayelf

                Amy called it "Australian Latte" when you serve it in a tumbler...She served it to me in a small latte (standard) cup. Will post picks when I get home.

              2. re: fmed

                this makes a lot of sense as a macchiato is a double shot pulled ristretto marked (macchiato means marked) with foam. it should just be a dab of smooth microfoam. not so much that you cant see the espresso around the edges.

                for many reasons i carry my own glass (duralex picardie) with me. i usually point to the barista how high it should be so that they do not get carried away. should i call my macchiato a picardie?

                it seems that a consensus has been reached--> a gibraltar is an extra short latte in a specific glass. if you wanted that anywhere else, just call it an extra short latte and bring your own glass.

          2. Here's a little podcast I made where Jenni Bryant of Gimme! Coffee explains what a gibralter is.

            2 Replies
            1. re: starbarista

              Australian Latte = flat white - a latte in a glass.
              Although not in a rocks glass, Artigiano has had a larger macchiato or smaller latte on the menu for years.

              1. re: barrett Jones

                Thanks, Barrett. I'll check that out if I can ever manage to tear myself away from 49th Parallel :-).

                And I'll be sipping the actual Gibraltar again soonish... we just booked our biannual trip to San Francisco for the Remembrance Day long weekend. 4.5 days of delectable NorCal nosh, drinks and food porn. Oh yeah.

            2. grayelf, I found this in my twitter feed this afternoon:

              elysiancoffee - Elysian Broadway now rockin the Gibraltar.

              Good stuff!

              2 Replies
              1. re: peter.v

                I'm so there, peter, thanks! Had the chance to try a different Gibraltar on our most recent trip to SF, this time courtesy of Dynamo Donuts on 24th who are serving Four Barrel. Very interesting citrus notes in a sttrroonggg coffee bevvy. Blue Bottle on Linden still winning with their Hayes Valley espresso but will report as soon as I've tried Elysian's...

                1. re: grayelf

                  So the stars aligned and I dropped in to Elysian on 5th for a Gibraltar ($3) today. They appear to use Elysian espresso for it though I did not confirm this 100%. I liked the taste of this beverage initially though it is by nature very strong. My unrefined coffee palate was not as happy with the aftertaste which I found a tad ashy. Still preferred it to the Four Barrel Gibraltar I had in SF recently, and I'd rank it along with the Blue Bottle offerings at the Ferry Plaza there, though nothing as yet can touch the Hayes Valley blend version.

                  In other Kits coffee news, it looks like Momentum Cafe near 4th and MacDonald is close to opening. A FOO (friend of owner) was there today as I peeped in and said it would be opening "soon" and serving Intelligentsia --yay!

                  Elysian Room
                  1778 W 5th, Vancouver, BC V6J1P2, CA

              2. Another recent post about 49th Parallel just reminded me about this one...

                Bump n Grind on Commercial Dr are now serving "Joe-braltars" is a similarly sized glass.

                4 Replies
                1. re: fmed

                  Cool. Still haven't made it to B&G (thisclose last w'end) but now have even more reason to go...

                  1. re: grayelf

                    (Popped in this morning after running a few errands. )

                    Behold the Joe-braltar. (49th Parallel Epic Espresso beans and Synesso rig - the cup is about 4.5 ozs a la proper Gibraltars)

                    1. re: fmed

                      Dang that's a cute l'il beverage! Much rounder glass than the Gibraltars I've had though.

                      I needed a cold beverage on Sunday at the car free day so sampled one of Bump and Grind's iced dirty chai lattes: a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Ridiculously tasty and very pretty (I'll try to remember to post a pic later). And what a great cafe with the nicest staff and patrons (they all chuckled when I said to the barista "Am I going to be sorry I asked what's in a dirty chai latte?").

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Haha - dirty chai - love it. And yes..BnG's staff (Joe, Audrey and the new guy!) are super friendly.

                        Here is another pic to show the size (with iPhone displaying Chowhound as reference):