For San Francisco, Summer Is a Concept

Nabokov’s butterflies, ripe peaches, and an almost-summer frappe


In San Francisco, summer is hot-coffee weather. It's been socked-in lately, foggy and cool. We make a lot of caffè lattes and brewed coffees this time of the year, and we usually wait until our warm months—September and October—to plunge fully into iced coffee season.

For many of you, though, iced coffee season is right now. Even in San Francisco, summer exists powerfully as an idea. For me, it means road trips, putting sunscreen on the baby, perfect peaches from Dry Creek farm, catching up on a bit of reading, and cooking outdoors somewhere beyond city limits. In San Francisco, we have to visit summer rather than reside in it.

You probably know what a frappe is, maybe even (gasp) a frappuccino. But if you don't, we came up with our own version a while ago, and I'm happy to share it with you below. Like a perfect peach, it is best enjoyed during summer. Even on a damp San Francisco day, I like visiting summer for a moment or two as I drink it in our coffee lab and imagine it being made at one of our shops. Then, I look for my scarf and jacket as I head out into the gloom.

I was just reading about how Vladimir Nabokov spent his summers. After his teaching would end in May, he would take off on epic road trips in pursuit of new species of butterflies. He never learned to drive, so his wife, Vera, would chauffeur him across America, as he sat shotgun in their giant car and jotted notes for his novels on index cards. Nabokov was a tea drinker, unfortunately. But I think about Vera, gassing up the Buick as Vladimir worked on Lolita, and I wonder if this drink would make her road a little shorter.

Read on for the recipe, and see below for summer inspiration:


If you are after vintage 3x5 cards to take notes on for your own scandalous novel, the strength of the dollar makes this charming English website a strong contender.

Of course, you’d need vintage pencils to match.

You can’t be inspired by a dreary Buick, even though Vladimir appreciated the legroom. Your racy novel demands a racy ride.

I’ve often thought the dangerous juxtaposition of driving and wineries was a cruel way to deny oneself pleasure on the one hand, or tempt disfigurement and death on the other, so I like to visit the loveliest peach orchard in Sonoma County when I find myself in the wine country. They have an absolutely delicious bellini mix (you have to ask for it), if you should find yourself safely in the proximity of a champagne bottle.

Once you are blasting west down dry creek road on a perfect Sonoma County summer afternoon, with a flat or two of peaches in the boot, it’s possible you’ll look for a moment at the person sitting in the passenger seat and you’ll both know: You’re not going back. Turn off your email. It’s time to take a sabbatical.

Almost-Summer Frappe Recipe

  • Milk – 100 grams

  • Cane sugar – 10 grams

  • Vanilla extract – 1 gram

  • Ice – 200 grams

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 100 grams of ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour over remaining 100 grams of ice in a tall glass. Serve. Dream about summer.