Earlier this year in Montreal, we came across Cafe Sardine's lovely Filtre Froid en Soda, a seltzery, fresh-tasting rendition of cold coffee with a soda fountain flair. As the mercury's climbed in New York, cold, fizzy, and sweet-treat summer coffee drinks have spiked as well. We hunted down five local takes on sweet refreshment.
Coffee Seltzer at Northern Spy Food Company
The talents at Northern Spy know their way around a housecrafted seltzer, and when we were tipped off to their Coffee Seltzer we had to try it. It's a crisp combination of iced coffee, simple syrup, chicory, and Seven Stars organic cream, topped off with seltzer—creating that cascading-fizzy-cream effect that's impossible not to get entranced by. The tartness of the seltzer harmonizes nicely with the cold brew concentrate made from local Plowshares beans—it loses a hair of dimension as the ice cubes dilute it, but then again, why would you be nursing such a thing?
Espresso Egg Cream at Irving Farm
If you're going to turn iced coffee into a soda-fountain-style dessert drink, why not go all the way, right? This little number from Irving Farm on the Upper West Side—weighing in at just shy of six bucks!—is actually really delicious. Extremely chocolate forward, the drink is espresso-based rather than a mixture built upon cold brewed coffee, allowing for a bit fresher coffee flavor and a good harmony with the housemade chocolate and vanilla syrups, as well as the cream. Served in a mason jar with the rest of the Saratoga seltzer bottle alongside, you're able to attenuate the drink's coffee-to-fizz concentration to your preference (or, you've got a great seltzer-back to cleanse the extreme richness of this straight-up dessert drink.)
Espresso Julep at Toby's Estate
It's an iced coffee! It's a nonalcoholic mint julep! It's what the who now? Toby's Estate in Williamsburg throws its hat into the summertime signature drink ring with this extra-sweet iced espresso with a hint of herbs. It's not cloying, but it's rich for a summer refresher, and like many of these signature summer concoctions, distribution becomes an issue. This julep could use a swizzle stick to better meld the intense espresso flavors at the bottom with the basil-and-mint syrup and steamed milk that mostly mask any immediate coffee presence. The concept is intriguing, but any herbaceous-coffee-cream blend will always be a balancing act, and this one tips a bit too much on the sweet and milky side. Disclaimer: we did not enjoy this drink at the Kentucky Derby, so perhaps we were doing it wrong.
Thunderbolt at Smith Canteen
As much as the people behind Smith Canteen and sister restaurant Seersucker have wonderful ideas, pouring an espresso into fresh-squeezed lemonade is not one of them. This beguilingly conceived drink piques one's curiosity too much to pass it by—and indeed, it even starts off quite refreshing. But then the flavor combination truly hits you as the espresso—which has sunk to the bottom of your color-separated drink like a black sunset—passes through the sunny lemonade. Though Counter Culture's Ethiopia Haru espresso is a fruity enough coffee, the combination loses points for a strangely medicinal aftertaste. Thunderbolt, I wish I loved you, but I can't.
Chaivan at Pudge Knuckles
It's possible we knew what to expect from a coffee bar namedPudge Knuckles that's located in a Williamsburg condo building, but those of us seeking refreshing summer coffee drinks are well known for keeping an open mind. Though it's not that unusual to see variants of the Iced/Dirty Chai—cold chai with an espresso shot thrown at it—this cold brew coffee-chai combination resonates more as a desert than a pick-me-up. Which is to say that even if it were a scoop of mocha chai ice cream, it would be a bit too sweet. Spice-rich and sugar-heavy, this drink starts out as a guilty summer pleasure, but quickly ends as pure guilt.
Do you have favorite cold coffee drinks in NYC? Share them in the comments below!
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop.