New York offers plenty of opportunities to drink well, but there are a few instances when a drink becomes something more than just a quenching, tasty beverage. It may display exceptional technique and care, or perhaps will be tied to a broader cause, like sustainability and social justice, or can tell a personal story through its ingredients. Check out these six drinks that rise above NYC's crowded cocktail, coffee, and juice scene in wholly unexpected ways.
Swallow Cafe: Coffee cherry-infused soda water
The "coffee cherry" is the soft, pink husk of the coffee bean, and it is typically thrown out after the bean is extracted, despite the fact that it has nutritional value and can be ground up into a flour for baking—or, as specialty coffee shops are beginning to realize, made into a refreshing drink. At Swallow Cafe’s Cobble Hill location on Atlantic Avenue, coffee cherry-infused soda water is served alongside smooth and creamy espresso ($3). The bubbly, light pink water is a perfectly tart and lovely accompaniment to your afternoon double shot—plus, it’s a clever way of reusing a waste product. 156 Atlantic Avenue, (347) 689-4192
Dimes: Pepper-Rose Lemonade
At this Canal Street haven for healthy eaters—who devour bowls of wild rice, smoked fish, and avocado in the brightly lit, plant-filled dining room—the fresh juices are a must. Everything is made in house, and will give you the detox your body needs. But one drink in particular has an extra benefit: 100 percent of profits from the Pepper-Rose lemonade ($4.50) go to the organization Hand in Hand for Syria, which delivers humanitarian aid to Syrians and Syrian refugees. The drink is made with pink peppercorns, rose syrup—a nod to the famous Syrian rose—and lemon juice. 49 Canal Street, (212) 925-1300; dimesnyc.com
Agern: Brownsville Roasters pour-over coffee
At the first New York restaurant from Danish restaurateur Claus Mayer, a partner in Noma, it’s par for the course that every ingredient is meticulously sourced. Coffee at Agern is exemplary of the restaurant’s philosophy, and head barista Omar Maagaard has carefully selected beans according to their seasonal availability, and for optimum flavor profile.
The pour-over coffee service at Agern is an exact science; after the single-origin beans (currently from high elevation farms in Guatemala) are freshly ground, water is slowly added to them in a sleek Kalita carafe—Omar prefers this Japanese brand because its flat-based bottom allows for longer extraction time, so the coffee is more flavorful while retaining delicate nuances, and a pronounced, rich, texture. The custom espresso blend is 30 percent Colombian, and 70 percent Brazilian, for the perfect balance of roundness and acidity.
At the market just outside the restaurant, you can grab a cup of drop coffee to-go, or a bag of the Brownsville Roasters beans—which are roasted in Brooklyn. Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd Street, (646) 568-4018; agernrestaurant.com
LaRina Pastificio & Vino: Vergano Americano vermouth
This Fort Greene newcomer excels in the art of aperitivo, an Italian institution involving vermouth or spritzy drinks and snacks like olives and meats, taking place in the early evening. Owner Giulia Pelliccioni grew up in a restaurant family in Riccione, Emilia Romagna and is devoted to the botanical spirits of Italy known as amari and vermouth.
Of the many vermouths on offer at LaRina, Giulia is particularly enthused about “Vergano Americano,” ($13) made by a small producer named Mauro Vergango in Piedmont—the main region of vermouth production. Unlike most vermouths from the area, which are made with the Nebbiolo grape, the Americano is made from the lighter red grape Grignolino, which Giulia says gives it a uniquely aromatic quality. It is then infused with wormwood, bitter orange zest, and gentian.
"I love its purity," says Giulia, who enjoys the Vergano Americano neat, or with ice and a twist. "It is complex, rich but fresh, bitter but smooth, serious but playful." 387 Myrtle Avenue, (718) 852-0001; larinabk.com
Nix: Caffè corretto
"Caffè corretto" is a category of Italian coffee drinks that wisely call for an addition of grappa or amaro. At John Fraser's downtown Manhattan vegetarian restaurant Nix, beverage director Andrea Morris offers an off-menu drink with espresso and Averna amaro, served with ice ($14), that is the perfect, uplifting refreshment after a brunch of eggs and tempura cauliflower buns. 72 University Place, (212) 498-9393; nixny.com
The Eddy: San Felipe
"Fat-washed" spirits have been trending at the city's most forward-thinking cocktail bars recently. At the East Village restaurant The Eddy, the front room offers a cozy little space to either wait for your table, or enjoy some of head bartender Luis Hernandez’s highly inventive, sometimes whimsical seasonal craft cocktails, alongside a plate of fresh crudite.
In the umami, slightly sweet "San Felipe" ($15), Luis combines a chorizo fat-washed Venezuelan rum—meaning, the liquor has rested in a container with Spanish chorizo that's been fried in olive oil, to absorb the flavors—with the bitter liquor Elisir Novasalus, and a bit of sugar. The drink gets one large ice cube, cleverly branded with "The Eddy."
For Luis, fat-washing is a technique that delivers "deeper flavor extraction," and it has a historical element: fat-washing was used by perfumeries, as far back as 2,000 years ago, he says. But he also finds a personal connection: Luis has never forgotten the sensation of eating rich, spicy chorizo as a child in Venezuela, where he grew up, so using it in this drink is an homage to his roots. 342 East 6th Street, (646) 895-9884; theeddynyc.com