Iced coffee is not as simple as it used to be. Gone are the days you could just fire up the Mr. Coffee and pour the hot stuff over some ice. Now, every sort of brewing contraption and extraction method exists, from cold brew to Kyoto, frappe to flash brewed. Here, the many different varieties of cold coffees and the best places to try them in the city.
REGULAR OLD ICED COFFEE: Caffe Reggio
Thankfully, for those who can't be bothered with some fancy cold brew method or a chic international drink, there is good old fashioned regular iced coffee. And leave it to the bohemian Greenwich Village Caffe Reggio to brew coffee the way mom used to make it—hot and then over ice. It's actually a great cup with the right amount of bitterness and a medium body. It's refreshing and caffeinating and what more could you really want when it comes to summertime coffee?
Honorable Mentions: D'Amico's, Joe Coffee
Caffe Reggio is located at 119 Macdougal Street between West 3rd Street and Minetta Lane in Greenwich Village (212-475-9557, caffereggio.com).
TODDY COLD BREW: Culture Espresso
Toddy cold brew has swept the coffee nation. The easy smoothness of cold brewed coffee results from a steeping at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Coffee purists may decry the lack of acidity, but there's no question this makes for an easy-drinking cold coffee treat. Plenty of coffee shops and roasters do a stellar job with this style. But our favorite is the rotating bean selection at Culture Espresso in Midtown. Yes, Midtown of all places. Their cold brew is always complex and strong with a sweet, bitter-less finish.
Honorable Mentions: Third Rail, Cafe Grumpy, Oslo Coffee Roasters, Kaffe 1668, Joe, Brooklyn Roasting Company, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Culture Espresso has two locations in Midtown: 72 West 38th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue (212-302-0200, cultureespresso.com) and 247 West 36th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue (646-861-3553, cultureespresso.com).
KYOTO COLD BREW: Birch Coffee
The kyoto method with its science experiment contraption is more than just for show. The slow drip method over ice manages to preserve the aromatics and good acidity of the beans while producing a delicate and clean drink. Since Birch opened their first location in 2009, they have been dedicated to making a better coffee and that includes the iced stuff. Most of their locations showcase this whimsical way of brewing using their single origin beans for a rich, darker flavor with a pronounced yet balanced acidity.
Honorable Mentions: Blue Bottle, Culture Espresso
Birch has a number of locations in the city; visit their website for details.
NITRO ICED COFFEE: Simon Sips
If you like your coffee like you like your beer, then nitro is the way to go. After cold brewing Counter Culture beans, the baristas at the hard-to-find Simon Sips put it on a system that infuses it with nitrogen, creating a creamy, silky texture when chilled and poured through a tap. Slightly effervescent and incredibly smooth, the coffee packs more power than your usual cup, which is dangerous considering how easy this is to drink. Skip the ice to enjoy the mouthfeel and to make heads turn when you walk down the street with what looks like a perfectly poured Guinness.
Honorable Mentions: La Colombe, Hungry Ghost, Birch Coffee
Simon Sips is located at 1185 Avenue of the Americas between West 46th and West 47th Street (212-354-2100, simonsips.com).
JAPANESE FLASH BREWED: Hi-Collar
Who better to showcase the Japanese method of flash-brewing than Hi-Collar, a Japanese coffee house and cocktail bar? After choosing your coffee beans from a variety of regions and roasters, you get to choose your brewing method. Flash brewed is just one possibility for cold coffee that the caffeine sanctuary offers and it's the boldest and most intensely flavored. The hot coffee is brewed directly over ice cubes for a fresher and fuller body with all the intense aromatics and flavor you expect from a serious cup of joe.
Honorable Mentions: Esprezzatura Coffee Cart, Voyager Espresso, Supercrown Coffee Roasters
Hi-Collar is located at 214 East 10th Street between Second and First Avenue in the East Village (212-777-7018, hi-collar.com).
Rocket Fuel at Sweetleaf (Brian Hoffman/Gothamist)
NEW ORLEANS STYLE: Sweetleaf
Blue Bottle generally gets all the love in this category, but their version is not nearly as creamy or nutty as the Rocket Fuel from Sweetleaf. The key ingredient here is chicory and Sweetleaf doesn't hold back on the natural sweetner which provides a nice spiced cinnamon-quality. For a touch more sweetness, they kiss the coffee and milk with some Grade-B maple syrup. It's the perfect touch to this light, roasty summertime treat.
Honorable Mentions: Blue Bottle, Grady's Cold Brew
Sweetleaf has two locations in Long Island City, Queens: 4615 Center Boulevard (347-527-1038, sweetleafcoffee.com); and at 10-93 Jackson Ave (917-832-6726, sweetleafcoffee.com). They also have a location at 135 Kent Avenue at North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-725-4862, sweetleafcoffee.com)
VIETNAMESE ICED COFFEE: Nam Nam
Who would have thought the best version of Vietnamese iced coffee would be from a non-descript cafe in the middle of East Williamsburg? Nam Nam makes their Cà phê đá to order from coarsely ground Cafe du Monde beans. It's stirred with sweetened condensed milk and is a perfect pairing for the shop's amazing banh mi sandwiches. This is slightly less sweet than some of the city's other versions, but it's dark, fully-leaded and the roasted chicory and chocolate notes make this a delectable sipper.
Honorable Mentions: Grace Street, Saigon Shack
Nam Nam is located at 109 Montrose Avenue between Manhattan Avenue and Leonard Street in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-302-9200).
MALAYSIAN ICED COFFEE: Kopitiam
There's not much competition for the best version of Malaysian iced coffee, but Kopitiam is hand's down the coolest spot to experience this unique style. The ingredients in the iced white coffee might look similar to that of Vietnamese coffee (condensed milk), but there are two major differences: the coffee is hand-pulled for an airy, foamy mouthfeel and the beans are roasted in fat to remove some of the acidity and because, well, it's f-ing delicious.
Kopitiam is located at 51 Canal Street between Orchard and Ludlow Street in Chinatown (646-894-7081).
LOCALLY PACKAGED ICED COFFEE CONCENTRATE:
Grady's Cold Brew
Brewed and pacakaged in a warehouse in Williamsburg, Grady's has paved the way for other canned coffee concentrates. The big three (Stumptown, Blue Bottle, La Colombe) offer up their versions, but Grady's is still the king. Dilute it with water or milk to taste, but the bold flavors shine through thanks to the addition of chicory root. Regardless of how you drink it, a natural sweetness remains along with mellow notes of cinnamon, smoke, and chocolate.
Honorable Mentions: Red Thread Good, Brownsville Roasters
Grady's Cold Brew is available at specialty shops around town or online.
SHAKERATO: Zibetto Espresso Bar
On a sweltering day in Italy, all you want is a cold espresso. But the Italians will be the first to tell you that ice does not belong in coffee. Instead, the answer is the shakerato. It's actually a brilliant way to chill down some strong brew: a shot of espresso is mixed with simple syrup and then shaken with ice to form a frothy head. At Zibetto's, the ultra-Italian coffee bar in Midtown, it's served in a classy mug. Now you just have to pretend the window facing Midtown Manhattan is looking at something closer to the canals of Venice.
Honorable Mentions: Eataly, The Tuscan Gun
Zibetto Espresso Bar has three locations in Midtown: 501 Fifth Avenue with an entrance on 42nd Street (646-838-6364); 1385 Sixth Avenue on the corner of West 56th Street (646-707-0505); and 1221 Sixth Avenue between West 49th and West 48th Street (zibettoespresso.com)
INVENTIVE ICED COFFEE: Everyman Espresso
For those bored with the expected ingredients of coffee, milk, and sugar, you are in luck. Some baristas are going well beyond cinnamon and vanilla and treating coffee drinks the same way mixologists look at cocktails. Why not add in a dash of bitters, some obscure spices, and perhaps a touch of soda? That's why there's a makeshift bar set-up behind the counter at the Soho location of Everyman Espresso. Concoctions currently on offer include a teetotaling Espresso Old Fashioned (espresso, Peychaud's bitters, sugar) and the Panacea (espresso, lemon, honey, ginger, and bitters).
Honorable Mentions: Sweetleaf, Santina
Everyman Espresso is located at 301 West Broadway between Canal and Grand Street in Soho (everymanespresso.com).
GREEK FRAPPÉ: To Laiko
In Greece, they spend all day sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful scenery. There are a few accessories that are very important to this scenario. Worry beads, a cigarette, and an iced coffee known as a frappé. You can live like a Greek in the pedestrian cafes in the quickly transforming Astoria. But none of them get the frappé as perfect as a tiny little takeout window called To Laiko. The frappé is an irresistible blend of Nescafé instant coffee (coffee snobs, hide your eyes), milk, and plenty of sugar. It's sweet, creamy, and frothy, and after sucking down one, you'll be quickly ordering a second.
Honorable Mentions: Pi Bakerie, Uncle Gussy's Treats Cart
To Laiko is located at 29-29 23rd Avenue between 31st Street and 29th Street in Astoria, Queens (718-274-6141).
FROZEN COFFEE DRINK: Gregory's Coffee
It cracks me up (read: annoys the hell out of me) when people go into a coffee shop that is not Starbucks and order a Frappucino. I mean, seriously? Well, this category is basically for the best knock-off Frappucino in the city. The ever-growing local chain Gregory's could very easily be mistaken for the ubiquitious coffee chain. Their Coffee Freddo might be a misnomer (a Greek freddo does not involve a blender), but it sure is delicious. They use their cold brew and blend it with ice and some mysterious dairy mixture. And just like the more famous Frappucino, they'll add in flavors like chocolate or caramel. It's only a matter of time before we start seeing a Gingerbread Freddo.
Honorable Mentions: R&R Coffee, B Cup Cafe
Gregory's Coffee has a number of locations in the city; visit their website for details.
AUSTRALIAN ICED COFFEE: Bluestone Lane Coffee
Some friends from Australia recently told me that if you order an iced coffee in Melbourne and you don't get a scoop of ice cream, you are being ripped off. What have we been doing wrong all these years? No wonder the Aussies are taking over our coffee scene. Little Collins, Toby's Estate, and Two Hands are all providing perfect flat whites and well-prepared espresso drinks, but Bluestone Lane is the only one serving a true Aussie Iced Coffee (milk, ice cream, espresso) and it is game changing.
Bluestone Lane Coffee has a number of locations in the city; visit their website for details.
ONE-OF-A-KIND ICED COFFEE: Victory Garden
This tiny little temple to all things goat milk makes a great iced coffee with a unique flavor. Goat milk is sourced from a local farm and is infused with mastic (a unique Greek resin) and cardamom before being mixed into Irving Farm Coffee's delicate cold brew. This is a refreshing, sweet pick-me-up with surprising herbacous notes of pine and spice. Nobody is making an iced coffee quite like this.
Victory Garden is located at 31 Carmine Street between Bleecker and Bedford Street in the West Village (212-206-7273, victorygardennyc.com)
THE NATIONAL CHAINS: Dunkin' Donuts
We narrowed it down to the big three: DD, Mickey D's, and the bucks of Star. The world runs on Dunkin' for a reason: that addicting, fresh, and surprisingly smooth cup of joe. Starbucks gets too bogged down in staying up with the latest trends (they have a regular iced coffee that's too bitter, the cold brew is too watery, and the nitro concoction remains to be seen) and McDonald's coffee, while decent, comes automatically sweetened and loaded down with enough cream to drown a cat. And without the add-in's, the coffee is bland and watered down. Dunkin' reigns supreme.
Dunkin' Donuts is basically everywhere in the city. If you really need to know where they are located, visit their website for details.
ICED COFFEE COCKTAIL: Kobrick's Coffee Co.
Kobrick's has been roasting coffee in New York since 1921. But it was earlier this year that they opened up their first cafe in the Meatpacking District and they take their coffee very seriously there. During the day, you can get your buzz on, but at night they transform to a cocktail bar. While many other mixology dens usually have one or two drinks featuring coffee, Kobrick's has an entire page dedicated to caffeine. If you only order one drink, the thing to try is the Three Hour Kyoto Negroni, where instead of water, the bartenders slow brew their Kenyan coffee using gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It's a surprising twist on everyone's favorite bitter cocktail. Stay wide awake while taking the edge off.
Honorable Mentions: Skinny Dennis, Slowly Shirley
Kobrick's Coffee Co. is located at 24 Ninth Avenue between West 13th and West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District (212-255-5588, kobricks.com)
COFFEE ICE CREAM: Davey's Ice Cream
Forget chocolate or salted caramel, in my mind there is only one perfect ice cream flavor, and that's coffee. No one needs any convincing that the roasted notes of coffee marry nicely with cream and sugar. And while some coffee ice creams taste cloyingly sweet or reek of chemical flavorings, some places get it just right. Davey's is not messing around with their bold, buzzy strong coffee flavor. It's laced with coffee grinds and is not for those who can't have caffeine after dinner.
Honorable Mentions: Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream
Davey's Ice Cream has one location in Manhattan located at 137 First Avenue between East 9th Street and St. Marks Place in the East Village (212-228-8032) and one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn located at 201 Bedford Avenue between North 5th and North 6th Street (daveysicecream.com).
BONUS: ICED MATCHA: MatchaBar
We can't leave out the latest trend in the caffeine world: matcha. The bright green tea powder from Japan offers up a different flavor profile and a (possibly) healthier buzz than coffee. Out in Williamsburg, MatchaBar has been putting twists on coffee and tea drinks by infusing them with matcha. They have a rotating seasonal menu which includes things like Blueberry Mint Matcha and Fuji Apple Matcha. These drinks are loaded with antioxidants and plenty of caffeine to supply an energy jolt without all the jitteriness.
Honorable Mentions: Cha Cha Matcha, ChaLait
MatchaBar has one location in Brooklyn located at 93 Wythe Avenue between North 10th and North 11th Street in Williamsburg (718-599-0015) and one in Manhattan located at 256 West 15th Street between Seventh and Eight Avenue in Chelsea (212-627-1058, matchabarnyc.com).
Brian Hoffman searches for iconic New York dishes and makes comedy food videos on his site Eat This NY. He also writes for Midtown Lunch and gives food and drink walking tours around NY.