Anyone that’s gone down the coffee rabbit hole has at some point chewed on the coffee/wine comparison. The barista/bartender comparison is another tried and true one, and in the past couple years, the divide between bartenders and baristas has grown slimmer than ever.
Nitro taps? Check. Blended drinks? Sure. Shaker drinks? Increasingly common.
Prior to this spring and summer, the only line not yet blurred was in the finer points of cocktail mixology, but now even that is as blurred as a barfly’s vision at last call. In spring there came much buzz about espresso and tonic. This summer, there are no holds barred. Baristas are breaking out the bitters, garnishes, fruits and fizzes as creative coffee concoctions abound in competitive cafes from coast to coast. Some are modeled after their spirituous counterparts (see the Espresso Old Fashioned) and others are completely original.
Here, in no particular order of ingenuity or quenchability, are 15 of the best coffee cocktails around the country right now:
1) Coffee Soda — PublicUS, Las Vegas
PublicUS is a canteen-style restaurant and coffee bar in the Fremont East District of Downtown Las Vegas. Their coffee soda, a take on the espresso and tonic, has a sweet, lemony twist.
- Double shot of espresso
- Lemon verbana
- simple syrup
- Q tonic water
2) Espresso Old-Fashioned — Everyman Espresso, New York
Sam Lewontin of Everyman Espresso has developed several iterations of this drink, which is no longer on the rotating and creative seasonal drinks menu of New York’s Chalait Teahouse, but delicious nonetheless. Everyman has two locations — on 301 East Broadway and in the East Village — as well as an Everyman-to-go catering service.
- Counter Culture Ethiopia Idido espresso
- Orange bitters
- Simple syrup
- Orange garnish
3) Main Squeeze — CocoaCinnamon, Durham, N.C.
CocoaCinnamon is a multi-roaster featuring Huckleberry Roasters, Counter Culture, and Gimme! Coffee, among others. The shop is known for their creative concoctions using chocolates, teas, and spices from around the world. The Main Squeeze is a light, refreshing summertime drink that is as simple as it is delicious. CocoaCinnamon also recently crowdfunded support for a second location in Old West Durham.
- Heart Roasters Stereo Espresso
- San Pellegrino sparkling Aranciata soda
4) Colada Fizz — Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Annapolis, Md.
Ceremony Coffee Roasters is planning to release its summer cocktails in just a few weeks. The Colada Fizz — as well as another drink you’ll see later down the list — was the result of an in-house cocktail competition. The two winning recipes were chosen for the summer menu. A play off the Piña Colada, the drink is breezy and refreshing.
- Ceremony Destroyer Espresso
- Fresh pineapple
- Coconut sugar
- Coconut water
- Carbonated water
- Black cherries
5) SoCo Sparkler — High Five Coffee Bar, Asheville, N.C.
This specialty shop in Asheville has a consistent flow of “Barista’s Choice” cocktails on their updated menu. From there comes the peachy SoCo sparkler, featuring an espresso from the shop’s coffee supplier, Counter Culture.
- Counter Culture Apollo espresso
- House-made sweet peach tea
- Soda water
6) Espresso Tonic with Rosemary — Neptune Coffee, Seattle
Another take on the espresso tonic, but with the aromatic and somewhat jarring addition of rosemary. Originally a spring special, the drink has become so popular that Neptune decided to keep it on the menu full-time. Located in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, Neptune features roasters from around the country, including Kuma, Spyhouse, George Howell, Velton’s Coffee, and Sweet Bloom.
- Spyhouse Coffee Agua Blanca espresso
- Tonic water
- Sprig of rosemary
7) Avery Island Iced Tea — Mojo Coffeehouse, New Orleans
Mojo Coffeehouse offers up seriously thirst-quenching drinks in the Big Easy. This Avery Island Iced Tea may be the tastiest non-alcoholic drink in the city. For boozier selections, Mojo has a full-liquor bar, too.
- Double-filtered espresso
- Ginger ale
- Spritz of lemon and lime
8) East Village Special — Everyman Espresso, New York
Another concoction from Everyman. This one is an improved coffee cola with a distinct summertime twist, featuring Counter Culture’s Hologram espresso, the roastery’s take on a the classic Mocha Java profile.
- Counter Culture Hologram Espresso
- Tiki bitters
- Orange cream citrate
9) Hendrick’s — Five Watt Coffee, Minneapolis
Five Watt Coffee has an extensive list of specialty coffee cocktails, including this one, made with Kickapoo Coffee‘s cold brew. Located in the Kingfield neighborhood, Five Watt is all about community, hosting “Sunday Services” of breakfast food and live music every week for $5.
- Kickapoo cold brew
- Juniper + basil simple syrup
- Grapefruit bitters
10) Mint Mojito Iced Coffee — Philz Coffee, San Francisco
This is possibly the “original” coffee cocktail. Philz Coffee has become a Bay Area favorite and is now planning to expand its “One Cup at a Time” mentality across the US. Their mint mojito will certainly be a hit wherever they decide to set up shop.
- Philz pourover coffee
- Fresh mint leaves
- Simple syrup
- Heavy whipping cream
11) Blood Rush — CocoaCinnamon, Durham, N.C.
Two of brunch’s most beloved drinks daringly combined into a unified whole. Crazy? Maybe. Worth a try? Absolutely!
- Indonesian cold brew coffee
- CocoaCinnamon homemade bloody mary mix (tomato juice, malabar black pepper, ginger root, cumin)
- Topped with parsley
12) Black and Tonic — Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Calgary
Phil and Sebastian just opened a new café in the Simmons Building in Calgary’s East Village neighborhood. This new café features a menu called “From the Lab” that includes new concoctions from baristas. Marketing manager Lauren Popadiuk said these drinks are designed to, “both please and challenge the palate.” This one, another take on espresso and tonic, was developed by barista Karine Ng.
- Fever Tree Tonic
- Concentrated Cold Brew
- Black Cherry Juice
13) The Modern Mazagran — Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Annapolis, Md.
This is the second of Ceremony’s summer drinks. The Mazagran is believed to have originated as strong coffee over ice, requested by French troops in Algeria almost two hundred years ago. It caught on as an Iberian favorite, where it evolved to be made with espresso, lemons, and ice.
- Washed Ethiopia Yirgacheffe cold brew
- Freshly-made lemonade
- Hint of basil
- Xanthan gum (for thickening)
14) The Cold Fashioned — Palace Coffee Company, Canyon, Texas
This delicious drink also supports a great cause. Palace Coffee is donating proceeds from this drink to the Coffee Memorial Blood Center all through July.
- Palace Cold Brew Coffee
- Aromatic bitters
- Orange bitters
- Housemade tart cherry-clove syrup
- Marachino cherry and orange garnish
15) The Morning Woodford — The Daily Press, Charlotte, N.C.
For the year it’s been open, The Daily Press has been a prolific creator of coffee cocktails. Owner Lindsey Pittman said they have created over 30 cocktails to date. This is one of their most popular and has become a staple on the menu.
- Counter Culture Coffee Ethiopia Idido Iced Pourover
- Woodford Reserve Bourbon-infused local honey
- Lavender, hibiscus, and oak crude bitters
- Shaken and dusted with Dutch cocoa powder
What’s your favorite summer coffee cocktail? Mention it in a comment!