It’s warm enough early enough these days that the first thing you probably want to drink in the morning is not so much a very hot mug of coffee as much as it probably is a very cold glass of iced coffee.
Coffee shops around town have all sorts of fun, summery takes on your everyday cold brew. Below, eight creative, refreshing caffeinated options.
Nitro cold brew
It’s hard not to be drawn to nitro cold brew, if only because of that name: it sounds more like a turbo boost in “Mario Kart” than something on the menu at your local coffee shop. But a coffee drink it is, one that involves taking nitrogen gas and adding it to cold brewed coffee; the amped-up concoction is then pressurized, kegged and dispensed via a tap system not unlike one for pouring beer.
It’ll even look similar to a Guinness as it pours, with bubbles cascading in the glass and a soft layer of foam that settles atop the drink. But the nitrogen doesn’t just provide nifty visual effects; it also gives the coffee a profound texture and creaminess that you don’t often find in traditional cold brews.
Quite a few shops now have nitro systems set up behind their bar, including Blacktop Coffee, H Coffee House, Verve Coffee Roasters, Demitasse and Stumptown Coffee Roasters. At Stumptown, the nitro cold brew is on tap alongside the non-nitrogenated version, so if you have the constitution of Balzac, you can try them both. Stumptown also has its nitro brew in 11-ounce cans, which are available at its cafe and at Whole Foods.
Baristas aren’t just looking to beer for inspiration; they’re getting ideas from the entire liquor cabinet. And thus we now have espresso tonics — espresso, plus tonic water, over ice — and how much you like this fizzy drink depends greatly on much you like tonic water.
If you’re partial to tonic’s particular bite of bitterness, you may very well like how it plays off espresso. Try, then, the espresso tonics at Cognoscenti Coffee in Culver City and at Menotti’s Coffee Stop in Venice (the latter makes its espresso tonic with Four Barrel beans and finishes it with an orange zest). Stumptown Coffee Roasters released a slightly different take on the combination earlier this summer, made with cold brewed coffee, Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water and cherry syrup.
Iced Spanish Latte
Should you find yourself at Menotti’s Coffee Stop on your way to the beach — the shop is right off the Venice boardwalk — you may want to consider not just its espresso tonic, but also its Iced Spanish Latte. Here, Four Barrel coffee is balanced well against organic sweetened condensed milk and flavored with a bit of cinnamon.
Christopher “Nicely” Abel Alameda, who helms the shop, says it’s a bit reminiscent of how his grandmother used to take her coffee. It’s an absolutely lovely drink, one made even lovelier by the fact that when you take it to go, you need only walk west for a minute and you’ll be on the sand. Pull out your book — the new Shirley Jackson collection, maybe — sip the drink, and you’ll have yourself a very, very nice day at the beach indeed.
One of the many fine drinks at Koreatown’s Document Coffee Bar is its Document Cold, a take on the classic New Orleans-style coffee. Like many versions of that drink, Document infuses cold brewed coffee with chicory and adds milk.
Unlike most other versions of that drink, Document sweetens the drink not with sugar but with Grade A maple syrup — just enough, really, to deepen the flavors of the chicory and coffee. As the jugs of maple syrup stacked in the corner of the shop might tell you, this is one of Document’s most popular drinks.
Makrut lime and Malbec cold brew latte
At Cognoscenti Coffee’s pop-up inside the Scoops ice cream shop in Chinatown, Jack Benchakul has a cold brew latte enhanced with zest and juice from makrut limes and a heady Malbec wine reduction.
It’s a nice, refreshing way to start or end your Chinatown walking tour, or to fuel yourself before jumping on the 110. While you’re here, do consider the fact that you are standing in front of an espresso machine inside an ice cream shop. Yes, affogatos are on the menu, too.
Bangkok Iced Coffee
Elsewhere in Chinatown, Chimney Coffee steeps cardamom and chicory in the rich coffee concentrate brewed drop by drop on its Kyoto dripper and combines it with evaporated and condensed milk. The Bangkok Iced Coffee is about as sweet as you might expect it to be, and the cardamom provides a pleasant, subtle note.
And if you fear the ice cubes will water everything down, you can melt coffee into your coffee instead: Chimney also freezes some of its brew into ice cubes, which you can add for a buck.
It isn’t summer in Los Angeles until you’ve had a cold, crisp horchata, and there are many places where you can find it spiked with an espresso shot or two. Tierra Mia Coffee has perhaps the definitive version — the shop also makes terrific Horchata Frappes — and you’ll also find satisfying horchata lattes at Cofax on Fairfax and Cafe de Leche in Highland Park.
The Business and Pleasure
Many of the drinks at G&B Coffee and Go Get Em Tiger, the coffee bars co-owned by Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, seem ready made for summer, including the espresso milkshake and what has been called the Best Iced Latte in America. But for those whose summers involve not only vacations and beaches, but also work and working, the most philosophically summery of all their offerings might just be the Business and Pleasure.
This is a drink flight that starts you off with an espresso and a sparkling tea (the Business); both will be more than enough to power you through those morning emails. What then follows is a serious contender for the Best Iced Cappuccino in America, made with almond-macadamia nut milk and a dusting of espresso grounds, served in a chilled, frosted glass. In case it’s not obvious, that’s the Pleasure. Work, then play. Summer for most of us.