13 Innovative Cold Brew Drinks from Coffee Shops Around the Country
Beat the heat with cherry juice, hop syrup, and coconut cordial.
Sometime in the past decade, there was a serious tipping point in the coffee world. While pourover drinks were busy obsessing over tasting notes, cold coffee boomed in popularity, becoming a staple on grocery store shelves, and even surpassing hot drinks in popularity at Starbucks.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a frappuccino topped with a crown of whipped cream, creative cafes around the country have been raising the bar on cold coffees by adding everything from hop syrup to cherry juice.
Here are 13 of our favorites from around the country—including a few options available on grocery store shelves.
It’s been a long seven years since Milktooth was crowned one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants, but the creative Indianapolis diner hasn’t lost a step when it comes to their coffee game. The most unique chilled drink on the menu is the Peel Sessions (espresso, peach basil lime soda, nitrate). The drink is named after taste-making British radio DJ John Peel, whose radio recording sessions include live sets by everyone from AC/DC to Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Black Splash Nitro
Coffee roasting isn’t rocket science, but Dark Matter treats it as such by experimenting with fermentation, hopping, and barrel-aging in the style of a craft brewery. The shop has a robust selection of canned cold ones (that you can buy online), but its four Chicago locations are the best place to try the Black Splash Nitro. Served on draft (but not over ice), the beans behind this foamy treat change regularly, and are aged in everything from rum to barleywine barrels, adding a new depth to the heat-beating beverage.
Now with a second location, Fleet is one of the few shops in Austin sticking with a multi-roaster model, bringing in beans from nationally lauded coffee companies like Denver’s Sweet Bloom and NYC’s Parlor, as well as locals Wild Gift for good measure. In addition to pitch-perfect pour overs, the “Coffee And” menu breaks the mold with ingredients like steamed Oreo-infused milk. But for those brutal Texas summers, go cold with the Hopped Up, a drink starts with a base of iced coffee, then gets a splash of phosphate, hop syrup, grapefruit juice, and a sprig of mint.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Madcap has always claimed a spot on our list of best coffee roasters for its meticulously sourced beans (which you can buy online), but for those in the mood for a never-before-experienced flavor, this Michigan roastery also has you covered. Of its seasonal drinks, the most velvety is the Lou Reed, which amps up their cold coffee by adding rich ingredients like tamarind and coconut cordial.
Malt Iced Coffee
Given Portland’s renowned culinary scene, Tandem’s Bakery location is everything you’d expect and more. Wash down one of its decadent cacio e pepe scones with an iced coffee drink that keeps it simple, but still breaks the mold. The drink inches towards milkshake territory with a few drops of liquid malt extract concentrate.
The Cool Hunter
San Francisco, California
Located within two blocks of Dolores Park, Spro is an inventive cafe that has provided the caffeination for many a summer picnic. For coffee nerd types, there are multi-paragraph descriptions of the roasting and harvesting processes of the beans (which come from Black and White Coffee in North Carolina). While you can’t go wrong with a traditional hot drink, most people come for the inventive cold coffee menu—good luck finding another cafe making bergamot infusions. For the highest refreshment value, try the Cool Hunter, a fizzy club soda concoction with grapefruit bitters, elderflower, and cold brew.
Santa Cruz, California
For those who find cold brew or flash-brew iced coffee tough on the stomach, Verve has a standout summertime drink that goes down a little easier. Their espresso tonic is nothing fancy, but the quinine in the tonic water adds a subtle complexity without overpowering the rich flavors of its Streetlevel espresso blend. These cafes are some of the most beautiful in California, with excellent atmospheres for enjoying the drink alongside a radish-topped slice of avocado toast.
Vietnamese Cold Brew
Years before millennials began fleeing the East and West Coasts for Nashville, Barista Parlor started building a reputation as one of the best shops in town. But since opening one location in East Nashville in 2012, the brand has now expanded to eight total shops—including an outpost in the airport. BP changes its seasonal menu regularly, and summer drinks are already on their way out, but one of their reliable staples is the Vietnamese Cold Brew, which levels up the drink’s traditional recipe by spiking the sweetened condensed milk with lemongrass and ginger.
There will likely be a La Colombe near you soon, and if not, odds are you can find its canned lattes at the local Whole Foods. But in addition to being one of the pioneers of the RTD cold coffee biz, the brand also keeps the menus at its cafes fresh with on-tap seasonal cold drinks. Currently the move is the Pontaluna Punch, which mixes real cherry juice and cold brew.
305 Espresso Lemonade
In the early 2010s, Panther Coffee was one of Miami’s first third wave coffee shops. Now after over a decade in business, the company has six local cafes serving a few sweet and decadent cold drinks alongside a rotating selection of single origin beans brewed hot to order. The addition of real vanilla bean to nitro cold brew makes for a creamy treat, but the drink you won’t find anywhere else is the 305 Espresso Lemonade, made with locally crafted juice and fresh spearmint syrup.
New Orleans Style Iced Coffee
Now with over 100 locations worldwide, Blue Bottle is one of the most recognizable names in the coffee industry. Early on, Kyoto-style slow drip cold brew was a big part of its identity, but the style of iced drink that’s now most synonymous with Big Blue hails from Louisiana. During the Civil War, residents of New Orleans suffered from a shipping blockade that cut off deliveries of coffee beans, leading desperate coffee lovers to ration their beans by mixing chicory root into the grounds. The addition results in a unique flavor that’s just a half-step away from the cold brew you know and love. And for bonus points, Blue Bottle sells its chicory iced coffee in an adorable mini milk carton.
Hood Famous is located in Seattle’s Publix Building, which in the early 1900s served as a hotel that was popular with the city’s Asian communities, and is one of only six buildings that remain in Chinatown International District from that era. The location makes for a fitting home for Hood Famous, which pays homage to the city’s Filipino population with a food menu featuring dishes like corned beef butterfly pea buns, and creative drinks like the iced pandan latte. But once the sun sets, the cafe transforms into a full bar, which includes a coffee-powered mocktail called the Cold Fashioned (Philippine Kalsada cold brew, maple syrup, lemon juice, and bitters).
Salted Strawberry Cold Brew
New York, New York
With over 20 cafes including outposts in Brooklyn, Westchester and on Governors Island, Joe has grown from its Greenwich Village roots to become one of the most reliable chains in the city when it comes to finding a soul-warming cup of coffee. As for chilled drinks, the menu features a few fun non-coffee options like an iced turmeric latte or rotating single origin flash brew. But for those looking for a perfect mix of savory and sweet, the best order is the Salted Strawberry Cold Brew, which features strawberry honey syrup, oat milk, and just a hint of salt and Aleppo pepper to soften the sweetness of the fruit flavors.