Food & Drink

We Asked San Diego Baristas for Their Favorite Coffee Drinks Right Now

Lattes and cappuccinos will always be delicious, but if you’re looking to try something new, the best thing to do is ask a barista what they’re drinking. To help expand your caffeinated beverage repertoire, we tapped nine San Diego baristas to share their favorite coffee beverage, preferably ones us laypeople aren't keen on yet. Here’s what they had to say:


"For my first drink of the day, I typically go for a 6oz breve, a variation on a latte. It's made with half and half instead of milk, which lets the flavor of the espresso shine through without the drink being overly heavy. You get more flavor from the sugars instead of the fat so it automatically sweetens the beverage. You really shouldn’t have to add anything to a breve because you’re getting more of the lactose."
-- Alex McDaniel, Halcyon

Sparkling cascara tea

"Our sparkling cascara tea, which combines Perrier and a splash of simple syrup, really is the perfect coffee drink for San Diego. The bubbles of the Perrier combined with the refreshing nature of the cascara make it a great afternoon pick-me-up, and it's a great way to add cascara, made from the dried skin of the coffee cherry, into your coffee drink rotation."
-- Ryan Sullivan, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters



Editor's note: Depending on who you talk to, a cortado and Gibraltar are two sides of the same coin. Typically equal parts steamed milk and espresso, calling this coffee drink a "Gibraltar" is a wholly West Coast invention and can be traced back to the baristas at Blue Bottle in San Francisco. Cortados have roots in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Ultimately, it comes down to what type of glass you're serving the drink in -- a flat glass or a Gibraltar tumbler, made by Libby.

"The cortado, made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, is my go-to, thanks to its silky texture and bold flavor. Many customers raise an eyebrow when they discover this little gem. Even regulars treat themselves to a cortado once in awhile, and of course, we have those who wouldn't go a day without one."
-- Joe Wesolek, The WestBean Coffee Roasters

“The cortado is my favorite drink because it really showcases the espresso shots combined with just the perfect amount of textured steamed milk. For those coffee drinkers who don’t prefer that much milk but still love the boldness of an espresso shot, like myself, the cortado is the perfect balance."
-- Audreal Gillett, Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

“I really like the Gibraltar, a hot drink made with 2oz of espresso and 2oz of steamed milk. It's a nice balance of the two that isn't too milky. It also allows you to monitor your espresso and your milk steaming abilities without being a straight shot of espresso, which can be a little heavy on the palate.”
-- Daniel Moreno, Coffee & Tea Collective

Cold brew

“My favorite beverage, especially on the sunny San Diego days, is cold brew. It's powerful enough to pull me through my new mom exhaustion, smooth enough to chug like water, and bright enough with or without milk. It’s a good alternative to jet fuel."
 -- Kimberly Moran, Heartwork Coffee Bar

Blueberry/rosemary shaken iced latte

“I’m a purist, so I like black coffee, but we wanted to spice up the menu for the non-black coffee drinkers. We make a simple syrup with fresh blueberries and infuse it with fresh rosemary. It’s more of a flavor bomb than sweet -- we tend to stay away from sweet.”
-- Jason Serres, Bean Bar

Cafe Virtuoso

Iced Chemex

“I adore an iced Chemex, or iced pour over, with a nice Ethiopian coffee. It lends nicely to refreshing characters such as citrus, floral, and fruit-like qualities. I make it the old-fashioned way: just water and coffee! Right now, I love our Ethiopia Red Cherry, which has a very sleek mouthfeel and a floral and cherry-dark chocolate finish. We won an award two years ago with this coffee and it sold out last year before we could buy any, so this year we are very excited to have it back!”
-- Savannah Britton, Cafe Virtuoso

Cafe con leche

“I love the cafe con Leche -- it's our signature drink, and we are one of the only places in San Diego that makes it. With two shots of sweetened Old Havana espresso, it's a perfect blend of just enough caffeine and sweetness to fit everyone's palate."
 -- Jamie Wallace, Azucar

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Erin Jackson is a San Diego-based food writer and photographer who loves sharing her latest finds. If you enjoy food and cat photos, by all means, follow her on Instagram.