Drinks

Coffee Meets Cocktail

The line between cocktails and iced coffees gets deliciously blurred
Stumptown Coffee Tonic
Photo: Courtesy of Stumptown

From tonic water to infused simple syrups to garnishes, the lines between cocktails and iced coffees are being increasingly blurred this summer. All that's missing is the booze.

For example, consider the cold brew tonic introduced at select Stumptown caf├ęs nationwide this month. Although coffee tonics aren't exactly new, this version crosses over further into cocktail territory with the addition of cherry syrup and a Luxardo cherry garnish. (Making it couldn't be simpler: In a tall glass filled with ice, mix three ounces of the cold brew concentrate with a six-ounce bottle of Fever-Tree tonic water and half a teaspoon of cherry syrup. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and serve with a straw.)

Elsewhere, Toby's Estate in New York also nods to cocktail culture with its summer-only espresso julep, spiked with mint- and basil-infused syrup. Houndstooth Coffee in Texas also takes on the julep genre with its coffee julep: Muddled mint leaves are blended with espresso, then topped with fizzy Pellegrino.

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At Everyman Espresso in New York, we've witnessed simple syrup measured into drinks using jiggers. And perhaps inspired by Italy's shakerato (or maybe just inspired by a busted milk frother), we've spotted a growing number of baristas in recent months using cocktail shakers to chill drinks or froth milk. In New Orleans, Spitfire Coffee mixes in bitters from Bittermens, another NOLA favorite; a cortado laced with Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters adds layers of chocolate and spice.

Some might say this trend has been peeking over the horizon for some time, considering the advent of coffee-centric cocktails at bars like Amor y Amargo in New York, whose weekends-only Double Buzz sessions feature a collaboration between barista and bartender. Yet it's taken a little longer for the coffee side to catch up. Fortunately, the wait is now over: It's time to put the "bar" back into "coffee bar."

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