grub guides

Where to Find New York’s Most Eye-Opening Coffee Cocktails

An Australian take on the classic espresso martini. Photo: Melissa Hom

For most of human history, any conversation about cocktails mixed with coffee began and ended with the espresso martini. No longer. The New York City bar scene is overflowing with creative, original cocktails that feature all manner of coffee liqueur, amaro, espresso, and cold brew. “I got into the bar world after working in a coffee roastery, so working with coffee flavors in a cocktail context was a natural progression,” says Pouring Ribbons bartender Erika DiSantis. “But I think for a lot of bartenders it’s a more sophisticated approach to meeting the need of a guest who’s looking for something like a vodka and Red Bull.” Below, a baker’s dozen of coffee cocktails that are worth the jitters in New York City.

Cafecito Anticuado
Where: Broken Shaker
How Much: $16

Leave it to this Miami-born chain of high-end bars to bring a little bit of Havana to New York. This drink is modeled after cafecitos, sweetened shots of espresso, and Broken Shaker’s version ends up tasting like a classic old-fashioned with a dash of espresso, thanks to the addition of Mr. Black coffee amaro.

Reality Check
Where: Dead Rabbit
How Much: $18

At this famous FiDi cocktail den, the team begins with their take on the classic New Orleans specialty, café brûlot, a flaming tableside tradition made with black coffee, citrus, cloves, cinnamon, and brandy. Then, because this is a New York cocktail bar in the year 2019, Dead Rabbit gilds the lily by adding togarashi, honey-and-vanilla syrup, pineapple, Cognac, and Scotch to create a drink that’s equal parts boozy, tropical, and spice forward. (However, perhaps owing to local fire codes, Dead Rabbit’s version is flame-free.)

The Espresso Martini and the But First Coffee …
Where: Sonnyboy
How Much: $15

It’s a fact that Australians are, on the whole, very good at coffee. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that this two-month-old all-day Australian café features two different coffee cocktails on its menu. The espresso martini is a tried-and-true classic, featuring coffee liqueur, simple syrup, vodka, and Nicaraguan espresso from nearby Cafe Integral. Meanwhile, the (awkwardly named) But First Coffee veers sharply off the beaten path with a combination of mezcal and tequila mingling with cold brew. It’s salty, smoky, and totally unexpected.

Van Đa’s version of an espresso martini nods to Vietnamese coffee traditions. Photo: Melissa Hom

50 CCs
Where: Van Đa
How Much: $12

Imagine what would happen if a White Russian met Vietnamese-style coffee, which famously involves drizzling condensed milk into iced pour-over coffee. Bartender Andrew Pisano tames his drink’s sweetness with highly aromatic cardamom and a generous pour of Tito’s vodka.

Pretty Ricky Kiss of Death
Where: Paper Daisy
How Much: $14

At this new East Village bar, the coffee cocktail gets the wellness treatment: coconut water, orgeat, lemon juice, and Angostura are mixed with a rum, amaro, and cold-brew coffee base, served over crushed ice. It’s like the ultimate pick-me-up.

White Flag
Where: Existing Conditions
How Much: $16

This sugar-bomb cocktail is appropriately referred to as a “hazelnut mudslide” on the bar’s menu, and that’s because it’s made with the oft-maligned hazelnut liqueur Frangelico. Think of it as a fancy version of coffee with flavored creamer.

The Tiger Chilled Coffee from Dutch Kills. Photo: Noah Fecks

Tiger Chilled Coffee
Where: Dutch Kills
How Much: $15

The cold-brew coffee base of this rum cocktail comes from local fave Cafe Grumpy. Some allspice adds Christmassy notes to the final product, plus a lifting spritz of absinthe for a not-unpleasant note of licorice.

Cold Brew Negroni
Where: The Penrose
How Much: $12

Despite the name, this drink is really more like a spiked coffee than a classic negroni: The bar team ditches the gin and instead combines nitro cold brew with Campari and sweet vermouth for a cocktail that’s surprisingly balanced (and only lightly boozy).

The Empire is as fun as it gets. Photo: Noah Fecks

Where: Pouring Ribbons
How Much: $16

The coffee cocktail gets an appropriately over-the-top tiki treatment: The combination of three aged liquors (eight-year rum, five-year madeira, and four-year brandy) with orgeat, lime juice, and a coffee-cinnamon–blood-orange syrup made with coffee grounds. Add some gold dust and, of course, an umbrella, and you’re set for the night. (In classic tiki tradition, you’d also be well advised not to have more than one or two of these in a single sitting.)

Cold Brew Martini
Where: The Campbell
How Much: $20

This cocktail from the bar inside Grand Central Terminal features vanilla syrup, coffee liqueur, and vodka. The generous addition of citrusy cold-brew coffee lightens things up — and will help give you the burst of energy you’ll need to catch that last train home.

Spotted Elephant
Where: Amor Y Amargo
How Much: $15

Drinkers of black coffee, this one’s for you: dark rum, molasses bitters, J. Rieger coffee amaro, and sweet vermouth are stirred over ice and served straight up —no frills.

Coquito Loco
Where: The Richardson
How Much: $13

This take on Puerto Rico’s classic coquito features coconut and macadamia milk plus coffee amaro, cinnamon, and nutmeg and a mixture of rum and brandy. Get some soon, before the weather warms up too much.

Where to Find New York’s Most Eye-Opening Coffee Cocktails