If our forays into the art of coffee have taught us anything, it's that there's no shortage of ways to make it.
From Ethiopia, where coffee first originated, to the far shores of Japan, baristas everywhere are finding new ways to serve the basic brew. A swirl of rich dark chocolate, a dash of bitters, a splash of sparkling water, or even spiked for a drink with a slightly stronger constitution—they're all fodder in pursuit of a great cup of coffee.
We asked some of our favorite baristas to spill on their favorite signature drinks: what they order when a standard cup of Joe just doesn’t cut it.
At Water Avenue Coffee in Portland, every espresso beverage gets an extra jolt with The Side Car. Whether you're craving a frothy cappuccino or a trendy flat white, the team at Water Avenue will add a double espresso and a glass of housemade sparkling water to your drink of choice. "It's a way for our customers to enjoy and appreciate an espresso on its own, in addition to their favorite beverage," said Matt Milletto, co-owner of Water Avenue Coffee. Try the house favorite espresso blend, El Toro, for your extra-caffeine kick.
Water Avenue Coffee Company
1028 SE Water Avenue, Suite 145
Sao Paulo, Brazil
"Coffee is something very Brazilian, per se," says Isabela Raposeira, owner of the Coffee Lab and the country's authority on all things caffeinated. "And just by having coffee in it, a drink can [touch] Brazil's roots." Take her refreshing riff on the Italian Shakeratto, for example. Raposeira shakes together two highly acidic ristrettos, lime juice, ice cubes, and sugar until the ice breaks, and serves the drink in a high glass with sparkling water. Sure, Sinatra. They may put coffee in the coffee, but Brazilians are happy to mix coffee with just about anything.
Rua Fradique Coutinho, 1340, Vila Madalena, São Paulo
+55 (11) 3375-7400
For 15 years, Aaron Ultimo has been leading the charge for individually brewed coffee in Philadelphia. At his namesake shop you can order seasonal coffees like La Voz from Guatemala, brewed as drip coffee, espresso, or even in an air press. Order the Old Georgie, a non-alcoholic cocktail, to experience the "eye-poppingly acidic" EK Kangunu Kenyan espresso, mixed with Old Fashioned bitters, lemon zest, and simple syrup served over ice. "Our calling card is non-run-of-the-mill espressos," says Ultimo of the drink. "I [don't] want to mask the subtleties that make the coffee so special."
1900 S. 15th Street, Philadelphia
2149 Catharine Street, Philadelphia
Cape Town, South Africa
"Yes, a namby pamby tip of the hat to the talented cocktail barmen out there," says owner David Donde, "but hell, we are in Africa, where coffee comes from!" Order the Signature Resurection blend, nutty and fruity, with notes of hazelnut, ripe cherries, and macadamia nut. "No sugar required," Donde adds.
36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town
It's little surprise that Nicolas Clerc, owner of Télescope Café in Paris, adores his shop's Noisette—a single shot of espresso, roasted in a HasBean, with a dash of foam to brighten the drink. "It literally means hazelnut," says Clerc, "which can relate to the amount of milk you add or the color it takes." Clerc recommends ordering this classic drink with an equally Parisian snack, the tartine.
5 Rue Villedo, Paris
Turkish coffee is a specialty drink in it of itself. "Although it's a very old, traditional drink," says coffee man Umut Gokdeniz, "it has been overlooked." At his shop, Kronotrop, guests can sample classic Turkish coffee, made from a surprising blend of Mexican and Sulawesi beans. Ultra-fine coffee grounds are stirred, four times, with 10 times the amount of hot water. The mixture is then brewed on a butane stove in a copper pot for just over two minutes. The result? Türk Harman: heavy-bodied, spicy-chocolate coffee. "We're bringing this old-school method to specialty coffee standards," says Gokdeniz. Try a traditional Turkish pastry on the side.
Kronotrop Coffee Bar & Roastery
Locations throughout Istanbul
At The Coffee Collective, co-owner Klaus Thomsen will drink everything from black filter coffee to the utterly uncommon Cascara Soda. Whole, dried coffee cherries are steeped in hot water to create a special syrup, with is later carbonated. Who needs Cola when you have fresh Cascara pop? "It's really refreshing and fruity," says Thomsen, "with a nice buzz from the caffeine." Order it at the Godthåbsvej location, where it was first created. Refreshing, summery, and "a perfect alternative to coffee when the heat starts rising."
The Coffee Collective
Godthåbsvej 34B, Frederiksberg, Denmark +45 6015-1525
Los Angeles, California
In Los Angeles, barista Charles Babinski takes his coffee the way most people take their beer: at a bar, where service takes priority over speed. Playful drinks, such as Business & Pleasure (a shot of espresso served alongside a chilled glass of espresso shaken with housemade almond macadamia milk and dusted with espresso grounds) speak to the city's inherent creativity and go-go-go energy. When Babinski tires of coffee, he's likely to be found at the counter sipping the sparkling tea with hops. On tap, of course.
Grand Central Market
312 S. Broadway, #C19, Los Angeles
New York City, New York
Inspired by the city's classic bottled-espresso soda—Manhattan Special—barista Sam Lewontin offers customers a refreshing, creamy cocktail of sparkling water, Bittermen's Orange Cream Citrate and Elemakaule Tiki Bitters, shaken with ice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a double shot of espresso. "We use [a bean blend] with a cherry-cola quality to it," Lewontin says, "and amp up the flavors with the bitters, which give us a lovely, warming combination of classic island spices." The East Village Special is just one of Lewontin's seasonal coffee specials.
136 East 13th Street, East Village | 301 West Broadway, Soho
Katsu Tanaka, the owner of Bear Pond Espresso, is fondly known as Angel Stain, for the natural marks of espresso marking the edge of the cups he serves in his shop. "[The stains] are angels…a natural part of the espresso-brewing process," says Tanaka. His signature creation, simply called Dirty, features espresso layered in cold milk with dark and milk chocolate. The drink is served in a simple mason jar and emphasizes Tanaka's favorite espresso blend: decidedly chocolate in flavor.
Bear Pond Espresso
2-36-12 Kitazawa Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
If you find yourself in Plaza Vieja, stop by this indoor/outdoor café for the Carajillo. Baristas, like Elio Hernandez Hernandez, brew the local Cuban beans (roasted and ground onsite) and serve the drip coffee hot with five-year-rum. Need to sweeten things up? Some customers ask for whipped cream on top, or stir in sugar. "Use brown, not white," warns Hernandez, "because of the flavor."
Café El Escorial
Mercaderes No 317 Esquina a Muralla, Plaza Vieja, Havana +53 7868-3545
At Dublin’s 3fe, form and flavor are inseparable. The café, owned by Colin Harmon, may be the first to serve coffee on tasting menus. Various brews (from Nicaragua, Colombia, and Costa Rica) are served side-by-side, to “reintroduce people to espresso,” says Harmon. Try the Trio: a single bean brewed as an espresso, a filter coffee, and a macchiato. Best of all? The unique five-ounce ceramic cups are made locally in Wicklow.
32 Grand Canal Street Lwr, Dublin 2, Ireland