With iced-coffee season in full swing, it’s refreshing to come across purveyors who make a bit more of an effort than pouring hot brew over stale ice cubes. Visitors to Buonitalia at Chelsea Market can experience the drink’s next wave—a rich, smooth espresso shot served in a molded ice sleeve (pictured, below), invented in Italy and debuted here last month at a Milan design show. The Icy Drink, used in Europe for cocktails, keeps beverages cold but not watery: The ice melts downward, dripping into a reservoir at the bottom of its custom-made glass. There are other technological innovations that undoubtedly improve the flavor and concentration of that ubiquitous summertime pick-me-up—a cold-brewing process, cubes made from coffee itself—and then there are a couple of superior classic versions, made carefully and served elegantly. Here are our seven favorites, in order of preference.
$3.50; 75 Ninth Ave., nr. 15th St.; 212-633-9090.
2. Zibetto Espresso Bar
The fine Italian art of the caffe shakerato (vigorously shaking espresso with ice and sugar in a cocktail shaker and straining it with a flourish into a glass) is rarely practiced in New York. At Zibetto, it’s done to perfection, the chilled Danesi espresso served atop the white-tiled marble bar ($3; 1385 Sixth Ave., nr. 56th St.; no phone).
3. Sant Ambroeus
To the Upper East Side crowd for whom sipping ritzy espresso drinks while rubbing soigné elbows at the marble bar is practically a religious experience, summer would be unimaginably uncivilized without this well-crafted iced latte presented in a tall, substantial glass ($5; 1000 Madison Ave., nr. 77th St.; 212-570-2211).
4. Full City Coffee
Co-owner Nguyen Huynh has adapted his grandmother’s recipe for sweet, strong Vietnamese iced coffee: chicory, condensed milk, and dark-roasted beans—in this case, Batdorf & Bronson’s French roast ($3.50 for a sixteen-ounce cup; 409 Grand St., nr. Clinton St.; 212-260-2363).
5. Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Oversize ice cubes made from Illy coffee don’t dilute the strength or flavor of the drink itself. Even better: an affogato, a scoop of creamy gelato drowned in espresso ($2 for a sixteen-ounce cup; 95 Orchard St., nr. Broome St.; 212-343-9922).
6. Think Coffee
This sprawling new NYU-area Fair Trade coffee bar keeps its young, caffeine-dependent audience coming back for more, thanks in part to its use of the cold-brew method it touts as the best way to serve iced coffee that is smooth and less acidic but flavorful ($2.25 for a sixteen-ounce cup; 248 Mercer St., nr. W. 3rd St.; 212-228-6226).
7. Blue Ribbon Bakery Market
The problem with serving coffee cold is that it tends to highlight the bean’s bitterness, especially if you start with a too dark roast. Blue Ribbon’s solution is to use a smooth blend, slosh it around with some half-and-half, and sweeten it ever so delicately with artisanal honey painstakingly produced on a Puebla farm ($3.50 for a pint; 14 Bedford St., nr. Downing St.; 212-647-0408).