When June’s humid haze descends, New Yorkers drink iced coffee. Commuters grasp their squishy clear cups, condensation running down their wrists. Cafes measure days in plastic lids. In New York, iced coffee isn’t a simple summer drink — it symbolizes the New Yorker’s commitment to the city.
Whether from Starbucks, Blue Bottle or the cart on the corner, New Yorkers buy more iced coffee than any other city in America. The environment demands it. Crowded streets amplify the heat and poorly ventilated apartments offer little relief. But a city that esteems its velocity requires fuel and so cool coffees replace hot ones. The switch is simple. Brew coffee, chill it in the fridge and throw in ice cubes before serving. This formula unites New York’s diverse iced coffees.
New York boasts more iced coffee variations than Starbucks does simple syrups. Add ice cubes made from coffee; buy cold brew concentrate from the grocery store; sip on New Orleans-style iced coffee infused with chicory; or wait for a pricey cold brew. If New Yorkers embrace cold-brew mania, it’s because their coffee shop serves it. Unlike hot coffee’s litany of extras, choosing iced coffee is the choice. The guy in plaid shirt clutches a Starbucks cup, the girl in the black dress one from Joe and the kid with the afro grips one sans-logo. Together, they’re New York’s iced coffee drinkers.
Whereas warm coffee inspires debates as to flavours and the best cafes, iced coffee elicits these arguments for a few weeks at the start of summer. During this time, AM New York and The Daily News publish a flurry of stories about cold coffee mania. But iced coffee isn’t a trend. Personal preferences are established before the summer’s first cup. He automatically poured in milk, she mechanically drizzled in agave and the kid instinctually added nothing. While clear plastic cups reveal these changes, the underlying brew unifies the differences. It’s iced coffee and the motivation for drinking remains the same: struggling through a New York summer, trying to keep it together.