5 stand-out summer drinks from Santa Cruz, California

In a beachside town that is built on summer vibes cold drinks of coffee shine.



Photo featured by James Coleman; all other photos taken by Eddie P. Gomez

Specialty-coffee shops have come this far and are so accessible that it’s almost like wherever you travel, you’ll find at least one excellent shop. Some cities have plenty of coffee shops to keep a coffee-loving person satiated throughout the day and Santa Cruz, Calif. is one of those. In fact, many of the most praised coffee brands around the world consider the diverse, coastal city–known for its surf culture art, boardwalk amusement park – home.

Since it’s the season of the year when Santa Cruz shines its brightest We took a trip to try the fantastic unique summertime cocktails available in five of Santa Cruz’s most popular shops.

The Creamy Beige

Cat & Cloud, various locations

The Creamy Beige at Cat & Cloud.

If three baristas talk about the same drink in the blink of an eye, it’s something to try. Cat & Cloud baristas Dulce and Leah welcomed me warmly into the shop, and were kind enough to guide me through the ingredients listed in Cat &Cloud’s most loved summer beverage, The Creamy Beige.

The drink is a slow sip dream that comes true on hot days. It is made with espresso and ice, half-and-half condensed milk, vegan chocolate. then topped with decaf powder the milkshake-like drink is an item to be admired as a light dessert that delivers an overload of flavor.

The granita-textured ice enables the drinker to savor the ice-concentrated middle , or drink from the edges of the cup, from where the creamy flows, which enhances the drink’s consistency a major feature. Notes of peanut butter are emitted from the the condensed milk with vegan chocolate, making the Creamy Beige a taste-centered prodigy with a smoky personality and a drink worth checking out.

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Lavender Cold Brew

The Ugly Mug, 4640 Soquel Drive, Soquel, Calif.

Lavender Coldbrew at The Ugly Mug

Just a stone’s distance from the center of Santa Cruz, The Ugly Mug Coffeehouse located in Soquel is described by one barista as “pretty ugly with a the purpose.” The place has a warm, inviting atmosphere that is thankfully not a lot to say about its potential to provide great coffee that has been serving customers since.

The success is due to three things of knowledgeable baristas, a great ambience, and delicious coffee. Barista Kate was gracious enough to talk about the best cold drink that could be the perfect choice for making my day more enjoyable and we decided on simple cold brew, that was sweetened by lavender syrup.

The cold brew served at The Ugly Mug is a study in balance. The intensity of flavor and the absence of bitterness created an unmistakable smoothness. With a sassy blast of fragrant lavender, the initial sip were lingering and fell upon my tongue like a slow sun setting near the coast.

The Cascara Jamaica Spritzer

Verve Coffee, various locations

Cascara Jamaican Spritzer at Verve Coffee

The Jamaica Cascara Spritzer is served up Instagram-ready–just what you would expect from one of specialty coffee’s most iconic U.S. brands. A glance at the spritzer reveals to the user that they’re about get a taste of tropical freshness.

The drink’s cascara tea-based base initially gives the taste of a pow however, the taste of honeyed tea is the predominant flavor. The taste is dominant by the Jamaica flower’s scent. The contrast caused my taste buds to go into hyperdrive, aided by the spritzer’s bubbling.

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If they had intended the drink to be enjoyed in this beach town, Verve Coffee did their research. The drink perfectly is a reflection of Santa Cruz’s philosophy of a lively connection to the ocean, and a laid-back lifestyle. The spritzer is a great option for a stroll to Pleasure Point to watch surfers ride huge waves on a sunny summer day.

Raspberry Kyoto Cold Brew

The Roxa Hammock Cafe 110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz, Calif.

Raspberry Kyoto Cold Brew available at Roxa Hammock Cafe.

The Roxa Hammock Cafe is an alternative beverage shop with an California beach-goth design that is captivating in equal measure. It also invites guests to sit back and relax on one of the signature hammocks or comfortable couches.

The website for the shop describes the location as “art alchemy, organic food focusing on healthful microbiome and detoxification.” The menu offers numerous drinks and innovative combinations of tinctures and elixirs crafted to promote health, a spiritual connection, or simply an overall uplifting Santa Cruz vibe.

I was awed by how enthusiastic the baristas were when they were exploring the menu along with me. We chose Kyoto Cold Brew, made with a honey and raspberry mix that they made fresh using a mortar and a pestle. The resultant mocktail’s tea-like body and tamarind notes finished perfectly with a pleasant and fruity aftertaste. All that was left was lie in an oversized hammock and do some reading before taking a stroll to the boardwalk to take a walk around the haunted home.

Chicory Brewed Iced Coffee

Lulu Carpenter’s, 1545 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, Calif.

Chicory Brewed Iced Coffee in Lulu Carpenter’s.

It’s not common to find chicory in an exclusive coffee shop which is why when I saw it featured on the menu at Lulu Carpenter’s, I had to give it a go. The herbaceous woody plant was utilized to create “coffee” in times of war to provide soldiers who didn’t have access to the actual stuff.

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The barista was gracious enough to let me try the coffee when I asked for an ice-cold coffee before mixing it in the drink. I was pleasantly surprised by how the earthy flavors of the chicory root mingled with the coffee, with neither of the flavors being overpowering by the other. In the drink it was sweetened and finished with a splash of half-and-half.

The flavor imparted by the chicory was nearly indistinguishable however it was still enough to make me aware of the distinct and delicious effect it imparted to the coffee. It was the perfect beverage to sip while I walked through thrift shops and art galleries.


Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a freelance writer from Modesto, Calif. When he’s not in kindergarten, he flits from city to town, perfecting the art of coffee and food adventure.

This article was first published at Barista Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to baristas and coffee professionals.

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