Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Iced Coffee – The Hot New Trend. Or Not.

When the days get warm, I start to long for a nice iced coffee. Sometimes I swing into my favorite coffee shop as I’m out running errands or shuttling offspring from one meeting to the next. More often, though, I set up the percolator on the stove and brew a nice big pot. Since I’m one of two coffee drinkers in the house, that big pot doesn’t have to be tremendously huge. Eight cups of brewed coffee produces many delicious glasses of iced java in my kitchen.

Coffee percolator and glass of iced coffee. An open book sits in front of the coffee maker and glass. Text on image reads Make Yourself a 1920s Iced Coffee.
Enjoy a refreshing vintage cold cuppa while perusing the pages of a 1920s book.

Once the percolator does its thing and the coffee is nice, hot, and fresh, I let it sit for a bit. If you use a percolator at home, you know that fresh brewed coffee is hot. Really hot. It’s a lot hotter than any coffee that comes from a drip machine. So I let the percolator sit for a bit if I only brewed the coffee to ice it.

After the coffee is reasonably cool, I fix myself a beautiful glass of iced goodness. If I’m feeling especially decadent I add some chocolate syrup so I have iced chocolately java goodness. How thankful we are that the coffee shops of the 1990s introduced us to the wonderful reality of iced coffee in the summer!

Hold on a minute. The all-knowing Internet says that iced coffee (the frappé version) was invented in 1957. In Greece. By a Nescafe salesman who couldn’t find hot water when he needed it.

If you read the article at the link, and then look at the recipe below, what the sales rep was attempting to do was create an established drink, the frappé, without ice or ice cream to chill and thicken it. And using instant Nescafe coffee instead of brewed coffee. He did come up with a new taste and texture for a frappé, but the drink itself was well known.

Photo of iced coffee from 1920. Glass topped with whipped cream, with two straws for drinking.
This is iced coffe in 1920. Refreshing, cool, and topped with sweet whipped cream.

Let’s turn the clock back a little. While paging through a magazine that arrived in U. S. mailboxes during the summer of 1920, I found a photo and caption extolling the deliciousness of iced coffee. The food editor suggested topping it with sweet whipped cream and serving with a straw. Sound a bit familiar? The process was so simple that no detailed recipe appears with the photo. Pour chilled coffee over ice into a glass. Add a nice inch-high dollop of whipped cream to the top and stick a straw into the glass. Serve.

And then, only a few years later, a cookbook featured a selection of iced coffee recipes. Instead of one “pour fresh coffee over ice and drink” suggestion, readers received almost an entire page of tantalizing coffee recipes. The iced coffee revolution had arrived. The year: 1924.

Here are four of those iced coffee recipes, written in current language. I include the original base recipe plus three variations. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, an electric blender or smoothie maker will work. Blend just until mixed. You don’t want to heat up the coffee after chilling it and mixing it with ice or ice cream.

So the next time you take a refreshing drink of ice-cold coffee, you can thank vintage cooks going back to 1920 and maybe even as far back as 1840s Algeria. But that’s another story.

Iced Coffee for a Warm Day

This 1920s iced coffee recipe and its variations will keep you historically cool on hot days.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Cooling Time2 hours
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: coffee, cold, Frappe, iced


  • Coffee maker
  • Cocktail shaker (for frappé or frosted variation)


  • 4 tbsp coffee ground for your coffee maker
  • water to fill the coffee maker to the 4-serving line
  • 4 tbsp sugar optional; may use less (or more) to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (double cream) optional; may use less (or more) to taste
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream For Frosted Coffee variation
  • 3 cups ginger ale OR apple cider For Cider or Ginger Ale variation
  • ice to fill 4 glasses 1/3 – 1/2 full preferably crushed


  • Brew 4 cups of coffee.
  • Let cool for at least 2 hours, especially if you use a percolator or another method that produces very hot coffee. If making this in advance, chill in the refrigerator for several hours.
  • Fill each glass halfway with ice, and then pour the cooled coffee over.
  • Add sugar and cream to taste.

Frappé Coffee Variation

  • Fill a cocktail shaker 1/3 with ice, heavy cream, and sugar. Add freshly-made chilled or cooled coffee and shake. Serve. Repeat for the other three servings.

Frosted Coffee Variation

  • Combine 1 cup strong, chilled coffee with 2 tablespoons of vanilla ice cream in a cocktail shaker. Shake until the ice cream dissolves, and serve. Repeat for other three servings.

Iced Coffee with Apple Cider or Ginger Ale

  • Fill each glass 1/4 full with ice. Add 1/2 cup chilled or cooled coffee, and then top with cider or ginger ale — one or the other, not both.