9 Things To Know About The New Starbucks Empire State Building Reserve Store

Unlike most cities in modern America, New York steamrolls its recent history in as many instances as it preserves it. Once in a while, though, a thoughtful new venture merges legacy with innovation. Take the brand new Starbucks Reserve store at the Empire State Building which pays tribute to the original architectural intentions of its iconic towering home while offering a number of modern flourishes. The sprawling, multi-floor location is big and bold enough to rival the Starbucks Reserve Roastery down in the Meatpacking District and offers plenty of appeal for both locals and tourists alike.  

You can think of it as the ultimate manifestation of the famous Starbucks holiday menu — though you'll find coffee cups here that you'll want to keep long after those annual red cup releases are in the recycling bin. Beyond the company standards, you'll find a restaurant, a full-service bar (and we're not just talking java), and various other amenities which set this location apart from your average Starbucks. Let's take a closer look at all the ways coffee cravers can consume their favorite brand through more than just beverages (but there will be more of those than you can keep up with as well).

Savor fresh grounds on hallowed ones

Housed in the former Heartland Brewery, the new Starbucks Reserve made some big changes to the layout and design of the 23,000-square foot space across three floors (concourse, ground floor, and second floor), but those changes actually restored the original prestige of an Empire State Building address. Raising the entrance floor to its original level, and revealing the windows to their full height were just some of the ways Starbucks restored its new space. The façade and storefront are now as they were nine decades back when the building first opened.

On the second floor's bar and restaurant level, Starbucks has exposed a portion of the hand-riveted structural steel girders from their cement casings for an urban look that emphasizes the strength underlying its retro-chic Art Deco design, perfectly at home with that movement's most famous building in the world. It's the wiser way to touch a piece of history for the price of a cocktail instead of a tour with a long wait. The company even matched the type of brick composition found within these walls to maintain a continuity of construction.

It's part art gallery

Entering the Empire State Building Starbucks Reserve, you're immediately greeted by a fun and funky take on the company's famous siren by artist and Instagram star Jade Purple Brown. Her boldly saturated colors in a primary sunset palette evoke everything from The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" to "Electric Company" to a pack of Life Savers. Set in a diorama, the piece is striking, and an outright statement that Starbucks is willing to try new things here. Visitors can buy the design on different types of merchandise, like an insulated, bamboo to-go mug, but you'd better move fast: The featured artists rotate through seasonally.

Taking the stairs, you're greeted by a multi-story mural by Brooklyn-based artist Dana Tanamachi depicting the fusion of Starbucks' values and New York City. The three-floor, hand-painted piece was conceived by Tanamachi and completed with assistance from fellow artists Liz Maycox, Yukako Ezoe, and the folks at Noble Signs, also out of Brooklyn.

Down on the concourse level, you'll find a brilliant reinterpretation of the siren again, this one designed by Marcos Chin and put to paint on permanent display by Kurt McRobert of Very Fine Signs, both Brooklyn artists as well.

Purchase all your homebrew essentials

For all the art on display, this remains a place for hardcore java consumers to double down on their hobby. Hang out here long enough, and you'll find yourself casting a longing eye at the at-home nitro machine that will turn your cold brew coffee into a spectacular visual effect whose cascading waves of nitrogen sinking down the sides promise a taste you could only get in-store before. But if you don't want to commit that kind of money, a cotton cloth and mason jar home-brew kit may be had at a lower cost. 

The Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building Microblend is only available here, and found in many of the other drinks you can order. And of course, there are the reserved releases that give the premium outposts their name to lure in taste collectors. We spotted Vietnam Da Lat, Hawaii Ka'u, Sun-Dried Zambia Ngoli Estate, and Whiskey Barrel-Aged Guatemala beans that took over the former home of Knob Creek straight whiskey — and may even be more desirable than their predecessor. All are available for take-home purchase (yep, even the ESB microblend). Just make sure you're storing your coffee the correct way.

Finally, if you like your Starbucks the old-fashioned way (rattling off a dozen customizations to a barista every morning), you can still advertise your affections with pins, pencils, playing cards, and some legitimately gorgeous mugs and espresso cups.

Enjoy the Manhattan view

You know, sometimes you just don't want to deal with the roof at 230 5th. Whether it's the weather, the high-strung crowd, or the pace, you might want a different view of the area. For those days, visit the Starbucks Reserve at the Empire State Building and claim one of the tables by the recently liberated full-length windows. It might not be the same as the top of the building, but it's a nice slice-of-life view of the city, and the $77 you would have spent getting to the top will go a lot further filling your gullet with exciting food and drink. 

Above your head, sound-dampening felt in gorgeous Starbucks-green will convince you that baffling fabric can be beautiful as well as functional. Reducing the murmuring echo of a hundred speaking voices in the space is part of how Starbucks seeks to encourage conversations, a theme that runs stridently through the design here.

Get a coffee education with a tasting flight

In addition to the Starbucks Reserve microblends, this venue is the only place you can currently get Starbucks' patented, new cold-pressed espresso, which compresses 20 hours of cold brew time into about 45 minutes to an hour of low-pressure, cold-water joy. Its flavor is rich and smooth, and this is anecdotal evidence, but it seems less inclined to burn those of us predisposed to acid reflux when we drink a lot of coffee. With more and more cold-brew orders each year, Starbucks will be able to meet the demand in any format.

Coffee nerds will keep coming back, as the location makes a pocket-sized "passport" available where enthusiast can document their tasting notes by blend and brew method. It includes the four-step Starbucks guide to experiencing coffee: smell, slurp, locate (i.e. where the flavor hits your tongue), and describe. This is a process employees practice at every level, from barista to c-suite, and invites visitors to experience the Starbucks corporate culture.

To that end, you can book Starbucks experiences like tasting flights, "Brewtender for a Day" coffee-making workshops, and more. You'll walk We can heartily recommend a visit to the Innovation Bar to try the cold-pressed espresso cocktails, whose impossibly functional flavors include the Iced Apple Americano and a Malted Milkshake with Black Lemon. Before you scoff at the combination, Kremlin Tour reveals Russia's seen lemon as a fine coffee additive for ages, and what do you know? It works.

You can eat coffee there

The restaurant uses coffee throughout its menu, such as in the coffee-infused maple syrup topping the apple waffles, prepared with a batter that incorporates the proprietary sourdough used by Starbucks's collaborative Princi line of baked goods. Coffee pervades the Starbucks Reserve dessert menu, and you can't make a smarter move during your visit than ordering the affogato flight. Its whiskey barrel-aged expression over vanilla gelato might change your life.

We recommend starting with polenta fries and labneh while you figure out the rest. If you don't like Mediterranean tastes, order it anyway and prepare to change your mind. No, neither one has coffee in it, but you don't have to worry about getting your fix, because diners will also be served a complimentary sip of cold-brewed Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building Microblend when they sit down; it's a little conversation starter designed to give people something to sip thoughtfully while they listen to their dining partner or peruse the Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building's food menu.

You could get drunk on coffee there (but please don't)

If you're not hungry, the bar is one of the city's most beautiful, and certainly one of its most coffee-forward. Cold-brew infusion cocktails (many with edible flower garnishes) dominate the Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building's alcohol menu, from espresso martini flights to caffeinated twists on the old-fashioned and negroni. Those who abstain from coffee but not liquor will find boozy tea concoctions available, in addition to all the classics that any bar can serve up.

And you might well want to switch from coffee to tea here, as the Siren Tea Punch is one of two for-the-table cocktails served from spigots in absinthe fountains. If your Instagram runs towards reels more than photo posts, here's your chance to flex delicious adult consumption on tap. For us, it will be a Whiskey Cloud, which somewhat resembles an elevated Irish coffee with orange syrup and chocolate bitters. But that's the nice thing about coffee and alcohol: they're both constantly evolving, only here they just do it a little faster.

Make it your temporary office

If you can't tell by now, establishing its New York bonafides is quietly primo for Starbucks. Though the company doesn't say so overtly, its employment of local creators speaks volumes of its desire to be a legitimate neighbor, as does the wall down on the concourse level, whose text outlines the brand's expansion here, along with its New York roots. It's impossible to miss from the reserved working areas across the room. Here, small or medium-sized groups can gather to work, have a meeting, or just change their environment from the usual office to spark new ideas.

That same wall statement speaks of the desire to spark connections, something that runs throughout the space. Every experience we saw at the new Starbucks Reserve seemed to reflect a desire to make this a place where people can come to have conversations, even difficult ones, and exchange thoughts. The company makes it obvious that coming together over a cup of coffee is a great way to do that.

You could show up for coffee on the ground floor, break for lunch on the concourse, and retire to the bar to celebrate a successful work day without ever leaving the building. And you'd still see a lot of New York because it's designed to showcase the city from your table.

The location is among Starbucks' greener stores

Beyond the food and beverage selection, the Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building also impresses as one of the company's Certified Greener Stores. With an ambitious focus on carbon emissions, waste reduction, and the consumption of energy and water, buildings like this will lead the way for other Starbucks to run 10,000 Greener stores by 2025. By 2030, it hopes to have cut its metrics in half under the guidance of the World Wildlife Fund.

Wander by the innovation bar and you'll see a dedicated receptacle for compostable items: paper, coffee grounds, etc., the latter of which has great use in the soil as a nitrogen amendment/sequestration, according to Oregon State University. They also have great utility in keeping compost piles at optimum temperatures of 140 to 160 F, which also happens to be just about the right serving temperature for coffee. Turns out you have more in common with microbes than you though — you both take your coffee the same way.

Amazingly, these steps will also save the company an average of $5 million a year, so it turns out going green might save you some green, too.