Coffee Shop Signature Drink Recipes: Creatively Embracing Seasonality

Seasonality is a word that is ingrained in the vocabulary of specialty coffee. Coffee is a seasonal crop, just like strawberries and other fruits. Throughout the year, specialty coffee offerings will vary based on harvest schedules in different countries, and many coffees can only be found at specific times of the year. Seasonality is more than just a buzzword though, it signifies freshness, provides transparency and can be utilized to increase variety and add value to your products and your menu. Seasonal drinks are a fantastic way to market the concept of seasonality to your customers and provide products outside the realm of your typical flavored lattes.

Some in the specialty coffee industry have come to frown at the idea of adding anything to their precious coffee but more often than not they are letting pride cloud their judgment. Think about it: you’re not likely to hear a bartender complain about adding ingredients to their spirits and often great bartenders are using high-quality, top-shelf spirits to craft mind-blowing cocktails rich in flavor and truly unique in experience. High-quality coffee is great on its own and many people prefer it that way, but by denying yourself the experience of drinking great coffee, thoughtfully combined with other high-quality ingredients is to deny yourself some truly great beverage experiences.

In recent years many of the world’s top coffee shops have been coming to this same conclusion and a wide variety of delicious mixed coffee beverages have been appearing on menus in some of the most renowned shops. A lot of this likely has to do with the increased popularity of barista competitions like the United States Barista Championship and their emphasis on signature drinks. We support these creative accomplishments and hope to encourage others to do the same and to push the envelope of what a coffee beverage can or should be. After all, how boring would it be if every coffee shop you visited was serving the same drinks the same way all the time?

Recently, we reached out to our friends at Good Drinks, a company focused on providing the specialty coffee industry a complete line of top-quality sauces, drink mixes and concentrates, made without high-fructose corn syrup, and Cuvee Coffee, one of the nation’s most highly regarded coffee roasting companies to get their take on seasonal and signature beverages. What we gained from these discussions was a variety of signature drink recipes that can truly accommodate coffee shops of any model. From simple but creative, to fresh and complex, here are some of the recipes from our friends in the specialty coffee industry:

Good Drinks provided us with some creative and easy to build recipes that will push your customer’s to try something outside of their comfort zone while still being accessible.

The Ginger Toddy Shaker is a drink that is sure to please on the hot summer days we have been experiencing lately!

  • Start with 3.5 ounces of cold brew (we prefer the Toddy or Cold Bruer method of cold brewing), add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 pinches fresh ginger and turmeric zest, 1 oz. Good Drinks caramel sauce and top with your favorite whole milk to bring the total volume up to 8 ounces. Add these ingredients with large, cubed ice to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass and shake until the beverage is cooled. Strain the mix into a chilled, 4 oz. rocks glass (this recipe makes 2 beverages) and garnish with a pinch of cinnamon (or even a cinnamon stick).

Another great summer beverage is the Spiced Coffee Cola.

  • Start with 2 ounces of Good Drinks Chai Concentrate; add 2 pinches of 5-spice blend and a double shot of espresso. Mix ingredients together and slowly add club soda to bring the total to about 8 ounces. Pour into a 12 ounce glass filled with cubed ice and serve. If you want to get creative, a variety of garnishes can be added to make this drink your own.

Nothing says summer better than ice cream so break out your scoop and some vanilla ice cream from your favorite local ice-creamery and we will teach you how to create an Iced Lemon Bundt Cake drink.

  • Take 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest, 1 oz. Good Drinks white chocolate sauce, 4 oz. whole milk and 2 large scoops of the ice cream (about 12 oz.). Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until you’ve achieved a smooth, thick texture. Serve in a chilled pint glass and garnish with blueberries and lavender.

The last drink our friends at Good Drinks shared with us is a decadent treat, indeed, thePeru Zest. This one is a little more complicated and a lot more indulgent and will please any sweet-tooth.

  • First, make the Peru Zest ganache by taking 2 tbsp. of butter from a local dairy, add 2 tbsp. Good Drinks Single Origin Peru Chocolate Powder, add a double shot of espresso, 2 pinches of orange zest and a pinch of cardamom. Once all the ingredients are combined, mix them vigorously with a whisk then blend to create a smooth, ganache texture. This should produce about 4 ounces of the ganache mix. For an 8 oz. beverage use 2 oz. of the mixture and top with 6 oz. of steamed milk. Garnish with a sprinkle of the Good Drinks Single Origin Peru Chocolate and some more orange zest and you’ve got the perfect, decadent dessert drink.

The next set of recipes comes from our friends at Cuvee Coffee who have been introducing a variety of well thought out signature drinks in their coffee shops to great success. The first two drinks here also involve ice cream.

The Affogato is a drink that appears in coffee shops around the world and it is actually really simple to make.

  • Take a 3 ounce scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream and pull a double shot of espresso directly over it. Sound too simple? Make one and you will realize that the flavor and complexity of the coffee added to the creamy sweetness of the ice cream is a perfect combination that doesn’t require the complication of further ingredients.

The second of these ice cream drinks is one that your customers will more than likely not be familiar with but they will be grateful to you for introducing them to it: the Cascara Soda Float. Cascara is a tea-like beverage brewed from dried coffee pulp which is removed from the beans during the processing phase of coffee production. Madcap offers Cascara in addition to their phenomenal coffee offering and alone or as a part of other beverages, if you have not tried it, add it to your to-do list.

  • Begin by steeping 39 grams of Madcap cascara in 10 ounces of 205 degree F water for five minutes. While this is steeping put 28 grams of demerara sugar in a decanter. When the tea is ready pour it over the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. We have now created a sort of cascara simple-syrup. Label with the date and then chill. To build the actual drink put 1.5 ounces of the Cascara concentrate in a pint glass and add 7.5 ounces of sparkling water. “Float” one 3 oz. scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and serve.

The Espresso Spritzer is a drink that really takes advantage of the concept of seasonality that we have been discussing.

  • Go to your local farmers market and buy your favorite fruit that is in season and juice it. If the fruit you selected is more tart than sweet you may need to add a small amount of sugar to balance the juice to balance the juice if it needs to be a little sweeter for your tastes. Again, depending on the fruit you have selected you may need to adjust the recipe a bit to fit your preference but next, add 1.5 ounces of the juice to a double shot of espresso and 3 ounces of sparkling water. Madcap debuted this drink with blueberries and have had a lot of success with it.

All of the drinks we have discussed maintain the high-quality of the coffee we are putting into them while enhancing them with local and seasonal flavors by combing with other high-quality ingredients. For too long, coffee shops have restricted themselves to the same basic menu of mochas and caramel lattes, which are delicious don’t get us wrong, but have been done and done again. A way to truly provide a unique experience to your customers and set your coffee shop apart from the rest is to embrace seasonality, embrace creativity and give your guests signature beverages that are truly special. The drinks we have listed above are a great way to get started and are sure to please your customers but more than that will give you some practice in what it means to create signature beverages. Hopefully these drinks will encourage you to think outside of the box and enable you to look at other ingredients and foods/beverages you love in a new one and inspire new ideas as to how they can be combined to add some all-new flavors to your menu. So, get out there and get creative and you just might invent the next hot new signature drink. At the very least you will have a lot of fun.

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