I am a firm believer that every cafe needs a signature beverage. A good signature drink can turn you into a destination, a viral success, and set you apart from the competition which all, of course, drives sales.
So…you want one, but where to start? Consider these guidelines:
Make it Entry Level: A good signature drink should be something that everyone can enjoy, even if they aren’t a connoisseur. Coffee and tea can be intimidating, so your signature drink needs to be approachable and unpretentious. This can be a great opportunity to introduce your customer to flavors that may be an “acquired taste”. Don’t like straight espresso? I bet you’ll love it over a scoop of gelato! A little intimidated by matcha? Put it in a mocha!
Make it Executable: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Some of my favorite signature drinks are fundamentally uncomplicated. There’s nothing wrong with using simple and common ingredients, as long as you’re executing it well. Don’t worry about doing something that no one else is doing – worry about doing it better. In a perfect world, you’re going to be cranking these out all day every day, so you’ll need them to be efficient & consistent.
Make it Marketable: Bottom line, you want people to post this thing on social media. For that, you’ll need two things: A memorable name, and a great picture. First: the name. Find something that ties to your business and your brand, and/or the culture around you. For example, if you’re near a college campus, you may want to do a play on words with their mascot. Or let’s say you’re a cool bar that plays vinyl…make it an homage to a favorite band! Second: it has to be visual. A striking color, and beautiful garnish, a unique glass; presentation is everything. A slice of lemon or a few sprinkles can really go a long way.
Get Inspired: There are so many places to find inspiration. Global cuisine, cocktail culture, the beer and wine world; inspiration is everywhere! Go grab a drink, browse the spice aisles at the grocery store, or stop by your local farmer’s market and taste fresh produce. Additionally, watching the Food Network or one of those awesome chef documentaries on Netflix is an easy, entertaining way to find inspiration. You could even check out a barista competition! Take notes, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
Here are a couple of successful signature drinks I love:
THE SNOWY PLOVER
Meet the Snowy Plover from Andytown Coffee Roasters in San Francisco. This thing is so popular, it’s made their out-of-the-way shop a real destination. They have Snowy Plover pins, Snowy Plover cups…we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Snowy Plover Fan Club! It’s named after a species of bird that can be found on the nearby beaches. So what it this magical drink? It’s espresso, San Pellegrino, and huge dollop of thick, rich, lightly sweetened whipped cream. This is a great example of signature drink. It checks all our boxes! It’s approachable, it’s simple, it’s beautiful, and it’s got a memorable name that’s specific to it’s market.
(photo by Lindsey Leder)
THE MILITARY LATTE
The Military Latte from Sawada Coffee in Chicago, IL is another great example. It combines espresso, matcha, cocoa powder, vanilla syrup, and steamed milk to make something that resembles a camouflage pattern. It’s been heavily written about and Instagram-ed (a quick search of #militarylatte will give you thousands of posts). The ingredients aren’t anything too crazy, all things you would find in the average modern coffee shop. However, the way in which they’re combined results in a truly unique experience. It also showcases several things that the shop is known for: an homage to Japanese culture, punk rock aesthetics, and latte art. The military latte is approachable, fundamentally simple, visual, well marketed, and specific to their brand.
So get out there and create your signature beverage!
Lindsey, Director of Education