The marriage of coffee and alcohol is nowhere near a novel concept, and Italians have long been serving their shots of espresso with an accompanying glass of soda water. But now another trend is sweeping the nation: coffee mocktails. Inventive baristas have been using elements of cocktails (such as soda, bitters, and citrus) to create refreshing, alcohol-free beverages which bring out nuanced characteristics in the coffee they use.
“There are so many coffees out there, with alternating tastes based on varietal of the plant, soil conditions, or how the coffee was processed,” says Andrew Forrest Baker, GM and bartender at Octane Coffee Bar in Atlanta. “We find it exciting to see what utilizing coffee and espresso as an ingredient in a cocktail can do versus using the brew as a means to transport the alcohol.”
Austin’s Houndstooth Coffee features the Experimental Bar, a space specifically built for baristas to walk guests through guided tastings of seasonal creations. “I personally prefer my espresso neat with a soda back,” says barista Gregory Alford. “But when I want to gussy it up a bit, I want something complex, subtle, and served in a rocks glass.”