Five Places, Five Signature Drinks

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Signature drinks can be the variable that draws in new customers and the deciding factor for many coffee drinkers between which cafes earn their loyalty. Think housemade syrups, unconventional pairings, and letting local ingredients shine—these exclusive drinks can encourage your customers to step out of their comfort zone and explore flavors they might not find elsewhere. 

From floral lattes to s’mores-inspired treats, signature drinks are a creative way to let customers know what makes your cafe stand out—here are five cafes taking signature drinks to the next level. 

RoJo Coffee Co.

Location: Chesapeake, Virginia
Signature Drink: Rosemary Honey Latte

The building that houses RoJo Coffee Co. has been a staple in Chesapeake, Virginia, since 1936. The cafe’s most beloved signature drink, which pairs rosemary and honey in a housemade syrup, traces back to the two flower beds left by the previous owners along the side of the shop.

The team at RoJo aims to create aromatic lattes that evoke the senses—their goal is to have customers imagine the taste of the drink before they even place an order. And the rosemary honey latte was no exception: “Our customers love lavender, so we wanted to explore another floral drink we could do,” says Carly Smittle. 

Looking for new drink ideas, Smittle and the team ventured outside to the flower beds for inspiration. It was full of rosemary, so they grabbed a few handfuls of it and brought it back to the shop to experiment. Eventually, they paired the rosemary, which is pungent and verdant, with sweet honey, creating a totally new syrup. “We just use the rosemary from the flower garden and give it a good wash,” says Smittle.

Customers responded so enthusiastically that RoJo now infuses rosemary into other signature drinks, such as their rosemary white chocolate mocha and matcha lattes. 

Pettibone Coffee

Location: Dayton, Ohio
Signature Drink: Wither

Pettibone Coffee reintroduced the beloved signature drink, called Wither, to its fall and winter menu because it was so overwhelmingly popular. Pettibone is known locally for its fall menu, which changes yearly and features new and exciting signature drinks, but everyone loved Wither so much that owner Jonathan Purcey decided to bring it back. 

Inspired by the dark and gloomy ambiance of late fall and early winter, this drink puts a unique twist on the conventional fall flavors we all know. 

Abandoning the pumpkin trend, Purcey infuses Wither with savory and earthy notes with pumpkin seed oil, sesame oil, cinnamon, and a clove tincture.

Dark and bitter molasses add a touch of sweetness, while black walnut bitters and oat milk lend hints of nuttiness to the latte. Topped with a hydrated blood orange slice and dried rose petals, the Wither is served cold and is meant “to capture the beauty found in the cold, dark days at the end of the harvest season,” says Purcey.

Big Shoulders Coffee

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Signature Drink: Iced Cardamom Matcha Latte

At Big Shoulders Coffee, owner Tim Coonan believes every coffee drink should be an experience. “We try to follow the trend with cocktails and the thoughtfulness that mixologists put into those,” he says. 

A former chef, Coonan is constantly experimenting with spices from around the world to develop his ever-changing menu. “When I lived in Spain years ago, I remember trying coffee, orange, and cinnamon together,” he says. “It was a profound memory for me that I wanted to reproduce. Flavor profiles like bitter orange, cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise really have an affinity for coffee.”

While crafting its spring menu, the team at Big Shoulders leaned into the flavors their customers love. “Cardamom tends to be a favorite within our cafe,” says Alicia Scott, who leads the beverage program. Bringing her mixology background to the table, Scott draws inspiration from the world of spirits to create non-alcoholic, cocktail-inspired coffee drinks that introduce savory ingredients like sage and rosemary.

This spring, Scott bridged customers’ affinity for anything cardamom with cocktails, riffing on a memorable honey tangerine drink she had. Big Shoulders will soon debut a matcha latte featuring a housemade cardamom syrup infused with orange peel, vanilla, green cardamom, and a simple syrup with a touch of orange blossom. “It’s incredible as a cold drink,” says Scott.

Merit Coffee

Location: San Antonio, Texas | Dallas, Texas | Austin, Texas
Signature Drink: S’mores Latte

Texas-based Merit Coffee Co. tapped into the nostalgic charm of everyone’s beloved campfire treat for their winter signature drink, the s’mores latte. This toasty latte combines the timeless flavors of melted chocolate, graham crackers, gooey marshmallows, and brings a subtle hint of warmth through smoked ancho chili powder.

But customers who ordered the signature drink get a fun surprise: the latte is served alongside a real s’more. “We didn’t mention it was part of the drink initially,” says marketing manager Lydia Cassels. “People would ask, ‘Did I pay extra for this?'”

While Merit’s signature drinks occasionally become permanent fixtures on the menu, it’s too early to tell for the s’mores drink. “If we feel like it was a big hit with our customers, we’ll certainly be trying for that,” says Cassels. Another signature drink, the strawberry matcha, was requested by regulars so frequently that Merit is bringing it back and rolling it out as a permanent menu item.

Better Daze

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Signature Drink: Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Latte

Iced lattes are the most popular drink among customers in Hawaii, where sunshine graces 75% of the days each year. However, during this rainy winter, Sophia Daskolos introduced a lineup of hot lattes to her signature drink menu at Better Daze

As a passionate herbalist, Daskolos, who owns Better Daze, sources the herbs for her housemade syrups locally. But the most popular signature drink to date remains a bourbon barrel-aged maple latte topped with sprinkled nutmeg. 

“The drink was on the sweeter side, but the nutmeg tied it together with a spice and woody flavor,” says Daskolos. It quickly became a customer favorite and helped contribute to a record-breaking number of hot latte sales that month.

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Haley Greene

Haley Greene is a freelance writer based in Honolulu, Hawaii. She frequently writes about food, coffee, and wellness. Connect with her at www.haleygreene.com.

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