Jake Mai’s tips for crafting signature drinks


MONIN Creativity Cup Australian finalist Jake Mai shares his tips for maximising afternoon sales with ingenious signature serves.

The current economic climate is making it harder for small businesses like cafés to balance the books, with owners exploring all avenues to maximise sales.

As some choose to close their doors early to cut staffing costs, others are extending them to capitalise on the hours they’re still paying rent.

The flavour specialists at MONIN are partnering with coffee shops venturing into the afternoon and early evening market across Australia, helping them to devise signature drinks, cocktails, and mocktails.

Jake Mai of Stitch Coffee in Sydney is a 2023 MONIN Creativity Cup finalist and loves working with the brand’s psychedelic range of syrups to craft bespoke drinks.

“A lot of people think of vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut lattes when they imagine syrups, but at Stitch we don’t actually offer any of those on our menu,” says Jake.

“Instead, we use MONIN’s syrups and purees in a range of different serves, our most popular being the yuzu and watermelon nitro cold brews. They’re a huge hit and make great pairings to brunch or as afternoon alternatives to a cocktail.”

Working as both a roaster and barista at Stitch, The Coffee in Good Spirits 2024 competitor enjoys nothing more than devising creative drinks. He says the majority of afternoon customers are looking for something less caffeinated, so the addition of a few specials alongside the coffee options on the menu will appeal post 12pm.

“Traditionally, non-caffeinated beverages at coffee shops have centred around juices and smoothies, but they’re very general – they don’t tell you anything about the character of the venue. This is where I think signature drinks can help your café stand out from the crowd,” says Jake.

“Currently, I’m really into crafting cold-brew teas. One of my favourite combinations is jasmine tea, steeped in cold water overnight, then mixed with MONIN lychee syrup and a squeeze of lemon. It’s super refreshing and easy to prepare in advance.”

For the cooler months, when café goers seek comforting non-caffeinated options, Jake recommends creating a twist on the classic chai latte.

“Whereas traditionally you would steam chai syrup with milk, I like to steep it in hot water with lemongrass and honey. It creates a cleaner flavour profile, but is equally soothing in winter,” says Jake.

Customers love variety, and one way to keep them coming back for more is by shaking up the menu on a regular basis. Jake doesn’t believe you have to rewrite the drinks list each season, but that introducing a few signature serves is  away to keep regulars on their toes and attract people to visit after the morning rush for coffee.

“Switching up the menu every month seems like a great idea, but in reality most cafés don’t have the staff or the time to devise and prep a whole new menu of drinks that regularly,” he says.

Every artist’s method is unique and there is no right or wrong way to approach the creation of a new drink. For Jake, it’s all about the visuals.

“I’ll usually start out with a brief idea, but nothing concrete. I’ll first think about the colours, so if it’s a red-hued coffee I’ll make a natural leap to pair it with something such as berries,” says Jake.

“Say I’m creating a coffee cocktail, I’ll start with the coffee as that’s the main component and find something that can stand up to the flavour and intensity of the alcohol. From there, I’ll look for either complementary ingredients with similar taste profiles or something that will contrast.”

For venues thinking of expanding their beverage repertoire after dark with an alcohol licence and a cocktail menu, Jake recommends putting a spin on the signature espresso martini by adding a MONIN syrup.

“Nutty and chocolatey flavours are the natural pairing here. Roasted hazelnut or macadamia work really well,” he says.

For more information, visit monin.com

This article appears in the June 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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