Uncover the next coffee and spirits combo with MONIN


Move over espresso martini, it’s time to uncover the next coffee and spirits combo, and with the help of MONIN syrups, let flavour be the guide. 

The Cuban national grew up in one of the country’s main coffee producing regions, Santiago de Cuba along the Sierra Maestra mountain range.

Consumption of the local coffee drink Pico de Gallo was as popular as Cuba’s aged rum, considered a symbol of the island’s national identity, but for Papi, it was his first experience of an Irish Coffee in London where the combination of coffee and liquor really inspired him.

“I still remember being impressed by the careful preparation of the drink with layers of coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey and cream on top, served in a beautiful glass. It opened my eyes to what coffee could be outside of Cuba,” says Papi, who also represents Stuart Alexander’s portfolio of spirits and liqueurs.

London was also the city where Papi was taught how to make an espresso martini by the very man said to have invented the cocktail, British bartender Dick Bradsel.

“I was working and living in London’s bar scene for four years when Dick told me how he created the espresso martini recipe. I learned from the best,” Papi says.

“The espresso martini became a real gamechanger in breaking down the barrier to coffee becoming more than a daytime beverage and transitioning into the cocktail scene. It is the first cocktail to become iconic for the coffee industry and unite bartenders and baristas. Australians are pioneers of flavour. We love the latte and flat white, but the espresso martini is still the number one selling cocktail in Australian bars. It’s taken over.”

Papi adds that while the espresso martini has set the foundation for coffee and liquor combinations, now is the time to leverage its potential.

“There’s definitely room to innovate and grow. You can create a new espresso martini every day using a different single origin coffee, alcohol combination or MONIN product such as our Toasted Marshmallow syrup. Have it on your menu, but create a combination that hasn’t been done before,” he says.

For example, the Bramble cocktail, also a Dick Bradsel invention, which traditionally incorporates dry gin, crème de mûre, sugar syrup and lemon juice, can take on a life of its own by altering the recipe to include vodka and a shot of espresso or cold brew.

“It’s all about experimentation and integration, that’s where a barista’s and bartender’s skill come together and really shine,” Papi says.

One Australian advocate for the combination of coffee cocktails is Ona Coffee Head Roaster and three-time MONIN Australian Coffee in Good Spirits Champion (CIGS) Danny Wilson, who will compete in the international competition in Milan in June.

“Danny has really explored some unique flavour combinations, such as MONIN’s passionfruit syrup with coffee, gin, Licor 43, and sparkling apple juice. But the important thing to know, is that you don’t need a science degree to make a delicious coffee cocktail, or create a cocktail list for customers to explore,” Papi says.

After a challenging few years of hospitality trading, Papi says café owners should be considering a liquor licence and using the opportunity to expand their beverage menu after 5pm for a further injection of trade and income.

“The Italians were very successful with the aperitivo, offering classic negronis and Aperol spritz with nibbles, and I can see that taking off here in Australia,” he says.

“Australians have an appetite for flavour and there’s healthy competition between coffee shops, so there’s equal opportunity to create a unique alcoholic or non-alcoholic Aperol spritz with Italian bitters and a bit of cold brew, or a negroni with cold brew. There are so many delicious and easy drinks to create with just cold brew and tonic. I think customers just need a little confidence, and for café operators to be creative.”

MONIN has been playing with flavours for the past 110 years, and with the assistance of Papi and John Davidson, Head of Advocacy and Innovation at Stuart Alexander, the pair are excited and eager to inspire bartenders, baristas and café owners with easy cocktail recipes that can be integrated into their menus.

“What type of drinks you put on your menu will depend on your location and demographic. That’s why we have a dedicated MONIN studio in Brisbane and Melbourne to help customers explore flavour combinations and inspire them to innovate. That’s what we do best, we play with flavour, and have been doing it for a long time,” Papi says.

“The aim is to create a partnership where we impart our coffee and alcohol knowledge so that our customers benefit. We want to make businesses more successful and we’re confident that by working together to create different recipes, we can maximise menu offerings and attract new clientele.”

The key when playing with flavour combinations, Papi says, is to always use coffee and its flavour profile as the base of the beverage. Then, build flavours around it that complement it, or enhance its natural flavour profile, rather than using spirits and alcohol that are heavy and strong that overpower, conflict, or antagonise the flavour.

“If a coffee is super bitter for example, then I would add a strong, smoky mezcal and incorporate sweetness with a berry- flavoured coffee or MONIN Salted Caramel syrup. Even a MONIN Agave syrup gives natural sweetness to a drink,” Papi says.

All MONIN syrup flavours are made with a pure cane sugar base and natural ingredients for intensity of flavour and shelf life. To demonstrate the quality and versatility of MONIN syrups, Papi is excited to introduce four new cocktail combination pairings café operators can easily integrate on a menu: Spiced Old Fashion, classic Espresso Tonic, Café Colada, and Irish coffee with a twist.

MONIN’s Spiced Old Fashion incorporates Scotch, bitters, and a touch of MONIN Tropical Island syrup poured over a cold brew ice sphere. As it melts, the aroma of coffee and spices are released.

The classic Espresso Tonic combines a light ristretto with tonic water to reduce any bitter flavours, and No.3 London Dry Gin. For a non-alcoholic combination, simply replace the gin with MONIN’s Red Grapefruit puree.

To really spice up a menu, try a Café Colada. This beverage includes a double espresso, coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and 60 millilitres of MONIN’s Piña Colada syrup for a hit of acidity.

MONIN’s Irish coffee includes coffee liquor with cinnamon, single origin batch brew, and cream on top, a combination Papi says is simple yet invites maximum flavour.

“The Irish Coffee is my top prediction to make a rejuvenised comeback. I really hope it will be the next big trend. There are so many ways to maximise its potential. Why not integrate soft whipped cream, MONIN Cherry Syrup, and Scotch or Irish whiskies to create a different sensation?” he says.

For years, Papi says Australians have observed the London and New York cocktail market for inspiration of coffee cocktail trends, but with such a strong coffee culture of our own, all eyes are actually on Australia.

“We are a premium beverage market. The world is looking at us to see what we do next and the different ways we can approach cocktails and flavours of coffee to magnify coffee’s profile in the bar scene. The London population drinks a lot of tea, whereas Australians drink mainly coffee, so we should use that to our advantage,” Papi says.

Experimentation is how Papi has carved a successful career in the world’s alcohol and spirits industry. After spending time in London, Mexico, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, working in and helping develop some of the best cocktail bars in the world, Papi is passionate about sharing his international experiences with the Australian hospitality scene.

“This is an industry that doesn’t stop,” he says. “It’s a marvellous and unique industry that is constantly evolving and we must evolve with it. Australia: let’s get creative.”

Stuart Alexander & Co is the exclusive distributor of MONIN’s range of syrups, sauces and purees in Australia.

For more information, visit stuartalexander.com.au/brands/monin

This article appears in the June 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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