This year, we decided to build our holiday signature beverage menu through an open call to our very talented baristas to submit drink recipes for the holidays. We should have anticipated how difficult it would be to narrow down from all of the amazing submissions we received, but we certainly had fun in the process. It’s a tough job tasting all this coffee, but someone’s gotta do it ;)
A stand-out recipe came from Alejandro Catalan, a barista from our Mateo café in Los Angeles. He proposed the Café de Olla con Panna, a shot of espresso sweetened with spiced piloncillo syrup and topped with cinnamon whipped cream. His recipe is at the top of our signature holiday beverage menu this year, so we wanted to hear more from Alejandro about his inspiration for the beverage...
Q: What was your inspiration for this drink?
A: Café de olla is a staple served at Latino breakfasts here in LA, and I thought it’d be great to see it represented at Verve. It is made with ground coffee, piloncillo (aka panela), cinnamon sticks, and other spices like anis. In Mexico, it's traditionally made in clay pots on an open fire and served in jarritos, but here in LA, we throw it together on a stovetop, and most of the time the recipe is just thrown together from memory or feel. What I find particularly engaging about café de olla is its history. During the Mexican Revolution, Adelitas (women soldiers) fought together with the men and also served them. Café de olla was given to soldiers in the morning to sustain their energy and vitality throughout the day.
The Café de Olla con Panna
Q: Does your family have a recipe for café de olla?
A: Not really, I’ll ask my mom, “how did you make it?” and she’ll say “oh, a pinch of this and a pinch of that,” and I’m like “ok how much is a pinch for you?” I’ll try to get her to tell me if it’s in ounces or grams, but she’ll say “no it's just a pinch, you take a guess.” I’ve seen my grandmother make it. She’ll just buy the ingredients, and then visually go by pinches and handfuls. She makes it on the stovetop, puts in a bunch of cinnamon sticks, throws in some chocolates, anise, and piloncillo, lets it all dissolve, and then tastes it. Then she throws in ground coffee, boils it for a while, and filters it through a mesh.
Q: How did you develop your recipe?
A: I wanted to make it unique and different for Verve, so the first thing I considered was how to pair it with espresso. What if I made an espresso con panna with a café de olla twist? So I threw around some ideas that I had with the kitchen staff at Mateo, brought them cinnamon and piloncillo, and gave them directions on what I’d like to do. We came up with a concentrate that’s an incredible syrup, and a whipped cream that has the spice components of traditional café de olla. Combined with the espresso, it is sweet, energetic, and fragrant--, you smell it and want to devour the whole thing instantly.
Thank you, Alejandro, for sharing your recipe with us - we are so excited to feature it on our menu this holiday season!
Try Café de Olla today...