There is a lot that goes into the perfect signature drink. A drink might taste pretty good, but before it makes its way onto the menu as a signature staple, it has to run through a gamut of beverage ideals: balance, character, originality, affordability, feasibility, and a spunky name are all important factors, especially if your naming a drink after your café. It is an indication of your café’s personality, level of dedication to beverage preparation, and sense of adventure.
In 2010 I competed in the Pacific Foods Top Cup Recipe Challenge with the Ipsento latte, the namesake beverage here at our Chicago roastery and café. Judged by a few well-known coffee professionals, their conclusion was this drink would most certainly not work in a café setting. A creative blend of coconut milk, dairy, honey, cayenne pepper, and espresso, it was seen as too complicated, a drink that wouldn’t appeal to the general public. As a result, the Ipsento latte didn’t win or even receive an honorable mention. I knew, however, that not only did it work, it worked quite well.
My obsession with coconut began with the discovery of Larry and Luna’s Coconut Bliss, which at the time was a relatively small and unknown dairy-free ice cream company found only in Oregon. Not just any ice cream, Coconut Bliss was made entirely from coconut milk and after one rich bite I was immediately hooked. But when admitting my obsession, I had to convince coconut haters that “it didn’t taste like coconut” and it was (relatively) healthy. Few listened. When we were creating Ipsento’s menu, I knew I wanted a coconut based drink after my years enjoying its flavor. I was tired of coconut getting a bad rap for being too high in saturated fats and having a terrible gritty texture. I knew it could be more, especially paired with the right coffee.
We created Ipsento’s menu at a time that I was also really into honey lattes and Mexican chocolate (sweet, salty, and slightly hot). Then, while perusing the endless aisles of Restaurant Depot, I found that they carried huge cans of Chakoh coconut milk. Within a few days the Ipsento latte was born, a rich, spicy, honey latte featuring my favorite tropical seed. The first sips from the numerous people volunteering their time to be our guinea pigs ended with resounding agreement in it’s deliciousness. The rich velvety milk, rounded out with the perfect amount of luscious honey, and our chocolatey espresso blend, topped off with a kick of warming cayenne, hit the palate in just the right way.
Having been told that the Ipsento latte (which was still nameless at the time) would never work in the café, I considered my options in naming the drink very carefully. I wanted a moniker that would draw people in, not put them off. I decided to subtly suggest to our customers had to order the Ipsento, by naming it after the café. It became our signature beverage. Our customers loved our coffee, and trusted us when we said, “This drink might be different, but it’s the best.” Oh the power of suggestion! It actually worked! Customers were easily persuaded and immediately hooked.
Today our signature Ipsento latte comes in many forms. Some like it with soy instead of dairy, others like it less spicy. It was originally created to have cayenne, which my mom coined “sassy” and started ordering it as such. In turn, when customers started ordering the Ipsento without cayenne, we called them “sissy!” I’ve enjoyed watching the bewildered faces when calling out drink orders, “One sassy and one sissy to go!” It’s an experience that can only be had at our store, just like the drink.
Twelve-ounce “Sassy” Ipsento Latte
• ¾-ounce clover honey
• Adash of cayenne pepper
• 3 ounces coconut milk
• 5 ounces whole dairy milk
• Doubleshot Ipsento’s Wildfire espresso
(Note: Ipsento’s Wildfire espresso, sweet and malty with hints of chocolate, is the ideal profile for this drink and the recipe will likely taste different with other kinds of coffee.)
—Charlotte Jarrow, sister to Ipsento owner Tim Taylor, created the Ipsento Latte.