MRM on Trend: Coffee Mixology

Ever-popular coffee is also proving to be an uber versatile ingredient for restaurants, bars and coffeehouses. More than half of North America’s 50 Best Bars have coffee cocktails on their signature menus, according to bar inventory resource, Backbar. According to a recent survey, one in four Americans like to drink espresso martinis, and in 2024, the cocktail trend remains strong, having experienced a 50 percent growth over the preceding 12 months.

This interest in coffee mixology is not limited to bars and restaurants, it's also grinding in coffee houses across the country. From matcha tonic to coffee cola and everything in between,Top Note, a craft mixer and soft drink company based in Milwaukee, has been receiving requests to add their premium sparkling mixers to menus across the country.

To gain more insights on coffee trends, Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine connected with Top Note co-founder Mary Pellettieri.

What factors are fueling a renewed interest in coffee cocktails?

Consumers are becoming more adventurous with their tastes, and are seeking new innovations on traditional beverages. Caffeine has long been a staple in beverages, and early on played a pivotal role in the cocktail. So the craft cocktail culture is simply exploring fresh ways to integrate caffeine and alcohol. Coffee cocktails are today’s energy and alcoholic drink, just more sophisticated than the ones from years ago.

What are some examples of coffee-based cocktails beyond the espresso martini?

Beyond the espresso martini, there are plenty of other coffee-based cocktails to enjoy. For those who enjoy alcoholic drinks, there's the coffee old-fashioned and the coffee Manhattan. If you prefer non-alcoholic options, there's the increasingly popular coffee tonic, and we’re also seeing coffee being mixed with grapefruit soda or cola.


What should restaurants and bar owners take away from the trend to meet consumer demand?

Don't be afraid to make a simple non-alcoholic cocktail with coffee and a mixer. The caffeine is welcomed, coffee as a replacement for a high fructose ladened soft drink is an improvement, and the bitter flavor is fun to balance. However, it’s important to watch the sugar levels. Also, choosing a high-quality mixer makes a big difference in enhancing beverages.  

How are coffeehouses innovating their menus?

Coffeehouses are innovating their beverage menus by introducing a variety of specialty coffees that when mixed with outside ingredients, not traditional to cafes like a tonic water, go beyond the traditional espresso-based drinks. Additionally, coffeehouses are expanding their menus by offering alcohol in the form of beer or wine, while others are going as far as offering spirits. These establishments are blending the artistry of mixology with the craft of coffee to create unique drinks that cater to customers seeking diverse drinking experiences.

What are some coffee trends you anticipate are on the horizon?

Tonic water is now making its way into coffee and tea drinks. Coffee tonic has gained notable traction, and has spurred other emerging trends like matcha tonic. Consumers are drawn to innovative twists on traditional beverages, driving the popularity of these unique combinations.