Shrubs are a cocktail ingredient, but why stop there? That’s what Caitlin “Corky” Corcoran, a barista at Parisi Artisan Coffee, figured. So she’s now combining all manner of fruits, vinegars and sweeteners into shrubs, and then matching them with espresso.
“The cafe’s been letting me go wild,” Corcoran says.
And for good reason. Corcoran first tasted coffee when she was a toddler, stealing sips from her mother’s cup. She’s been in love with the stuff ever since, working as a barista for the last 9-1/2 years and recently qualifying for the U.S. Barista Championship competition, to be held in Portland, Ore., this weekend.
Her entry isn’t so much a drink as it is a tasting menu that explores espresso’s bitter, sweet and acidic characteristics. She starts with a straight-forward Parisi-roasted Guatemalan espresso with bright green apple at the start, followed by walnut bitterness. The second round is sweet, topped with a dollop of foam to highlight the espresso’s vanilla and caramel notes.
But it was Corcoran’s third “course” that captivated me. Her signature drink pairs a half-ounce of apple-honey shrub with one shot of espresso—something you’d think would clash, but that instead it brightens the beans, lifting each sip to bring out the fruit and nuts.
It would be interesting stuff, even if it was Corcoran’s only shrub. It’s not. She’s been playing with shrubs for months, and when I stopped by a couple weeks ago there were five jars lined up on the counter. Continue Reading