Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Baristas compete for Monarch menu’s top spot

Caroline Japal

By Serena Bailey | Staff Reporter

The baristas at Monarch Espresso Bar went head-to-head, putting their original drink ideas to the test in the coffee shop’s second Barista Throwdown. 

Around 50 customers were on hand Thursday night to vote for which new drink would get a spot on Monarch’s fall menu. Five of Monarch’s baristas created drinks for the competition, including a pumpkin sage latte, a s’mores latte, a rum extract drink called the Bonhoeffer, a cherry mocha coined Queen Anne Mocha and, the winner, the Carmel Lavender Swizzle, created by Mary Caillouet.

“It’s not just an internal competition,” said Audrey Vermilyea, a co-owner of Monarch. “It’s bringing people who come in here all the time into our own process.” 

The new drink is made up of an espresso and caramel base and a whipped milk top with lavender infused sauce. The inspiration for it, Caillouet said, was the idea of finding a way to bring together some of her favorite things like crushed ice, lavender and the caramel she makes in-house for Monarch’s drinks. 

“I didn’t think I was going to win because lavender is kind of a unique taste,” she said. “Not everyone loves really floral things and so I thought I was maybe creating one of the more unique drinks but I didn’t know if it would get the popular opinion so it’s exciting. I think that since I like whipped the milk it kind of has like a really lightly whipped cream on top and so I thought, ‘Okay if I’m going to win it’s going to be because of this whipped cream at the top.’”

The competition is meant to encourage creativity amongst the baristas, as well as give the customers a chance to meet and connect with the staff, Vermilyea said. 

“It just gives our baristas a chance to have their friends out and strangers out and show what they’ve been working on and get people’s opinions on if they want to see it on the menu,” she said. “It’s just a fun night because we don’t really have any rules that it needs to be a hot drink or cold drink, whatever. It’s just a chance for us to let our baristas get creative and then to share that with people in a fun, not serious environment.” 

Frequent Monarch customer and senior creative advertising major Alisha Branch said that the Throwdown was just one way she felt that Monarch was helping build a creative community in Tuscaloosa. 

“It doesn’t feel as if somebody’s force-feeding you their own opinion,” she said. “It’s bringing you together and bringing you into the decision and it’s like opening up like different connections to people around you, likeminded and in your own town.”

For Hannah Taylor, a junior creative advertising major, the most interesting part of the Barista Throwdown was hearing the stories behind the drinks and getting insight into why the drinks were like they were, rather than just participating in a blind taste test. 

“I feel like in a lot of other coffee shops you don’t normally get that,” she said. “It’s your typical whipped latte, mocha, standard things, but this is really allowing the baristas to be baristas and create anything they want.”

For more on the barista throwdown, check out the video below.

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