A little boozy and a little buzzing. Some people find coffee-based cocktails a delicious way to enjoy coffee in a whole new way.
Biggby Cafe Co-CEO Bob Fish invited us into his kitchen via video and shared one of his signature cocktail recipes with MLive, a Tiramisu Latte that’s a creamy dream with a nice pick-me-up.
Fish and his wife, Michelle, have always had a weekly date night and they continued their tradition even during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, instead of going out, they stay home and make special cocktails to enjoy together.
“Sometimes the coffee can just be too serious,” Fish said. “I started dreaming about how coffee could be an ingredient (in cocktails) and I determined it was endless.”
Biggby Coffee debuted in East Lansing in 1995. Fish grew up in Europe and was deeply influenced by the coffee culture there. After graduating from Michigan State University’s hotel program and paying for his education by working at a local restaurant, Fish knew he wanted to own his own restaurant. He partnered with his boss to develop the concept and worked hard over the following years, opening new locations. However, in 1994, he walked into his first cafe in the United States and said to himself “Oh, we can make coffee”.
“When I came back to the States, (the coffee) just wasn’t that great,” Fish said. “I worked in a creperie that also served bad coffee. A light bulb went out and I thought, “I want to leave the restaurant business and get into the coffee business”. “
Fish made a four-month research trip to Seattle, gathering all the information he could from this Java haven. From there he wrote a business plan – and was quickly turned down by every bank he turned to. The idea of a cafe was so new back then that no one wanted to help fund it. He finally figured it out on his own and opened his first store in 1995.
“I was in a new industry, with a new name. There weren’t any Starbucks or anything like that around, ”Fish said. “I opened this cafe with a thud and almost went bankrupt.”
He spent his savings, four credit cards, and even sold his car to stay afloat. It took a whole year for Biggby to start turning a corner.
To put it into perspective, “In 1995 we weren’t competing with specialty coffee, we were competing with Coca Cola,” Fish explained. That’s why Fish took what he knew about coffee and European coffee culture, and gave it a distinctly American twist. On Biggby’s early menus – a style they still follow today – is a lean toward sweet and creamy.
“We weren’t the fake Italian version,” said Fish. “We had to make it, from a palace perspective, something that people could transition into.” Coffee, with an American twist, is what Biggby has focused on and with great success.
Today, Biggby is a franchise with 247 stores open and 55 more in development.
“Now the consumer is more interested in fair trade coffee, organic coffee, where their coffee comes from,” Fish said when asked about changes in the industry since it opened. “Consumers are more health conscious, even if they don’t always act on it. “
Creating these cafe cocktails was a fun journey for Fish and for his wife, who can sip the fruits of her labor. “I’m not trying to boost coffee sales, I’m trying to boost creativity,” he said.
Fish joined MLive virtually to create a special coffee cocktail. You can watch the video below. We also have the recipe, so you can also try to prepare it at home.
Using coffee in new ways and with new flavors is also a change happening in the industry. Flavors like turmeric and ripe sage, Biggby’s coffee reflects these trends. They also inspire new ideas from Fish for creative cocktail creations.
What makes a great coffee cocktail? According to Fish, it’s all about taking notes and naming the drink that you can identify even before you taste it. “So all I have to do is meet your expectations. “
“Identify your favorite cocktail and reinvent it,” Fish said. “Maybe you need coffee in it, maybe not. But I would like people to reinvent what is familiar to them.
Bob Fish Tiramisu Latte
4 oz Biggby coffee, brewed and chilled
2 oz Jagermeister Cold Brew Liqueur
4 ounces of whole milk
1 ounce of cognac
1 oz of Godiva chocolate liqueur
coffee ice cubes
soft whipped cream, sweet if you like
Brew your coffee, and since it’s going to be used in a cold drink, make it stronger than normal. Fish explained how you perceive flavors differently when things are cold, so to get the full flavor of the coffee in the drink you want a strong brew. However you prepare it, whether in a drip machine, pourer or French press, chill it quickly to retain the best coffee flavor. For tips on how to brew your best cup of coffee at home, check out Biggby’s Bean basics here.
Use some of your leftover coffee to make coffee ice cubes, your drink and your taste buds will thank you for not watering down your drink.
Mix your brewed and chilled Biggby coffee, your Jager, your milk, your brandy and your Godiva liqueur. Whole milk is the key here; it has enough body to resist those strong flavors. If you have a frother, you can whisk the drink a bit to make it lighter at this point, but you don’t have to. Pour over your coffee ice cubes.
Garnish the drink with lightly whipped cream. The cream should be thick, frothy, but still pourable. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder. Sip and enjoy.
To find a Biggby near you, check out their locations here.