Forget the Starbucks standby: These five locally made, autumn-inspired lattes and caffeine-infused cocktails take the chill off fall, with house-crafted ingredients and inventive presentations.
Maple Bourbon Latte
Coffee Shop, Lafayette and Walnut Creek
Your neighborhood place for a caffeine fix not only doles out inventive flavors year-round but also serves up seasonal tweaks on the classics—sometimes with a boozy boost.
For its Maple Bourbon Latte, Coffee Shop starts with two shots of Berkeley-roasted espresso from Bellwether Coffee, then combines it with steamed milk, 100-percent maple syrup, bourbon, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a cinnamon-sugared mug rim for garnished flair.
“The inspiration was simply to create an interesting coffee cocktail that is warm, comforting, and truly enjoyable,” says Coffee Shop brand manager Ansley Luce. As you can expect with the addition of alcohol, the bourbon-spiked latte is only available to enjoy in-house, so pair it with one of the provided board games and a house-made pop tart. .
Orange Cinnamon Spice Tea Latte
Inklings Coffee and Tea, Pleasanton
On Main Street, there’s no better place to cuddle up with a warm drink than Inklings Coffee and Tea.
For fall, general manager Hannah Arionus dreamed up the Orange Cinnamon Spice Tea Latte—a combination of spiced tea and steamed milk—to offer an alternative to the oftentimes artificial, mass-produced lattes.
“The pumpkin spice latte has unnecessary ingredients—sugar, additives, and ones that you probably don’t know how to pronounce,” she says. “Our goal is to offer delicious beverages without the unnecessary extra. For me, I want a fall drink that reminds me of home or Harry Potter because obviously, Harry Potter is the embodiment of all things fall.” .
Hot Siphon Toddy
One part fall cocktail, one part chemistry experiment, the Hot Siphon Toddy from Oakland’s Duchess uses a healthy dose of science to imbue autumnal flavors into the warm sipper.
Rye whiskey, rum, lemon juice, sweet potato syrup, black pepper tincture, and water get a kick from plenty of spice (allspice, cinnamon, clove, and ginger), all of which are added to the bottom of a two-chamber glass siphon and heated by flame. The pressure shoots the ingredients to the top chamber of the siphon, where the liquid infuses and then cools back to the bottom chamber, resulting in an incredibly smooth toddy—a process that takes around five minutes for each made-to-order drink.
Duchess bar manager Luis Ramos has been obsessed with perfecting the hot toddy since his time at Absinthe in San Francisco, where the ingredients were painstakingly presented on a tray. “They would take their time, making it as beautiful and flavorful as could be,” says Ramos. “It always inspired me to take my time with ingredients and garnishes to make them perfect.” .
Crème Brûlée Latte
Mountain Grounds Coffee Roaster, Martinez
It’s hard to imagine a drink more indulgent than a latte fashioned after pumpkin pie, but Mountain Grounds manages to kick the sugar rush up a notch with its own dessert-inspired beverage.
For its Crème Brûlée Latte, the shop tops house-roasted espresso and steamed milk with a layer of sugar that’s torched table-side to mimic the crackly exterior of the classic dessert. The resulting drink is only available to enjoy inside the café due to the pyrotechnics, but owner John Cassidy says that’s a big part of the appeal.
“We like finding ways to get people to pause for a couple of minutes … to sit down and enjoy coffee and good company,” says Cassidy. .
Chai Latte Cocktail
Luna Tea Co., Livermore
This tucked-away gem in Livermore’s Blacksmith Square already had a healthy following for its test tube–sized tea blends, tea lattes, and cheekily named iced teas. (A Beach B*tch, anyone?) But looking to offer a tea-centric gathering place for the happy hour crowd, Luna Tea Co. owner Jenni Curtice began experimenting with tea cocktails.
“I wanted to provide people with an entirely new way of looking at tea,” she says. “The cocktail menu was inspired by my tea, and I spent months … crafting them just right.”
Easily the most quaffable, the Chai Latte Cocktail tastes exactly like its nonalcoholic namesake, with Curtice’s hand-blended Spice Junkie tea (assam tea, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper, ginger, and cloves) mixed with fermented cinnamon whiskey, simple syrup, and splashes of ginger beer and coconut cream, and garnished with star anise. .
Chai This Now!
Make the Chai Latte Cocktail from Luna Tea Co. at home.
- 4 ounces Spice Junkie tea blend
- 4 ounces RJ Boone Hot
- Cinnamon whiskey
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Splash of ginger beer
- Splash of coconut cream
- 1 whole star anise
Tea for this cocktail should be brewed extra strong. Use 3 heaping teaspoons of tea per 8 ounces of water, and brew for 7–10 minutes. Refrigerate to cool—don’t add ice, as it will water down the tea. (The tea blend can be found at Luna Tea Co. or online).
Shake the cooled tea, whiskey, and simple syrup together in a cocktail shaker, and pour over light ice. Top with a splash of ginger beer and then a splash of coconut cream. Add one flower of star anise to garnish.
“It pretty much tastes exactly like a chai latte, with the spices, a hint of sweetness, and then the creamy quality from the coconut cream, which also makes it vegan. The cinnamon whiskey completes it.“
—Jenni Curtice, Luna Tea Co. owner