Humans are hardwired to be loyal creatures, I like to think. But nothing does so much to divide a city into a tribalistic den of animals as well as coffee, and nothing does so well to disguise a legal drug habit as "brand loyalty." That said, being picky is a privilege born from abundance, and San Francisco affords a lot of pickiness when it comes to coffee. We harbor some of the world's most talented coffee professionals, from roasters to café owners to baristas, and they're doing some interesting stuff. Chances are, you might not know about it. For a taste (or just some novelty), here are a few to get your hands on right now.
The shakerato is a coffee staple in Italy, a novelty in New York, and still somehow largely unknown to the masses on this coast. The folks at Blue Bottle are doing a bit to change that, offering the drink at the company's newest café in the old W.C. Morse building in Oakland. The drink is confoundingly simple -- espresso, simple syrup, and ice -- but when shaken well and quickly, the ingredients marry and froth into a smooth and nectar-like coffee drink. If made with an especially fruity espresso, the shakerato has a way of buoying up some of those summery, citrus flavors in a quite refreshing way, and gives you at least one excuse to get your morning drink from a cocktail shaker.
The Musake at Ma'velous
Ways of experiencing coffee at Ma'velous are vast, and sometimes kind of whimsical. This one is a special concoction from Philip Ma, who pulls a shot of single origin espresso on the top of Junmai sake. If the shakerato is for summer, the Musake is for the end of winter -- a good way to warm up your insides during the last of the rainy days.
The babyccino is another novelty from New York, though its exact provenance is unknown. Over the past year, it has become a contentious symbol of obnoxious parenting as well as the most popular drink of well-to-do babies. The drink is a tiny, mock cappuccino usually consisting of only steamed milk and a dollop of froth on top. For a baby, it's supposedly double-edged satisfaction: the joy of dipping your face into bath bubbles and the coddling sweetness of warm milk. Just ask any baby (well, maybe only the hip ones).
While you won't find the babyccino on menus, you might be surprised how many cafés will make it. Saint Frank in Russian Hill offers its own version, alongside a changing menu of drinks you've likely never tasted (e.g. espresso with Fever Tree tonic, the occasional barista competition signature drink, etc.). The café also makes its own almond macadamia nut milk. For best results, just say yes to everything.