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Postcards from the Bench

Sips & Stirs Inspiration: Warming Sensations

April 2021 | Patrick, Associate Scientist

Sips & Stirs is our unique drink insights platform that engages audiences through the stories that come out of beverage immersions across the US. In early 2020 (pre-COVID), that meant sampling over 300 beverages across Austin, Atlanta and San Diego with a cross functional McCormick team made up of folks from culinary, Marketing and PD. (And yes, you read that right … 300 beverages!)  These discoveries helped identify flavor trends for everything from coffee to cocktails.

San Diego delivers in so many ways when it comes to the beverage scene – and this includes coffee. During my time there I headed to La Jolla to visit Better Buzz, a high-end coffee and espresso bar known for their “Best Drink Ever.” We had to find out if it lived up to its name! Our group sampled this “Best Drink” – classic Americano plus vanilla – as well as indulgent and unique coffee, iced drinks and smoothies. One that struck me as most interesting was their Campfire Latte on the menu as: Espresso, vanilla, smoked black tea, molasses and toasted marshmallow. My team described it as: “Kinda smoky, bacon-y, barbecue-y, with notes of black tea and molasses.”

This latte fits right in with our trend called Sensorial Spiced – meaning contrasting heat or warming and cool experiences. Rather than delivering on burning heat, sweet brown spices and other elements were blended and optimized to convey warming, comforting sensations. With sweet profiles like nutmeg and cinnamon and toasted profiles like applewood smoke and toasted sesame, it felt like the perfect drink for sharing around an actual campfire (in your favorite flannel of course) with friends.

Intrigued by the complexity of these toasted elements, I created a Charred Oak Cold Brew back at McCormick’s Technical Innovation Center. In a straight flavor application to coffee, with the coffee flavoring coming in first, I was careful to balance the subtle charred flavor overtones without it tasting like campfire. Ideal for coffee, the smoke and char flavors seamlessly transfer to whiskey or other aged spirits. 

Feeling thirsty? Feeling inspired? Let’s collaborate to bring heat and cool contrasting flavors to your beverage innovation today. Also, reach out to your McCormick account manager or contact us today to learn more about Sips & Stirs.