Coffee cocktail being poured into a glass by a bartender.

From Bean to Bar: The Evolution of Coffee Culture

Diageo World Class winner and ‘caficionado’ Christos Klouvatos talks about how a booming coffee culture continues to influence the cocktail world.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The smell of freshly-brewed coffee isn’t just for relaxing mornings or busy city cafes anymore—it's continuing to make big waves on the cocktail scene.

From the Carajillo to the Frozen Espresso Martini, coffee cocktails are also finding their identity beyond the classics. So, we caught up with Diageo World Class winner Christos Klouvatos to chat about the coffee and cocktails power dynamic, and the new serves that are taking this popular caffeinated trend next level.


Coffee culture and mixology could even be seen as a movement. Christos says,“The coffee community is expanding a lot and we're seeing more opportunities to taste different varieties, from different regions and countries from all over around the world. There are also more experiments with fermentation processes on how it will impact the result of the coffee beans, and the flavours in the cup.

This is very interesting because all those techniques coming from the wine and bar industry, like maceration, create a connection and better understanding on how new flavour techniques can impact the result of a product.”

This is an opportunity for all bartenders to see coffee not just as a drink to enjoy during the morning, but as a product with rich flavours that can create delicious cocktails.

Christos Klouvatos


Coffee production is evolving to keep up with our craving for specialty blends and more complex flavours. Christos explains:

“A rise in different methods of processing coffee beans, like natural process or an aerobic slow fermentation with or without oxygen, is creating complexity and new layers of flavours.

More and more coffee farms are collaborating with experts to create new flavour profiles. This gives them a better chance in the coffee market, where experienced baristas are demanding more expertise, complexity, and a high quality of flavours.”

For example, coffee from Ethiopia (the motherland of coffee) could give out a result of very fruity and floral notes like Jasmine, raspberries, or citrus flavours of pink grapefruit and orange.”


With coffee cocktails having a well-deserved time in the spotlight, why not take a few minutes to see how well you know your stuff with our short coffee cocktail serves quiz?


All these new flavours are inspiring a rise in local coffee cocktail creations. Christos says, “If we look at  different cultures globally, we could witness a new trend of mixing local ingredients, liqueurs, and spirits to create twisted classics, like the Espresso Martini, but with tequila for example in Mexico for a “Jalisco Espresso” or with Rum in Guatemala or add grappa instead of vodka for an Italian Espresso Martini.”

Bartenders are using these exciting flavour combinations to make next level coffee cocktails: “A great way to extract the flavours would be to grind the coffee and infuse it with water to make a cold brew and achieve the level of sugars and intensity you would prefer to create for example a cold-brew whisky highball.

“A beautiful example is a cocktail I created at my bar for the World Class competition called ‘A Message from Scotland’ (full recipe below). It’s a whisky highball with cold brew coffee from Ethiopia, mushroom tea, fermented honey, jasmine tincture, and Johnnie Walker Black Label, all together to create complexity and highlight flavours from the four corners of Scotland.

The garnish was a slice of dried king oyster mushroom flavoured with salt, honey, and coffee!”


We asked Christos how the speciality coffee trend is impacting what people choose when they order coffee cocktails:

“In countries and cities where coffee shops or bars are using specialty coffee and are focused on the different varieties and flavours of each coffee, customers are also exposed to this new trend. It’s our job as bartenders or baristas to educate through our cocktails and our passion guiding the customer on what, when and how to drink.”

Christos also explains how coffee culture is changing the perception of coffee cocktails, “From my personal experience customers can become very enthusiastic when they taste different things and they can see that coffee cocktails can be something different, not just something bitter and boozy with some sugar syrup, but a whole new world flavour boundaries that can be broken.

“For example, creating an alternative Espresso Martini with coffee from Ethiopia, fresh raspberry cordial, vanilla and Ketel One Vodka could be an example of how a specific coffee with wild berries flavour can create a well-balanced coffee cocktail and provide a great experience for the customer.

As the specialty coffee industry and bar industry are changing, the coffee cocktails are improving too.


So, what’s the key to unlocking your own world-class coffee cocktail recipe? According to Christos, it's all about paying attention to the flavours of both the coffee and the spirit: “It is very important to build around the flavours of both the coffee and the spirit, to create synergy, different layers, and a balanced combination of flavours.”

He also spills the beans on some of his winning coffee cocktail combos for some inspiration when you're thinking about matching spirits with coffee varieties.

Coffee Cocktails Flavour Matching: Christos’s How-To


Spirit = Zacapa Solera 23y 

Coffee = Brazilian

“For a Coffee Mai-Tai with Zacapa Solera 23y, I would choose a coffee from Brazil. With its dark fruits flavour, intense brown and chocolate notes, it will match perfectly with the Zacapa Solera. Then create my own walnut or almond orgeat to combine it with the nutty flavour of the coffee and create synergy with Zacapa Rum.”


Spirit = Tanqueray No 10

Coffee = Columbian Sidra

If I wanted to create a Gimlet coffee cocktail with Tanqueray No.10, I could choose a sidra variety coffee from Colombia washed processed to have more citrus character, herbal notes and create a light roasting profile to extract it as a filter coffee and let it chill in the fridge.

With this cold coffee I could create my own cordial with lime oleo saccharum, sugar, citric acid and of course a great Colombian coffee. This would result in a Gimlet with a very complex botanical full of citrus and with light vanilla character, where the Sidra coffee would perfectly match Tanqueray’s Ten’s profile.



Feeling perked up and inspired by those flavour combinations? Christos has whipped up some more coffee cocktail recipes that perfectly blend coffee flavours with spirits.

1. Brazilian Espresso Martini

A South American twist on the classic Espresso Martini, with the tartness of blackberry cordial and the rich, freshness of Brazilian espresso.

2. Message from Scotland

Christos’s "Message from Scotland" is a Highland-inspired highball that finely balances the dark fruit notes of Johnnie Walker Black Label with the wild berry flavours of Ethiopian coffee.

3. Modern Irish Coffee

The sweet fruitiness of Zacapa Solera 23y Rum crashes the Irish Coffee party in this delicious modern fusion with Panama geisha filter coffee and muscovado syrup.


  • Coffee culture has pushed the boundaries, inspiring a surge in coffee-infused cocktails worldwide.
  • An increase in unique coffee flavours has led to a rise in inventive coffee cocktails.
  • A crossover of techniques from barista to bartender, such as milk washing and maceration, that are enriching the cocktail experience.
  • Different coffee processing methods and origins impact flavour profiles, enhancing the complexity of coffee-based cocktails.
  • Finding harmony between coffee and spirit flavours creates balanced and multi-layered coffee cocktails that taste amazing.