You arrive at your local coffee shop and order your usual — perhaps a vanilla latte or classic cappuccino. But if you look closer at the menu boards, you may notice some intriguing drink names that don’t have descriptions listed. These are secret menu items only known to those “in the know.”
Secret menus that go beyond standard cafe fare allow baristas to flex their craft coffee skills and feature unique ingredients. Typically predicated on experimentation and word-of-mouth buzz, these hush-hush options offer both novelty and customizability.
This article offers a peek behind the curtain at secret drink recipes and concepts you can order during your next coffee break. Read on for need-to-know tips from baristas on how to order secret menu items plus examples of under-the-radar offerings you may encounter.
What Is a Secret Coffee Shop Menu?
Unlike fast food chains like Starbucks with published secret menus, most independent coffee houses rely on subtle insider creativity off the boards. Seasonal specials, a barista’s signature drink or unique ingredients may inspire combinations kept under wraps.
Secret menus indicated with cryptic notes like “off-menu selections available” give bartenders and baristas flexibility for off-script experimentation. Customers have to ask — or use social media buzz — to find out more.
The clandestine offerings change frequently based on whims or availability, almost like coffee speak-easies. But sleuthing out these covert options opens new bold flavors and customization possibilities beyond the daily drip.
How to Order From Secret Menus at Coffee Shops
Ordering secret menu sips takes a careful inquiry approach, tactfully inquiring about item specifics once you arrive. Consider these tips:
Scan signage for clues — Notes like “ask us about today’s specials” or “barista’s choice” reveal openness to requests.
Ask politely — Don’t demand undisclosed options. Baristas may share broad concepts about past favorites to gauge interest before unveiling specific details.
Accept unpredictability — Ingredients on hand and technical skills determine feasibility. Go with the flow about availability fluctuations.
Clarify accommodations — Upfront, note any dietary issues like dairy restrictions that may limit suggestions or require certain swaps.
Tip generously — Compensate baristas fairly for extra effort in preparing intricate unlabeled recipes, especially during busy rushes.
Proper secret menu etiquette means graciously accepting whatever insider intel your barista can provide without expectations. Then thank experts generously for peak hospitality if they can accommodate adventurous palates.
7 Secret Menu Coffee Drinks to Try
While options fluctuate constantly, speakeasy drink recipes fall into several broad categories. Here are 7 secret menu coffee types with examples of specialty beverages to ask about:
1. Flavored Lattes
Beyond traditional offerings, some cafes craft unique flavor infusions adding aromatic spices, fruit purees or sauces. Consider inquiring about:
- Jelly donut latte — Espresso, steamed milk, chocolate sauce, raspberry jam or filling
- Matcha Zen latte — Matcha green tea powder, milk, honey, vanilla
2. Colorful Creations
Some secret shakes use vivid natural dyes from fruits or teas paired with cream bases. Potential colorful wonders to ask if available:
- Butterbeer latte — Blonde espresso, butterscotch, cream topped with golden sprinkles inspired by Harry Potter
- Blue algae latte — Blue-green spirulina powder blended into non-dairy milk
3. Showstopper Layers & Mix-ins
Textured secret sips feature multi-dimensional combinations like:
- Bananas foster cappuccino — Layered banana/brown sugar/cinnamon foam over espresso and steamed milk
- S’mores freeze — Toasted marshmallow, milk chocolate ganache, graham crackers in blended iced coffee
4. Adult Coffee Cocktails
Some cafes moonlight as mixology labs, spiking custom caffeine blends:
- Irish coffee — Fresh hot coffee, Irish whiskey, caramel, sweet cream, nutmeg
- Midnight mocha — Chocolate vodka meets coffee liqueur, espresso and chocolate milk over ice
5. Wellness Infusions
Functional benefit-boosting actives like collagen, vitamins or botanicals may supplement brews:
- Glow latte — Citrus vitamin C crystals or powder stirred into oat milk
- Turmeric golden milk latte — Anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg blended with steamed non-dairy milk
6. Off-Menu Espresso Drinks
Roasteries get creative adapting classic recipes like:
- The purple rain — Sugary plum syrup combines with soy milk and espresso
- Galaxy tumeric tea — House chai concentrate featuring star-anise and vanilla tames turmeric earthiness
7. Fuel & Recovery Smoothies
Some cafes offer nutrition-packed smoothies designed to:
- Start your day strong like an almond butter, berry, hemp heart and vanilla almond milk “Daybreak” blend
- Rehydrate post-gym with electrolyte-rich coconut water “Sport” smoothies
Note exact offerings depend entirely on the coffee shop, their inventory and staff. But these categories provide talking points to potentially access exclusive Signature options at your next coffee break.
More Coffee House Secret Menu Questions
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about ordering covert cafe selections beyond the menu boards:
Do large chains like Starbucks or Peet’s have secret menus?
Yes. But offerings are unofficial and vary by barista familiarity versus independent shops rotating monthly specialties.
Where does the secret menu concept come from?
Tradition of hospitality excellence rewarding regulars morphed into social media buzz driving demand for custom requests.
Why don’t menus just list secret drink options openly?
Ingredient unpredictability and effort level make flexibility necessary. Unique options rely on customer curiosity asking directly.
What are the most popular secret menu drink types?
Classics like iced caramel apple spice lattes are popular. Adventurous combinations with candy or dessert flavor inspiration also get buzz.
What tips do baristas recommend when ordering secret drinks?
Politely ask about specialty options. Go during slow periods so staff can dedicate time to custom prep. And tip generously for extra effort!
Final Takeaways on Ordering Secret Menu Coffee Drinks
From colorful to boozy to wellness-enhancing, secret coffee shop menus reveal fascinating possibilities beyond drip coffee or vanilla lattes. Baristas stuck at home during quarantine took to social media to showcase their off-menu innovations which gained viral notoriety and consumer demand.
Tapping into the hidden world of custom coffee requests makes for memorable caffeinated adventures. Just remember orders require flexibility along with curiosity to access barista mixology magic.
Hopefully this introduction to the allure of covert coffee options inspires adventurous palates to explore secret menus — or at least spark intriguing discussions with talented baristas on their craft creations for the next memorable sip.
The details on actual 7 Brew Coffee secret menu offerings are proprietary information that I unfortunately do not have access to. But hopefully this article provides an overview of the secret menu concept and how specialty cafes develop exclusive beverage innovations. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!