Is there anything better than sipping a giant mug of hot coffee and enjoying a pile of fluffy pancakes? Let me answer that for you: There isn't. There's just something special about washing down a bite of sweet, buttery flapjacks with sharp, strong coffee-beauty and the bitter. Fortunately for us though, you really can have it all, in one slightly-doctored cup of coffee that tastes like pancakes. Bon Appetit caught up with Durham, North Carolina's own Lem Butler, a barista trainer and wholesale customer support representative at Counter Culture headquarters, who happens to be the winner of the 2016 United States Barista Championship. Also a five-time Southeast Regional Barista Competition champ, Butler is one of the most decorated competitive baristas ever.
For Butler, the secret to his success is in the sauce. Or rather-in the syrup. To compete in the U.S. Barista Championship, competitors present three drinks to the judges: an espresso, a cappuccino, and a signature drink. For his signature drink, Butler brewed a nitro version of Finca Nuguo, a Panamanian-grown Ethiopian Gesha varietal, and added lemongrass and a homemade magnolia and hibiscus simple syrup. Clearly, it was a winning combination. But according to Butler, syrup and coffee should go together more often.
Aside from homemade flavored simple syrups, Butler's a big advocate of molasses, sorghum syrup, and yes, maple syrup having a place in your morning coffee. His best trick? Making coffee taste like pancakes. To make yourself a cup of coffee as comforting as a stack of flapjacks, Butler says to pour maple syrup into a mug, fill it with steamed milk, and put in a cinnamon stick. Then, pour your espresso into the cinnamon stick's center hole, like your pouring it into a straw. The espresso will pick up the cinnamon, and combine with the milk and syrup for a perfect drink to start your day.