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10 Must-Try Specialty Coffee Drinks

By Sarah Freeman
February 28, 2014

A latte is so much more than espresso and milk at these 10 destinations. At more of our favorite coffee shops, baristas are transforming standards into delicious signature beverages, using ingredients such as housemade banana reduction and local honey, elevating the morning beverage to a treat worth indulging in regardless of the time of day.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Chic Coffee Drinker

    The Drink: Malted Freddo
    Where to Sip it: Beatrix
    Why it’s Delicious: This sophisticated drink is a perfect fit for the sophisticate all-day dining destination located inside the Aloft Hotel. It starts with espresso, chocolate and cream that is flavored with malt powders and served in a Collins glass. The baristas recommend pairing it with an angel food cake muffin from the pastry counter.

    519 N. Clark St.; 312-284-1377

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Glutton

    The Drink: Caramel Ecstasy
    Where to Sip it: Ugly Mug Café
    Why it’s Delicious: A double pull of Half-Wit coffee roasters Tri Force espresso is combined with a caramel and chocolate base. The rich coffee-chocolate-caramel combo is mixed with whole milk and topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and chocolate drizzle. Just don’t ask the baristas at this funky coffee shop how many calories are in it.

    1458 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-666-7707

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Hipster

    The Drink: Wake & Bake
    Where to Sip it: Star Lounge
    Why it’s Delicious: “It’s like everything surrounding bacon,” said the mad genius barista who created this drink, designed to jump-start any morning. Sage, black pepper and maple syrup are combined with espresso, steamed milk and some of the best latte art in the city. Best enjoyed at the bar of this beloved hangout.

    2521 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-384-7827

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Kid at Heart

    The Drink: Honey Bear Latte
    Where to Sip it: Wormhole
    Why it’s Delicious: Local honey from Laney Family Farms in Indiana gives this latte a hint of sweetness without the astringency of other sugary coffee drinks. The honey is harvested from bees that pollinate the farm's blueberry blossoms, giving it its delicate texture. It’s a surprisingly elegant drink for the coffee shop that also is home to a Delorean and vintage video games. Runner up: Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa.

    1462 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-661-2468

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Tea Drinker

    The Drink: Dirty Chai
    Where to Sip it: Publican Quality Meats
    Why it’s Delicious: Fans of the chai latte rejoice over this version made with housemade chai that is spiked with an extra shot of espresso. The chai has a subtle exoticness with a delicate balance of spices that is enhanced by the deep espresso notes. For rocking the name “dirty,” it’s a surprisingly well-composed drink with a clean finish.

    825 W. Fulton Mkt. 312-445-8977

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Wannabe European

    The Drink: Melange
    Where to Sip it: Julius Meinl
    Why it’s Delicious: Bringing a taste of Vienna into Lincoln Square, this sophisticated cafe combines elegance with charm, plus Austrian pastries and savory standards. It serves a selection of European-style espresso drinks, including this one that is a hybrid cappuccino and latte made with espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk that is finished with a dusting of house cocoa powder.

    4363 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-868-1876

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Chocolate Lover

    The Drink: Chocolate Espresso
    Where to Sip it: XOCO
    Why it’s Delicious: Remember that time we watched the pastry team make chocolate from scratch in the basement of Rick Bayless’s fast-casual Mexican hotspot? That same Oaxacan chocolate can be “kicked up a notch” with double espresso. This rich drink is made even more delicious with a side of churro, in this case, a pistachio one.

    449 N. Clark St.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Dreamer

    The Drink: Marshmallow Latte
    Where to Sip it: Big Shoulders
    Why it’s Delicious: Gather round the campfire with a bag of marshmallows, or the next best thing during this endless winter- a house vanilla latte served with an oversized marshmallow. The mallow takes a quick trip under the blowtorch until it is toasty and golden-brown. The minimalistic shop might be a far cry from the great outdoors, but at least the coffee is fresh.

    1105 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-888-3042

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Morning Person

    The Drink: Monkey latte
    Where to Sip it: Caffe Streets
    Why it’s Delicious: This Wicker Park shop knows how to pay attention to the details - from perfectly timed pour-overs to the housemade organic banana reduction that is used in their unique coffee drink. It is served with expertly pulled espresso and milk. If you are wondering if there are chunks of real bananas in the bottom, the answer is yes.

    1750 W. Division St.; 773-278-2739

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    For the Thrill Seeker

    The Drink: The Ipsento
    Where to Sip it: Ipsento
    Why it’s Delicious: This might be the Grand Puba of coffee drinks, served at this soon-to-be expanding coffee shop and roaster. A combination of sweet and spice - plus a kick of espresso roasted in house - is achieved with an ounce of honey and a dash of cayenne that's combined with a one to three ratio of coconut milk to whole milk. Runner up: Cardamom rose latte.

    2035 N. Western Ave.; 773-904-8177

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Places Mentioned

XOCO

Mexican • River North

Food27 Decor18 Service20 Cost$21
 
 
 
Food27 Decor20 Service23 Cost$25
 
 
 
Julius Meinl Coffeehouse

Coffee Shop • North Center

Food23 Decor21 Service21 Cost$15
 
 
 
 
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