Grab a Winning Drink at Bongo Java
Barista Patrick Rush gently placed the steaming teacup, crowned with a white nest of spun sugar cradling a wobbly brown tea sphere, in front of the three judges. He sighed. “You can give me a zero for practicality. I don’t care.”
As most Nashvillians know, Bongo World’s seven locations (including Fido and Hot & Cold) serve some of the most inventive seasonal drinks in town. The provenance of those drinks can be attributed directly to the cafes’ creative baristas, via the much-anticipated and twice-yearly signature drink competition. At this year’s spring/summer competition held after hours at Fenwick’s 300, nine enthusiastic Bongo Java employees presented their creative concoctions to a panel of volunteer judges, who scribbled on scorecards according to predetermined rating criteria. When veteran barista Patrick Rush presented his spun sugar nest drink, the judges oohed and aahed, marking high scores in creativity but, predictably, low scores in replicability.
Katie Domschke, a novice barista of Bongo East, spoke quietly as she presented a winning iced latte called the “Luau.” Her drink—which mixes one part iris water with one part lavender extract and three parts grapefruit juice, plus sweetened condensed milk—is inspired by Bongo World’s all-time best seller (and winner of a previous competition) called the “Grey Skies.” The judges were pleasantly surprised by how well the grapefruit flavor blended with the rest of the drink.
“It doesn’t taste soapy at all,” commented one judge. “Which is impressive for a lavender drink,” responded another.
Returning to this season’s competition with her second perfect-score drink was Hot & Cold’s Erin Borzak, who concocted an Earl Grey tea drink called “The Village Mist.” Cream soda, lavender, honey, and orange zest were ruled a winning combination that could indeed be replicated by baristas in all locations (a crucial aspect of the competition).
Second place went to Fido employee Jonathan Pfahl, whose drink “Julep Journey” combined iced white tea with peach syrup, rosewater, and fresh mint. He told the judges his advance research led him to realize the classic mint julep drink was originally a Persian rosewater drink. “Three different ingredients from three different points of history have been turned into my drink,” Pfahl explained.
Contender Rachel Mullins was inspired by the special requests she often hears at Bongo Java Belmont. Her drink, “Black Velvet,” incorporated blackberry puree, cashew milk, and white chocolate syrup. Yum.
Perhaps the most cerebral drink, concocted by Barista Manager Dillon Smith, was a caricature of the flavors in an Ethiopian Unwashed Sidama coffee. “Blueberry and tangelo juice recreate the flavors of the coffee, the recognition of which comes about five minutes after the first sip,” he enthused during his presentation.
For those seeking refreshing and intriguing alternatives to cappuccinos and pour-overs on Nashville’s warm days, duck into a Bongo Java location for a lesson in adventure—knowing the drink’s kitchen practicality is far outshone by its signature creativity.
BONGO’S SEASONAL DRINKS
The Black Velvet: iced latte, cashew milk, white chocolate, and blackberries at Bongo Belmont
Dillon’s Cool Hand Blueb: pressure-brewed Sidama with blueberry and tangelo juice at Bongo East
AND THE WINNER IS:
Erin’s the Village Mist: iced earl grey tea, lavender cream soda, honey & orange zest Hot & Cold
RUNNER UP J. Pfahl's Julep Journey: iced white tea with peaches, rosewater & mint Fido