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Ombre beverages provide eye candy for customers

Multicolored drinks are taking on new forms

Appearance has always been a factor in how people enjoy their food and drink, but it is a more important one in this visual age when people often see their menu options long before they have the opportunity to order them. This seems to be even more important with drinks than with food. Social media is bursting with posts of people posing with their favorite drinks, possibly customized by themselves, or cribbed from a “menu hack” an influencer exhibited, or maybe the drink was already created to be stunning on its own. Often these drinks come layered, topped with a foam or lighter liquid that provides for contrasting flavor and color, and often temperature and texture, that add to these drinks’ appeal.

These ombre drinks, like the hairstyle of that name in which one color fades into another, are visually striking, and the beverages are growing in popularity.

They’re not exactly new: Cappuccino, espresso topped with frothed milk, has been around for generations (possibly centuries, depending on who you believe), as has the Pousse-Café, a layered cocktail of up to seven layers, with heavier, sweeter ingredients topped by lighter ones, for example grenadine could be topped with yellow Chartreuse, followed by crème de cassis, crème de menthe, green Chartreuse, and brandy.

And of course beer, with its frothy head, is arguably an ombre drink, too. So is espresso with its head of foamy crema.

But new ombre drinks are in the making. Starbucks introduced Cold Foam, made by aerating skim milk, at its Reserve Roastery in Seattle in 2014, and rolled it out systemwide in 2018. Soon other coffeehouse chains followed.

That same year, cheese tea, a Chinese invention, possibly from Shanghai, possibly from Taipei, started to get attention in the United States. It’s cold tea topped with cream cheese that has been thinned out with water or milk and flavored with sugar or salt, or both. 

Take a look at some classic and new ombre drinks.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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