Of all the trends that have come to the coffee industry over the years, one of my favorites is the rotating seasonal menu. I’m not talking about the tired ’ol holiday season peppermint mocha being rolled out every year or the pumpkin spice latte. I’m talking about well thought out, new, creative, seasonally inspired beverages that you may have never seen before or possibly won’t see again. Don’t get me wrong, the peppermint mocha and pumpkin spice latte certainly have their place in our coffee world, but it’s exciting to see new and different items popping up on menus all year long.
There are only a few area shops doing this kind of intensive menu work on a seasonal basis, and today I’m going to focus on Voyageurs Bakehouse. As their name states, they are first and foremost a Bakehouse, but don’t let that fool you (like the girls I saw walk in with coffee cups from somewhere else). The coffee service at Voyageurs is as tasty and creative as anyone in town. Their new Spring menu launched on April 8th and is popping with some new, fresh, and interesting flavors. It features an adventurous take on the Wisconsin classic, the Old Fashioned, as well as a Kentucky Derby inspired latte. (Don’t worry, the girls with other coffee cups will be trying drinks at Voyageurs next time they stop in for pastries.)
First up, I had to check out the Old Fashioned Espresso Fizz. This is a cocktail inspired drink, not an actual cocktail. It doesn’t have alcohol and it doesn’t taste exactly like an Old Fashioned either. However, it does have classic Old Fashioned ingredients to welcome those that enjoy the cocktail. Cherry and orange are muddled together in the bottom of the glass before a little orange syrup is added along with a few dashes of Bittercube Jamaican Bitters. Then it’s topped off with club soda and espresso. If one were to swap the espresso for brandy, I think this would be warmly welcomed at any local Supper Club and served while waiting for your fish fry. Obviously, that’s not happening and espresso does not taste anything like brandy, so you’re getting a completely different drink that stands well on its own. It is enough like an Old Fashioned for those that love them and it’s different enough for those that just want to enjoy a nice sparkling espresso drink.
From brandy to bourbon we go, kind of. The Mint Julep is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby, it features Bourbon, Mint, and Sugar. The Voyageur version is equally as simple with just espresso, milk, and a house made mint julep syrup. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this one when I saw it on the menu. Not because I doubted it would be good overall, but just for me personally, I do not like mint. Surprise! I actually liked it. The first sip was nothing like I expected it to be. I think I was anticipating it being like a peppermint mocha minus the chocolate, but it wasn’t that at all. The mint was smooth and welcoming, not overpowering like some mint can be (looking at you peppermint). There was a sweetness to it as well, but not like a sugary syrup, just a little touch that was rounded out nicely by the milk. This is truly a unique drink.
Next up is the Lavender latte, which, unlike the first two, you’ve probably seen before. The versions you have seen before usually have additional flavors added to it, like vanilla or lemon. The reason is because lavender can be tricky to use, it has to be a balancing act. When done well, it can be wonderful, when done poorly, it can be like drinking perfume. Well, no worries here at Voyageurs, like I said earlier, their coffee service is top notch and they know what they are doing. This beautiful latte was subtle, sweet, and floral, not too much of any one thing. It’s even possible that someone unfamiliar with lavender could drink it and not really be able to tell what they are tasting or smelling. This was actually perfect for me, just a nice warm, cozy latte with only accents of additional flavors. I spent too many years having my taste buds blown out by strong, sugary, factory made, syrups. However, if you are worried about it being too subtle, I suggest you have it alongside their delightful Lavender Vanilla Shortbread cookie. Both items are great on their own, but when paired together, the lavender really pops. The cookie has just the right amount of crumble as a proper shortbread should. It is light, crisp, and buttery, perfect to pair with your latte.
I wasn’t able to get pictures of the other two seasonal drinks, but they are the Coconut Orange Matcha and a Lemon Tea. The Matcha is basically just Spring in a glass. The fresh smell and taste of coconut blend perfectly with the grassy green of the Matcha and it’s topped off with a nice citrus orange zest. The fresh air of Springtime is the coconut, the trees and the grass growing is the matcha, and the new buds of the flowers are the orange. Served shaken and over ice for a refreshing, light caffeine, afternoon pick me up.
If you’re looking for a completely caffeine free treat, try the new lemon tea. It features the “Spring is in the Air” herbal tea from Sweet Willow in DePere as well as a house made lemon syrup and a lemon sugar topper. This drink is just a perfect way to blend the cool days of Spring with the upcoming warm days of Summer.
Voyageurs is located at 201 West College Ave in the heart of downtown Appleton, across the street from Houdini Plaza. As well as at their original location, 340 N. Broadway, Suite 110, in Green Bay. Both locations are open Tuesday-Saturday 8am-2pm and closed on Sundays and Mondays. They specialize in sourdough baking and when people hear sourdough they think of bread, rightfully so. Sourdough bread is delicious, and Voyageurs does it better than anyone else, but they don’t just make bread. They offer croissants, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and all sorts of other pastries to go with your coffee. There is always something unique and amazing to try. They also offer a wide range of sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch. Just like their coffee menu, these aren’t your typical, run of the mill sandwiches. If you are looking for something new and fresh, check out Voyageurs.