Signature Drink Throwdown

Story by Monica Macaraeg
Photos by Marjann Patrick Victoria and Iana Peralta

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Coffee. What was once simply a hot cup to wake up has morphed into a blank (black) slate for flavor, texture and color, to be enjoyed day or night, in any weather or season. The improving quality of local and imported coffee has also paved the way for baristas to get creative. Like, really creative.


On April 27, Candid Coffee, in collaboration with Coffee Crawl Series, hosted the first-ever Signature Drink Throwdown at their Q.C shop. Lance, the man behind Candid Coffee, thought of the competition to build inclusivity in the coffee community and to bring barista presentation standards closer to bartender levels.


“Kasi pag latte art throwdown, [it’s very] very limited. At least kung Signature Beverage [competition], anyone can join. Plus it’s fun and a challenge to your storytelling skills and showmanship (a skill that I think can be improved in the coffee industry in general).” Open to both pros and amateurs, the competition drew three participants of varying backgrounds and we were in for a tasty surprise.


The mechanics: Using mystery Candid beans provided exclusively for the event, participants designed an original coffee drink. It could be hot or iced, using any other ingredients and any equipment behind Candid’s brew bar. Days before, participants received the mystery coffee for experimentation and practice.


The prize? A signature beverage feature as Candid Coffee’s D.O.M (Drink of the Month) plus royalties, and a brewing kit and coffee beans from Figures of Beans. And you get to make a ton of people happy with a brand new drink.

On to the competition! Candid’s tiny QC shop was crammed with friends of Candid and Coffee Crawl Series, chatting, snacking and talking coffee. Music blared, phones and tripods were set up, and all were excited to try new drinks.

Taste and presentation were the main criteria, along with coffee knowledge, showmanship, and costing. With their chosen music playing in the background, the participants started their preparations behind the brew bar. Each had two minutes to prepare and five minutes to present their drink and tell its story.

Judging were cafe owner Jenn Tan, and for the consumer POV, home roaster Joseph Manabat, and Ayna Guevara.

Second Runner-Up: Summertime Magic by Vince Santos (@vaqsantos)

Vince’s flash brew coffee cooler is liquid summer in a mason jar, with flavors of lemon, lime, cherry, and tarragon. Tarragon what?? Tarragon yes. It’s an herb and it went really well with this coffee concoction. This drink makes it very easy to imagine lying on a recliner in paradise, relaxing after a dip in the ocean.

First Runner-Up: Sunday Morning by Kyle Laforteza (@kylessilog)

Homey and nostalgic, Kyle’s drink made us think of both unrushed weekend mornings and quiet afternoons. He paired his Candid mystery coffee flash brew with a generous side of cream cheese — balancing sweet and salty, heavy and light. He explained that he didn’t add anything to the coffee because that’s how he would prepare it for his father, who is diabetic. And we think, that reason in itself is sweet enough. Aww.

Signature Drink Throwdown Winner: Earl Yang

Inspired by intimate conversations with a stranger in a bar, Earl’s Cold Fashioned resembles a negroni more than a cup of java. He started his non-alcoholic coffee cocktail with a cold brew of Candid’s mystery beans, added freshly-squeezed orange juice, a dash of his pistachio syrup, and finishes off with some tonic water. The result: a drink we’d gladly have day or night, whether in a swanky speakeasy or out in the daylight sitting outside a cafe.


Three good ideas, what makes the difference? Small refinements in ingredients, technique, work flow — or showmanship, whether to a row of judges or to one person across a bar — can push a drink just that bit further, building to those first few minutes when a customer buys one, sips and smiles.

Earl’s Cold Fashioned is now available at Candid Coffee’s shop on Congressional Ave., and at their Sidcor Market popup on Sundays.

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Signature Drink Throwdown