In the latest instalment of our culinary trend report, we ask why Melbourne's cafés are seeing such a strong uptick in signature drinks.

Signature drinks seem to be popping up more and more on café menus across Melbourne, and we at Melbourne Food & Wine Festival are here for it.

The signature café drink trend – where cafés create a flagship and often seasonal beverage for their menu – has a cult-like following in South Korea, the drinks often less concerned with the serious nature of third-wave coffee and more driven by ingredients such as syrups and dairy in whimsical and creative ways.

West Melbourne’s latest culinary triumph, Moon Mart, has a condensed-milk iced latte on their menu, created as an ode to owners Eun Hee An and Mei Onsamlee’s love of the frappuccino. Combining Vietnamese iced coffee with a whipped cream float and topping it with peanut praline, the result is an indulgent treat.

Carlton café Assembly runs a rotating seasonal signature drink on their menu, inspired by customer suggestions. “We were getting requests for syrups, like caramel or hazelnut, but we were set on making the best possible version of something like this,” says owner, Christina Trabucco. In 2022 they released their dulce de leche latte – a decadent and fun combination of caramelised sweetness and an instant hit with their customers. When the weather warmed, they began experimenting with incorporating malt into a cold coffee, resulting in a drink brimming with sweetness and the summertime nostalgia of a milkshake.

“When you make a couple of hundred flat whites a day, it’s a bit of a thrill to see the community jump on board a drink that’s a bit of a wild card,” says Trabucco. “I guess it’s a bit like a cocktail bar – the classics are damn good, like a flat white or a Martini, but sometimes you’re in the mood for something different, or a new take on an old classic.”

In addition to their experimentation with coffee, Assembly also works with tea in their signature drinks, creating seasonal iced tea blends. This summer, they’re brewing an iced tea blend of hojicha, chamomile, orange peel, and maple. The savoury flavour of the hojicha, a toasted Japanese green tea, pairs perfectly with the fresh softness of the chamomile, and is balanced with the refreshing acidity of the orange peel and a hint of sweetness from the maple – perfect for the summer months.

It would be an incomplete list of signature café drinks without mentioning Good Measure’s Mont Blanc. A drink that has cropped up on social media feeds across town since its arrival on their menu, co-owner Max Allision is going through multiple 18-litre kegs of filter coffee a week just to keep up with demand.

“The Mont Blanc is inspired by Korean coffee culture; we wanted a beverage that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” says Allison. Equal parts caffeine fix and sweet treat, the Mont Blanc can be served hot or cold, with the cold version being the more popular among their customers. It’s made up of filter coffee, black-sugar syrup, fresh cream, and is topped with nutmeg and orange zest. The combination of flavours creates a unique beverage that has quickly become a signature serve at the café.

Whether it’s a love letter to the frappucino like Moon Mart’s condensed-milk iced latte or a seasonal special like Assembly’s malted iced coffee, signature drinks provide a chance for café owners to get creative and offer their customers something truly memorable.

Verdict: Thing.

Get your taste:

Moon Mart, Tues-Fri 8am-3pm, Sat-Sun 7am-12pm,11-13 Stawell St, West Melbourne,

Assembly Coffee, Mon-Fri 7am-3pm, Sat 8am-2pm, unit 60/62 Pelham St, Carlton,

Bench Coffee, multiple locations,

Good Measure, open daily 7.30am-3.30-pm,193 Lygon St, Carlton, @goodmeasuremelbourne