First Latte

The BTBama

by Alison L. Mead

The BTBama

Jocelyn Filley

I drank my Obamarita on the Ba-rocks,” proclaimed one of the many presidentially inspired shirts last summer. Each August, Obama-themed slogans pop up on local t-shirts, Obama puns grace headlines, and Obama-inspired refreshments are proudly featured on local menus. From the ice-cold orange and pineapple Obamarita at Sharky’s Cantina to the macadamia and coconut Obama Muffin at Espresso Love (both nods to President Obama’s Hawaiian heritage), the Island culinary scene always goes a bit crazy for Obama. And last summer, with the opening of Edgartown Book’s café, Behind the Bookstore (known to regulars as BTB), a new Obama-inspired drink arrived on the scene: the BTBama.

Made with four shots of Intellegentsia espresso, the BTBama is no casual iced latte. “It’s an urgent drink,” said Phill Kim, head of the coffee program at Behind the Bookstore. The espresso is mixed with whole milk for richness, and a splash of simple syrup adds a touch of sweetness. But what makes the BTBama more than just a “wicked strong latte” is the finish—a bit of grapefruit zested on top.

Phill was looking to create an original coffee drink that played off of a drink served at a café he worked at in Los Angeles, an iced espresso made with agave syrup. But he wanted this one to have a distinct, Island twist. He tried zesting an orange on top of the latte, but the flavor wasn’t quite right (a little too much like orange-flavored chocolate). So he opted for a more unconventional ingredient: grapefruit. The result was exactly what he’d hoped for—refreshing, slightly sweet and creamy, with a subtle kick at the end.

When Phill created the iced espresso drink, he had no idea how popular it would become. “Last year, it had kind of a cult following,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much people would really take to the drink.” The addition of grapefruit added to the BTBama’s clout—and caffeination. (Grapefruit can temporarily disable digestive enzymes, preventing them from breaking down certain compounds—caffeine, for one—and, in this case, that ensures customers a prolonged buzz. As if four shots of espresso weren’t enough.)

Once the recipe was settled, Phill debated what to name his new creation. He didn’t have the President in mind at first, but as the BTB café staff brainstormed names for the drink, one of his employees quipped “BTBama!” Clever, timely—and, yes, grapefruit is one of the many fruits grown in Hawaii. So it was named.

Unlike other seasonal Obama-inspired recipes, the BTBama holds a permanent place on Behind the Bookstore’s coffee menu. There is another Presidential visit to the Island expected this summer, and though President Obama has been known to enjoy coffee sparingly, perhaps he’ll make an exception to try his namesake drink. A BTB on the Ba-rocks, anyone?