Experiments In Drinking: Skinny Barista Syrup

Exploring a world of sweet alternatives to sugar with your coffee.

Some years ago, I found myself with time to kill while on ‘standby’ for some dreadful agency job that circumstances had forced me into and, being stuck near Euston train station in London, was at a bit of a loss as to where to go until I noticed that the Wellcome Museum had just opened up. Knowing that they had an agreeable enough cafe bar, and figuring that it would not be busy at 9am, I ventured forth. Indeed, the building was empty and so I ordered a coffee. As my Americano was prepared, my eye wandered over to the collection of syrups on display and the barista chappy obviously clocked my fascination and was feeling both unrushed and generous. “Shall I put some in your coffee?” he asked and I eagerly agreed – I’m always up for novelty. The resulting drink was something of a revelation – coffee, but not quite as you know it. This, I thought, is something I could get used to – and then promptly forgot all about it until I found myself in Lidl in February and found that they were selling bottles of the stuff for the reasonable price of £4.99.

Better yet, these claimed to be zero-calorie flavourings. As I had just made the decision to finally wrestle myself into healthier shape, this seemed doubly appealing as an alternative to my usual sugar rush. Of course, in exchange for sugary goodness, the syrup contains the sort of artificial sweetener that some people believe causes everything from brain rot to cancer to impotence – but no pain, no gain.

Anyway – I have now thoroughly tested out the two flavours on offer and can give them an unqualified thumbs-up. Of the two, the salted caramel has a more distinct and impressive flavour than the vanilla, but neither is unpleasant. There are also cinnamon swirl and hazelnut praline flavours but they were not available from the shop I visited. Of course, it’s possible that coffee purists will scoff at this and consider the addition of these flavourings to be a distraction from the taste of the coffee – indeed, I was aware that the fancy expresso beans that we buy from our local fancy-pants coffee boutique might be overwhelmed by this new sweetness. But isn’t that just as possible with adding sugar? It is, of course, a case of trial and error to work out just how much to use per drink – but this still feels more like an enhancement rather than a distraction. As a bonus, the syrup also works well in milk, should your tastes go that way.

As with all such things, these will not be for everyone – Mrs R found them a touch too much in coffee and I do get where she is coming from. I’m not saying that I want these all the time. But if you have a taste for such flavourings, then these are definitely worth looking at having in at home, even as occasional treats.


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