Tips for sprucing up an essence
April 12, 2022 4:58 PM   Subscribe

How do I make edible spruce essence from spruce tips? (Bonus: what was the recipe for that ineffably delicious spruce essence latte I had in Minneapolis sometime in the 2010s?)

Years ago, I drank a latte in Minneapolis that contained spruce essence. It was delicious (and not particularly sweet), and contained several other non-spruce ingredients as well. I believe it was called “The Iron Butterfly” but that could be a completely erroneous recollection.

The flavor of that latte haunts me to this day. Thus I would like to make my own spruce essence from spruce tips, for use in various drinks and recipes. How do I do this? What liquid do I even use to extract the spruce flavor? I’ve found recipes for spruce tips syrup, and seen advertisements for inedible essential oils, but no recipes for edible unsweetened “essence”, whatever that actually is.

(I did find some super-concentrated spruce essence for sale for brewers, but (1) I’d have to massively dilute it, and (2) reviews made it sound not that tasty — so I’d rather acquire some spruce tips and make my own!)

Bonus points if you know the mystery latte of which I speak and can supply the magical missing other ingredients.
posted by cnidaria to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This might help in your research.
posted by shadygrove at 5:05 PM on April 12, 2022

Best answer: Also Anelace Coffee had a spruce latte. They’ve closed but you could try commenting on their insta or twitter to see if anyone has the recipe.
posted by shadygrove at 5:13 PM on April 12, 2022

Best answer: My guess (I have made fancy lattes professionally) is that the barista infused the spruce tips in a simple syrup and added a shot of the spruce syrup (and called it essence to be fancy)to each latte.

Good luck, it sounds super tasty.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 5:39 PM on April 12, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have made spruce tip syrup and vodka. You can infuse it same as you would infuse other flavorings (lemon, blackberry, etc.)

Syrup: boil 2 cups water with 2 cups white sugar (simple syrup) and add a cup of picked over, rinsed spruce tips. Turn off heat and pour into a clean jar. Reserve in the fridge for 3 months and see how it tastes. Keeps pretty much indefinitely. Spruce is very strong, so it's not really that sweet when it's done.

Vodka: Combine 1:1 spruce tips and cheap vodka and blend until it's liquefied. Store in the fridge; taste after 3 months. I have also infused whole spruce tips in vodka in the cabinet above my stove and it tasted gross. The fridge blender version is crisp and delicious, sort of like a weird gin, particularly outside at a bonfire in the snow in January.

BONUS: Spruce Tip Pancakes: make your favorite buttermilk pancake recipe. Pour a pancake in the pan. Tear apart one spruce tip and sprinkle the little needle bits over the pancake's top. You can start with half a spruce tip's worth of needles and work up from there. Cook as usual-- the spruce tip side will be down after you flip it. It's strangely citrusy and brisk. Good with birch syrup.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You know what, I bet you could also infuse the milk you're using. Simmer the milk (don't boil) with the spruce tips, leave them in the milk overnight in the fridge, see what you get in the morning. They could also be blended in the milk-- do you remember if it looked green at all?
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:04 PM on April 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm just guessing, but as a former barista my instinct is that it was a spruce-infused simple syrup called "essence" to sound fancier. This would be the easiest way to do it - and much more conducive to typical behind-the-bar workflow than something like simmering the milk and tips together.

You say it wasn't particularly sweet, not that it wasn't sweet at all, which makes me think that they were light on the syrup. A lot of flavored lattes are calibrated towards people's tastes for ungodly sweet drinks, so when a drink is light on the syrup it might taste barely sweet at all in comparison.

Basically, unless the only sweetness you tasted was from the milk itself, there was some kind of sweetener in there.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:12 PM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Probably not it, but my spouse recently ordered an alcoholic drink where the only spruce element was from a sprig of fresh growth encircling the inside of the cup, and the amount the smell alone contributed to the flavor was impressive.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:33 PM on April 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for the forest of useful spruce tips! Er, spruce *advice*. :-D
posted by cnidaria at 5:10 PM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

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