Jamie Rice had her foot in the door of specialty coffee before anyone had a clue just how massive the industry would become. The 34-year-old has been slingin’ espresso all over town since 2005. With Show Pigeon, her mobile pop-up coffee operation, Rice’s passion for gourmet java has bloomed into near mad-scientist status. The coffee-based concoctions she’s dreamed up for Show Pigeon are wildly inventive, yet totally approachable. It’s a moonlighting venture for Rice, though, as she’s busy during the week running Bold Bean’s Jacksonville Beach location. But on the weekends, Rice lets her coffee freak flag fly at Show Pigeon’s weekly pop-up at Hotel Palms in Atlantic Beach, where she presents her inventive spin on coffee-based drinks using handmade syrups, fresh ingredients, and an artistic flair.
While Rice’s current menu is subject to change, Show Pigeon mainstays like the leche de Tigre include ingenious touches like spicy, semi-psychedelic buds from szechuan peppers (AKA “buzz buttons”) which were inspired by visits to shops in other cities where the tiny yellow buds are served with the drinks. (Rice is now cultivating her own buzz buttons in her small garden space.) Show Pigeon’s most popular item, the espresso based “Old Fashioned,” has roots in trendy coffee circles. Rice’s version is as visually appealing as it is delicious.
Yet, even with all of the crazy flavor profiles and psychedelic foliage, Show Pigeon’s most endearing quality lies in the the cozy, intimate environment Rice, along with the folks at Hotel Palms, have curated. It’s a setting and vibe just familiar enough to empower customers to try something a little outside of their comfort zone.
Here are a few worth stepping out onto a limb and into the hotel lobby for:
Leche de Tigre: This little drink is not for the faint of heart. A simple syrup made with szechuan peppercorn, black peppercorn, cayenne pepper, and orange zest, that when paired with espresso, packs quite a kick. The Leche de Tigre is presented with a tiny yellow flower attached to the cup via a baby-sized clothes pin. This flower, dubbed a “buzz button”, comes from the szechuan pepper plant. As she served me this drink, Rice warned me that when consumed, it sends your mouth on something akin to an acid trip for about five consciousness-expanding minutes.
Wild Card: Maple Sage was on the menu when I popped in to the pop-up, but The Wild Card presents a new surprise every weekend. The Maple Sage came cappuccino sized, which means a fairly tight ratio of espresso to milk, and boasted much of its unique flavor from a handmade simple syrup, concocted from high-quality maple syrup and steeped sage leaves. Finished with a simple sage leaf, it was aromatic, delicious, and distinctive.
Espresso Old Fashioned: This caffeinated spin on the classic cocktail won’t make you miss it’s booze-heavy namesake. Rice starts out with the same spicy burnt-orange simple syrup that’s in the Leche de Tigre, plus muddled Bada Bing cherries, and a couple of whole bourbon cherries. She then pulls two shots of espresso and shakes that concoction with ice. The mixture is strained over one big rocks cube and topped with at splash of bitters and a charming flower garnish.
This feature originally appeared under the headline “Show Pigeon and Tell” in Void Magazine Vol. 9, Issue 11, Bold Bites.