Totally Instagrammable: Creating Photo-Worthy Beverages—Part One

We look at some handy tips for creating picture-perfect specialty beverages.


Photos courtesy of Dana Schlingman

From the Editor: As the June + July 2019 issue of Barista Magazine sings it, “Like is a Battlefield.” That article provided the beginnings of what can be a daunting dive into Instagram, from creating consistent branding to launching giveaways. With this two-part article, we dig a little deeper into creating like-worthy content, first by looking at how to create inventive, tasty drinks for your café.

As a millennial in my mid-30s, I remember when Facebook was just an informal network for college students. At the time, “social media” was merely a place for Myspace musings and covert searches to find out more about a crush. However, jump forward to today, and social media has expanded in scope to include advertising, commerce, employment, and of course, broader networking. Though informal personal connection is still a feature of social media, it’s now only one facet. So as a business, it only makes sense to capitalize on the reach and exposure offered by modern social platforms. In this era of brand ambassadors and personal brands, influencers are eager to share their experiences, artisanal discoveries, and inspirations. Why not give them beautiful content to share that will gain recognition for your brand or shop?!

Barista Kristen Stewart taking a quick shot of her recipe for BPS Winter Bloom with 1883 Orchid syrup.

While working on our Lively Libations drink recipes at Barista Pro Shop, we picked up a few tricks to give our drinks polish and pizzazz. Here’s what we recommend for creating appealing, delicious beverages:

Perfect your beverage prep. Before you can dazzle with an elegant or elaborate presentation, it’s important to prepare the beverage properly, as well as select the vessel to serve it in with intentionality, to communicate the right message about your shop and brand.

Sprinkling on the finishing touches to Malorie’s Turkish Delight.

Never underestimate the basics. The ingredients and their preparation form the foundation of every beautiful beverage. In terms of espresso-based beverages, expertly pulled shots and beautiful micro-foam are the proverbial blank canvas for latte art, etching, and gourmet garnishes. Similarly, the type of ice used in a smoothie can drastically affect the final texture of the beverage. Before you begin assembling and garnishing your beverages, do a little research. Be sure to follow the best practices specified for your equipment and use your products as recommended by their manufacturers.

Consider the vessel. Though we all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, customers definitely do assess consumables by appearance and presentation. Base the vessel decision on both the type of drink it will hold and the message that you want to convey about your business and brand. Here are a couple of questions to consider:

  • Is there a type of cup that exemplifies or represents my brand?

For example, Mason jars, with their homey simplicity, would coordinate well with a farm-to-table café, while chic black mugs and clear tumblers would harmonize better with a minimalist aesthetic in an urban café. 

  • Can I creatively apply my brand to vessels to increase brand recognition?

While custom print disposables can become tiny ambassadors for your brand in the hands of your customers, they’re also very useful for social media—when they contain expertly crafted, beautifully garnished beverages, these vessels provide a great representation of your brand.

Latte art. The coup de grâce of an exquisite latte, intricate latte art can elevate the perceived value of any drink, and is a proven way to generate engagement on Instagram.

Layered drinks. Create a stunning layered drink by simply modifying how you add ingredients to the cup. The varied densities of the ingredients create a stratified effect, while the indirect pouring method allows it to remain intact. It’s also possible to create a layered latte by adding the steamed milk to the cup before the espresso. And these layered drinks make for beautiful Instagram photos!

Etch a design. Use sauce to easily make impressive patterns. There are several other easy designs that can be produced with this method.

Stencil an image. Cut your own stencil or use scrapbooking stencils and a dusting of cocoa, turmeric, matcha, cinnamon or really any powder to create intricate but effortless images. (For example, print the stencil pictured here to easily create your own skull design.) 

Garnish. Embellish your beverage with fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs. Dollop on custom whipped cream made in an iSi Profi with syrup, then sprinkle on spices, cocoa powder, or baking sprinkles to add celebratory flair. Be creative, but also intentional with garnishes—they should enhance rather than detract, and they should impart the right message about your brand.

Present the beverage in an unconventional form. Try pouring milk over cold brew ice cubes for a unique spin on a latte. Unexpected and surprisingly unique, these specialty items often inspire selfies and Instagram documentation.

Now that we’ve covered how to craft the perfect drink, it’s time to learn how to photograph your creation—because in this world, looks are everything. Tune in next week as we continue to learn what it takes to make your café “Totally Instagrammable.”

Dana Schlingman
 is a marketing representative for Barista Pro Shop. Specializing in promotion, she develops content for ads, blog posts, and social media. This includes managing and photographing Barista Pro Shop’s monthly Lively Libations recipe campaign. With her degree in fine art and her adventures in the coffee industry (travels to coffee farms in Peru and time spent working as a barista in a remote Alaskan town), she brings a creative eye and fresh perspective to BPS.

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