Eric Squires talks coffee and cocktails at Three Crowns in Warsaw
“Frankly, the customer isn’t always right.”
In a culture that views coffee largely as a vehicle for sugar and caffeine, Eric Squires, manager of Three Crowns Coffee in downtown Warsaw, Indiana, holds firm to this mantra.
Squires’ iconoclastic approach to coffee began in high school. A musician in a band, he played weekend gigs at coffee shops and was paid in drinks.
“I started out drinking ultra-sugary drinks and frozen things and decided I needed to learn to drink black coffee,” he recalls.
Armed with a popcorn maker from the Salvation Army, Squires began experimenting with home roasting. When Three Crowns owner Dave Gustafson approached him in the fall of 2013 with the idea to start a high-end coffee shop, Squires jumped at the chance.
Swedish and Sweet-ish
Named after the national emblem of Sweden, Three Crowns’ signature drink is the “Swedish Latte”: local maple syrup, cinnamon, cardamom and a nutmeg garnish.
“Cardamom is ubiquitous in Swedish cuisine,” Squires notes. “For us, it bridges the gap as a unique drink that is just a little bit sweet. But where most shops use pre-bought syrups, we’re using real spices, real ingredients.”
Attending to the study and practice of coffee-making with the precision and creativity of an artist, Squires is always experimenting with new flavors and techniques. The shop is stocked with an arsenal of four basic housemade syrups, plus a few more based on the seasonal menu, which is intentionally restrained.
During past seasons, Three Crowns has featured unique flavors like honey lavender, persimmon spice and cranberry mint, as well as experimenting with seasonal flavors like blueberry in the summer and apple in the fall. Some of their more adventurous treats included a savory latte made with rosemary, sage and thyme; a black pepper cortado; a spicy-sweet cayenne mocha; and an affogato featuring housemade ice cream made with Swedish Fish.
Over the last year, Squires began experimenting with coffee drinks that took inspiration from the cocktail world, with summer drinks like the Cold Brew and Coke and the Espresso and Tonic. Squires upped the ante this fall and winter, offering coffee drinks with added booze.
Optional, of course.
This season may be Three Crowns’ most ambitious lineup yet, with drinks like Tolkien’s Pipe (see web-exclusive recipe here), a culinary—and literary—masterpiece. “It’s our take on Irish coffee,” explains Squires. The smooth, rich drink is flavored with tobacco simple syrup and topped with shaken whipped cream, with the option of adding Scotch during their weekend brunch hours. Other offerings include The Bitter Barista, an anise cortado with bitters, and the Tall, Dark and Stormy, an espresso-based twist on the rum and ginger beer classic, the Dark and Stormy.
Focusing on quality and sustainably sourced coffee, Squires strives to make Three Crowns a place where guests can move away from their routine consumption of caffeine and sugar to appreciating coffee as a culinary medium to be savored and celebrated.
Squires believes the tide is starting to change. “I feel like we’re establishing a rapport where people trust our recommendations,” he says. “We try to give people what they don’t know they want.”