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Current Obession: Putting Bitters In Our Coffee

The rye bitters cortado at Dinosaur Coffee (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
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Call us nitpickers or details people, but it's the little things in life—and in the food world—that get us excited. Whether it be an off-the-wall menu item, a particularly stylish bathroom or a restaurant's signature scent, we get stoked on the minutiae that makes our dining scene unique. Consider this the sacred space where we feel safe to express our current obsessions and openly explore our favorite things.

This time around it's Dinosaur Coffee's rye bitters cortado.

The venue: Michelle and Ben Hantoot opened Dinosaur Coffee at Silver Lake's famous Elliot Smith wall late last year, giving locals an intimate yet modern space to break the Intelligentsia ritual. Though the shop might look like many other contemporary coffee joints these days — complete with a fancy La Marzocco espresso machine, beautiful wood details and a sleek, naturally lit 360-degree bar — it's hardly your average cafe.

There's a small dose of Silver Lake quirk, and we'd expect nothing less from the creators of Cards Against Humanity. Throughout the coffee shop you'll find origami dinosaurs, a planter filled with a t-rex and a hot pink neon sign nestled amongst some greenery that reads, "things will be fine." And they'll most certainly be fine if you're starting the day out with their excellently-prepared brews.

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In addition to the swoon-worthy bone-and-salmon colored ceramic mugs by a local potter and professor Nobu Nishigawara, the object of our affection at Dinosaur is their special rye cortado, which can be made with either almond or regular milk.

What it is: For the uninitiated, a cortado, as the Latin root implies, mean to "cut" a shot of espresso with a bit of warm milk. In the case of Dinosaur's offering, it's made by mixing a shot of Ethiopian from Four Barrel topped with a rosette of whole milk from Clover and a few drops of Workhouse Rye bitters.

Workhouse's magical tincture is made with a base of rye whiskey and brandy, where most other bitters use colorless, flavorless vodka as the base of their elixir. By using carefully extracted fresh Four Barrel coffee in the bitters, crafter Rob Easter ends up with a spicy yet sweet mixture, with the heat coming from chiltepin peppers.

The rye cortado is best consumed with a side of one of their rich, chocolately Farmshop brownies. Tasting the two together, I can't help but wonder what mixing the bitters into my next batch might taste like.


The bar inside Dinosaur Coffee (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
Why it's rad: While I've seen some folks using bitters at the Big Western Barista Competition, the trend hasn't quite caught on en masse. But it should. Just like in classic cocktails, the bitters add an olfactory element to your coffee drinking experience, taking you into a full sensory overdrive. Rather than jolting you awake like a burnt espresso, it tickles your senses, almost like waking up to the scent of something baking. And though baristas have rightfully retaliated against making prefab syrup-spiked drinks, it's nice to see options that break the standard espresso and pour-over routine.

The chocolate notes in the Ethiopian roast Dinosaur pulls for their cortados pairs well with the zesty orange peel characteristics in the rye bitters, and I imagine they'd be lovely when shaken with an iced coffee, too. Maybe we'll see more of this bitters action as we move into iced coffee season—which, let's be honest, is all year in L.A.


A t-rex hides out in one of the orchids at Dinosaur Coffee (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
How much it'll cost you: $5 per cortado.

Where to find it: Dinosaur Coffee is located at 4334 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, (330) 502-0046