black mamba on ice
The distance that is precisely 2.1 miles from the Staples Center will now and forever be known as the home that Kobe Bean Bryant built.
One didn’t have to be an Angeleno to see his athletic and mental prowess and know, that they were watching something of a venomous phenomenon. As he grew and matured into the person that embodied the self-created and pioneering Mamba Mentality, he took the world with him for the ride; I rode along, proudly.
When the downtown Cafe Demitasse location rolled out its “Little Tokyo only” menu over a year ago, the drink, The Black Mamba arrived. The Black Mamba is a specialty coffee drink created by a barista named Gatlin. It is only available at the Little Tokyo location and is an attack on the sensory experience. Its ingredients are simple. Its execution: brilliant. Made with espresso, ginger and black sugar syrup, its characteristic of the player Los Angeles fell in love with for two decades as a Laker and beyond.
According to owner Bobak Roshan, it has, “The sharp bite of ginger with the sweetness of black sugar – if that’s not Kobe, we didn’t know what was.”
This drink, now a staple to the menu, is an endearing homage to Kobe, the man, the athlete and the girl dad. Kobe pioneered the Mamba Mentality, to achieve the accolades he accomplished on the court, and in the hearts of millions.
I sat at the bar, thinking of a legend now gone. Kobe and eight others, including daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash on the morning of January 26, 2020. While three baristas managed customers filing in one after the other, Eric of The Vignes Rooftop Revival played on an acoustic guitar setting the mood for a coffee break with Mamba on the mind.
“Black Mamba,” the barista called ushering a drink in a paper cup to the edge of the bar.
“Black Mamba,” the barista called again and again and up to seven times while I sat there, first waiting and then drinking mine on ice, with a miniature chewy twist of ginger. Its minimal sweetness with a spicy bite caused me to exhale, feeling a cool air aerating across my palate and within.
“[Black Mamba] became a staple because people love anything that pays homage to Kobe and it’s super tasty. But I think this week in particular obviously people are seeing it more,” said Roshan.
A barista on bar mentioned that they are going through the drink almost double what they normally do on a weekly basis. A tall man came to the counter as I sipped on the last ounces of my Black Mamba and with a large hand grabbed his paper cup, sliced with ginger.
I nodded in recognition for the drink he was beginning as mine was ending.
‘This is for my man, Kobe,” he said.
Just as we can take ownership of the simplest invention like a drink, we also take ownership of the people that remind us of the invention of ourselves and that’s why Kobe felt bigger than life and death.