Spilling the Beans on the Caffè Corretto: Recipe & History
Every coffee drinker is familiar with cappuccino, espresso, and macchiato, but have you ever heard of caffè corretto? ‘Corrected coffee’ **cracks whip** is one of Italy’s lesser-known caffetinated creations, a heady blend of coffee and liquor enjoyed all over the Bel Paese.
This article spills the beans on the caffè corretto, including its history, wher to try it, and how to make it.
What is a Caffè Corretto?
Traditionally, a caffè corretto is made from a shot of espresso and a liquor: either grappa, sambuca, brandy or (for the more sweet-toothed) Baileys. If you're not familiar with grappa, it's a strong brandy made from pomace, the solid grape waste left behind after creating wine (delicious, right).
Grappa is typically between 35 and 60% alcohol by volume, which puts it on par with most vodkas and whiskies. This guarantees a pretty strong kick to go with your caffeine, but if you want to go for something a little less liver-punching, a shot of Baileys is a tasty alternative.
The type of grape pomace used to distill grappa affects its flavour, just as the type of grapes used to produce wine does. Grappa must be made in Italy, the Italian part of Switzerland, or San Marino, just like Champagne and Bourbon, and water cannot be used in the distillation process.
Ordering a Caffè Corretto?
Ask your barista for a caffè corretto (pronounced ca-feh, ko-reh-toe) con grappa / sambuca / Baileys while gesticulating wildly with your hands for extra authenticity. You get to decide how much liqour is added to your caffè corretto so don’t be afraid to ask for more (più) and ask them to stop by saying ‘enough’ - basta (which sounds like bastard without the final ‘D’.
Some bartenders will add a few drops of grappa to their caffè corretto, but the most typical procedure is to give the customer a shot of espresso and let them add the grappa themselves — empowering the customer to determine their own drunkenness.
Naturally, preparing your own caffè corretto carries its own risks. People who only drink once a year at the office Christmas party might be floored by a shot of 40% grappa, but seasoned drinkers should be fine with the full undiluted measure, which will power them through the rest of their day of sightseeing.
As to when you should order a caffè corretto — that is your call. Getting ‘on it’ over the course of your continental breakfast might be frowned upon in some quarters, and the meaning of When in Rome doesn’t justify being battered before midday.
Then again, plenty of Italians hate their jobs, meaning a cheeky morning caffè corretto isn’t unheard of. Anything to get through the endless meetings in which voices are raised, hands are waved, but nothing gets decided or done.
Here is our go-to recipe, along with a suggestion for how to tinker with it until you hit your own sweet spot.
Caffè Corretto Recipe
Preparation time: 4-5 mins
Cooking time: 3 mins
Serving: 1 cocktail
Equipment: Espresso machine, glass
- 1 shot of espresso
- 1 shot of your choice of alcohol (grappa, brandy, or whiskey)
- Sugar (optional, to taste)
- Start by brewing a shot of espresso using an espresso machine or a Moka pot.
- While the espresso is brewing, prepare a shot of your preferred alcohol. Traditionally, grappa is used, but you can also use brandy or whiskey for a different flavor profile.
- Once the espresso is ready, pour it into a small espresso cup or shot glass.
- Add the shot of alcohol to the espresso. The ratio of coffee to alcohol is typically 1:1, but you can adjust it according to your taste preferences.
- If desired, you can add sugar to sweeten the drink. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved.
- Serve the Caffè Corretto immediately while it's still hot.
History of the Caffè Corretto
The history of caffè corretto takes us back to the 17th century and the arrival of coffee in Italy.
Coffee was an expensive, elite beverage until the late 19th century, when technological advances made it more accessible. The short, fast espresso drink we know and love today entered the mainstream in the 1930s when the horizontal espresso machine was patented and the Fascist regime promoted espresso drinking amongst laborers to encourage hard work.
Just as coffee culture was peaking, Mussolini’s government faced sanctions and tariffs that caused coffee prices to rise. Instead of abandoning their new custom of drinking shots of their popular caffeinated beverage, coffee drinkers got creative, leading to drinks like caffè corretto.
Tips for the Best Caffè Corretto
Even if the Caffè Corretto is as easy to make as espresso with grappa, following a few basic guidelines will ensure you get the finest possible experience.
Alcohol content: Although it is entirely up to taste (especially if you're creating it at home), the usual guideline is that no more than 5 ml should be added. The flavour of coffee should remain the prominent one.
Alcohol temperature: Make sure the beverage you choose is at room temperature. The espresso's crema can be spread out with cold alcohol.
Alcohol types: It's entirely up to your tastes; even inside Italy, a vast variety of alcoholic beverages are consumed. However, do not include liqueurs with fruit or citrus flavours. Making your own coffee liqueur will give your Caffè Corretto a stronger coffee flavour.
Experience a Caffè Corretto kick on our Tipsy Tour of Rome!
Looking to meet new people, try traditional drinks, and discover the sex-fuelled, scandalous history of Italy’s most stunning cities? Join our Tipsy Tour!
This isn’t your typical bar crawl. Our unique night-time experience combines the best elements of travel: discovering new places, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. Whether you’re riding solo or travelling as a group, our Tipsy tour is the perfect opportunity for travellers to get familiar with Rome and Florence’s sights and signature drinks in a sociable, relaxed atmosphere with fun local hosts.
⏩Book our Tipsy Tour of Rome
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