These are the dog days of winter. Here in the northernmost tier of North America, as as we slog through the snow and measure the temperature by windchill factor, the simple pleasures are what carry us forward as we patiently await spring’s arrival.
Before leaving the house in the morning, consider ‘correcting’ your coffee. Spiking it, that is, with a shot of liquor that will warm you up and give you the kick you need to brace the cold outdoors. Caffè corretto is an Italian coffee tradition. Any time of day, but most commonly in the morning, Italian gentlemen will ask their barista to ‘correct’ their espresso with their liquor of preference – Grappa, Cognac, Sambuca, or bitters such as Fernet or Cynar.
It is a tradition that may have originated in Naples, among the working class, who were looking to begin the workday with just a bit of extra forza. Like all good ideas, the practice spread and is now common in all parts of the Italian peninsula.
So, the next time you are in Italy and wish to try an espresso with some fortitude, stop in a bar and ask for a caffè corretto alla grappa, or a caffè corretto al cognac. Don’t sugar it, either. That will throw off the ‘correction.’
Here in the States, unfortunately we cannot go into our local coffee shop and and ask for a a little brandy in our single shot espresso. You could ask for one at the end of your meal in a good Italian restaurant, however. In fact, that would be an excellent measure of authenticity – ask for a caffè corretto, and if they know exactly what you mean, then you’re at a true Italian restaurant.
Some correct their coffee by putting a shot of liquor in the espresso cup and then adding the caffè. Others drink the two side by side. Either way, it will add a warm boost to the start of your day.
Since we are on the topic, we should mention another Italian merging of flavors involving both coffee and liquor. Gelato affogato, which means ‘drowned’ gelato is a simple and brilliant ice-cream dessert. A bit of bitter espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream – gelato affogato al caffè – adds complexity of flavor and sophistication to an otherwise plain dessert.
Or, for an adult twist, try gelato affogato al Borsci, also a bitter, or gelato affogato al whiskey. In Italy, you would use gelato alla crema, a plain, cream-based gelato. If you are not so lucky to be able to find that, a nice natural vanilla ice cream will substitute just fine.
So, until the sun shines hot again, stay home and stay warm!