There are hundreds of ways to order a coffee in Italy. First you have to decide if it is normale, or with milk and if so, how much milk. Then is that with foam or without? Should it be scalding hot? Do you want this in a ceramic cup or glass? Any cocoa? And the list goes on…
However, there is only one correct coffee in Italy: the caffè corretto.
Technically, “caffè corretto” means ‘corrected coffee’ – not ‘correct coffee.’
This is because a caffè corretto is literally ‘corrected’ with the addition of booze.
Later in the day, if a regular coffee has too much jittery caffeine, you can correct that with a slug of grappa to balance the high out with a low.
It is a drink that is usually ordered by old men after about 11 am, and I have always felt too embarrassed to order one even though I was dying to say those little words:
“Un caffè corretto alla grappa, per favore.”
Finally, I summoned my courage when I was walking by the suitably dive-y Bar San Calisto with friends in the late afternoon. The moment for booze coffee had arrived.
We paid a tiny surcharge at the register and took our receipt to the bar.
The barman didn’t even blink, he simply confirmed we wanted grappa. That is the traditional alcohol added to caffè corretto but it is also possible to switch up the order with your choice of booze like sambuca or cognac.
Who are we to mess with a classic? Grappa it was.
And it was TERRIBLE.
Like, really bad.
But I’m glad I finally tried it for myself. I feel one step closer to slowly transforming into an old Italian man.
Here is a quick video of the preparation: