Coffee was king in my household. A ritual that set the day’s pace. No matter what was happening, all things were paused three times a day for the espresso. Plans were changed, events were reorganized to accommodate the ever-important drinking of the cafe.
I remember the way my grandfather would make his announcement, like a bell that tolls at the same time everyday, that he was about to make “el cafe.” He would lovingly prepare it for the family, then sit on his favorite mustard-colored kitchen chair, legs crossed, and wait patiently for his brew. He would do nothing else to occupy his time. He would just turn his chair to face the stove and wait.
There was a reverence to the process, a respect for the act of drinking coffee that fascinated me. A time to sit down and take enjoyment. I was too little to partake in the drinking of the coffee but the aroma was strong and satisfying enough to fill me up. It is one of the great sense memories of my childhood.
In Spain, the cortado (In Spanish: to cut) is a national coffee ritual. It is also popular in Portugal and in Latin America. It is an espresso cut with some warm, steamed milk. No foam. Whenever I’m in Spain I need to prepare myself for the shock of caffeine my body gets, because you see, a cafe visit for a cortado can happen upwards of three times per afternoon. No take out cups needed, just you, in a cafe with your cortado and a ritual that is still kept alive in even the most bustling of cities.
Through the years of making my own cortado at home, I’ve experimented with my own variations. In some Latin American and Caribbean countries, you’ll see a cortado made with sweet condensed milk. I’ve found that my favorite variation is one that is cut with evaporated milk and sweetened with a touch of honey. The evaporated milk idea came inspired via a trip to Belize where I was always served coffee with evaporated milk due to the apparent high cost of import tariffs and refrigeration. So I was told. It’s a creamy twist on the classic cortado and makes the 4 pm slump completely bearable.
Either way you make it, with whole milk or canned, I dare you to take that afternoon siesta.
An Iberian and Latin American coffee ritual, this satisfying cortado is a twist on the original recipe. It's creamy but not too rich - perfect for that afternoon fix!
- Medium Grind Espresso (about 5 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon of liquid honey or to taste
- *You will need an espresso maker. For this recipe, I used an inexpensive stove top espresso maker.
- Unscrew the bottom of your stove top espresso maker.
- Fill the bottom with water. I add water up until you reach the top of the little screw that you always see on the side of the stove top espresso makers.
- Slip metal filter on top
- Then add the espresso so that it covers the top of the metal filter - about 5 tablespoons. Do not overfill or press down on the espresso (about 5 tablespoons)
- Twist top on and place on stove top over low to medium flame ensuring flame does not go over the sides of the coffee maker
- Once you hear it peculating and the espresso maker cup is filled with coffee, remove from heat
- For Evaporated Milk: If you have a steamer, feel free to use it but if you don't, you can do what I do and just warm the evaporated milk in a saucepan
- Pour the espresso into a small espresso cup or small glass cup, fill half the cup
- Top the espresso with some of your warm evaporated milk
- Add honey to taste ( I use about 1 teaspoon)
You could also use whole milk (or reduced fat) for the cortado.