Sometimes going to a café can be rather overwhelming. There are a ton of drinks that are titled “Traditional” but often more than not, there’s no information on these drinks unless you ask for it. Even then there’s more confusion because coming from a standpoint where you don’t know what anything is except that coffee is different from a latte because it comes with milk, a person explaining it on a level where they are more or less “fluent” in the coffee language doesn’t help. What adds more problems is that there are many names for one drink. Espresso can be interchanged with ‘Café’ or ‘Caffe’ and the list goes on. Then there are the coffee shops that have named their own drinks. Think about frappes, frappuccinos, and every other word that can come from the root “frappe.” But although there are many different drinks that you can order from millions of cafes, most coffee shops have the same concepts down. Starting today, you’re going to know what an Espresso Cortado is, which is also called a Gibraltar, Café Cortado, Caffe Cortado, or Starbucks just calls it a “Cortado” which comes to all as a surprise.
The reason it is known as an ‘Espresso Cortado’ is because it is made with espresso. This is true too with ‘café’ and ‘caffe’ which are just the translation of espresso/coffee in other languages. These drinks are perfect for those people who like something not so sweet, but like espresso but don’t want it too bitter. I say this because espresso cortado’s are just an equal proportion of espresso and steamed milk. So you have two ounces of espresso and two ounces of steamed milk. While this drink is pretty easy of a concept, like every other thing in the world, people will do it differently. What’s even better for people who like something sweet is an espresso cortadito, but that’s subject for another time.
Looking into the history you’ll find that the Espresso Cortado that actually is a Spanish drink and equivalent to an Italian Cappucino. We like to call it a “tiny capp” because it is a little bit smaller. Most famous for the cortado is a café in Veracruz, Mexico called Café de La Parroquia where they have an interesting way of serving the drink. Instead of us handing you the drink already mixed, the way they do things there is very interesting and surprisingly not as messy as you think. They pour the hot, steamed milk right in front of you at your table from a very high height. But their way of doing it is just a rendition of what we do. We don’t do it at your table, but instead, do it behind the bar getting the same results of a mixed drink that will make you feel as though you’re not even drinking caffeine. Veracruz has had some rough times, being taken over by Spaniards, then raided by the French and the U.S. but that café has actually been around since 1730 and experienced a lot of the conflict. They carry the tradition of the Café con leche, which created the cortado, or what was known as Lechero in that specific café. The tradition of the pouring the milk so high is something to look into for the coffee history buffs.
What’s interesting is that this drink didn’t really become “known” on the level that it is, where you can walk into just about any coffee shop and order it, until San Francisco renamed this combination of espresso and milk the “Gibraltar” because it comes in a Gibraltar glass. How neat, right? Lecheros are served in Collins glasses which hold the same amount. We use the Gibraltar as it is the size cup that fits the 1:1 proportion and holds the drink as it once was held. Blue Bottle, the coffee shop that truly popularized the drink, was the starter of the fire and the demand for Cortados. Soon New York took hold and their influence was just as powerful. Now there are articles that tell you how to order drinks at coffee shops and guess what, the cortado is one of those drinks explained as a drink that most every coffee shop should know. And it’s true, it’s a good drink and that’s why coffee shops have it!
On that note, this is a simple drink that combines perfectly the sweet and bitter, which I will use because it is commonly used to describe espresso. Since it’s so small, it leaves the potential if you want to make a quick stop at your local café, drink it, and be out within 5 minutes on a good day. Or maybe sipping is more of your style, it won’t take you long and by the time it would be cold, you’ll be done and with enough caffeine to make it for the next couple of hours. You may try it and decide it really lacks that one thing you value when you drink a latte or maybe you’ll not care or maybe you’ll leave your local coffee shop feeling on top of the world because in a coffee infused world, you now have something to talk about at the water cooler and you like drinking it and you understand some things about it. I say learn as much as you can about these traditional drinks because you may be picky like me and say “I just haven’t found what I like” then try that tiny, perfect little drink in it’s clear class with a tulip settling in the foam and think “this is the one.” If you try it and don’t like it, there’s many other things. Maybe next try an Espresso Breve (different from a latte breve) or an Espresso Macchiato for the espresso lovers. You’ll never know until you try it, but being well-informed on the subject of coffee is beneficial even for the occasional coffee drinker or the tea drinker. I’ll leave it at that as this is already a load to take in.