The Bold and the Beautiful

Nearly two years ago, I studied abroad in Italy. Florence became my home for a month as I learned a little, ate a lot, and drank even more. Of the many things I drank in those unassuming cafes along the Arno, there’s only one beverage that can claim supremacy.


No, not the vino. The drink that my taste buds remember most fondly from that sojourn is the coffee. Tuscans really know what they’re doing in the brewed bean department.

Of course, the Tuscans—and the Italians in general—don’t drink coffee, per se. They drink espresso, drip coffee’s mysteriously sophisticated cousin.

When it comes to espresso, the most popular variation is no variation at all: just a single shot of rich liquid in a miniature mug. One of my favorite modifications, however, is caffe con panna (espresso with whipped cream).


Occasionally a tiny cup just isn’t enough. In those cases I upgrade to a caffe Americano, which comes as close to American drip coffee as you can get. Hot water and bold espresso are combined in a ratio that mimics conventional coffee. Nevertheless, nuanced differences are detectable to the discerning palate.

Orson Welles once opined, “There are three intolerable things in life—cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.” With winter officially gracing us with its bitterness, we’ve fully plunged into hot drink season.

Mix it up this winter. Give those oft-forgotten classics a try. That “double-whip-extra-caramel-nonfat-Greek-soy-yerba-latte” will always be there.

Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Caffe misto (equal parts coffee and steamed milk)
  • Espresso Romano (espresso garnished with lemon rind)
  • Espresso con Leche (espresso, sweetened condensed milk, and cocoa powder)
  • Affogato (espresso and vanilla ice cream)
  • Irish coffee (coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar, cream)