Coffee Traditions: Caffè Corretto

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Caffè corretto. [Photograph: taqumi on Flickr]

Although it doesn't have the ancient pedigree that the Ethiopian coffee ceremony has, caffè corretto (or espresso corretto) also fulfills a significant cultural need shared not only by its Italian originators, but just about also anybody else with a lust for life: Hair of the dog.

Literally "corrected coffee" in Italian, the drink is a potent pair of a fresh espresso shot and a hit of something boozy—often sweet grappa, smoky brandy, or spicy sambuca.

The two complementary little cups often arrive separately, allowing the drinker to upend the alcohol into their steaming coffee with a "Salute!," and slug it in one or two sips. (To specify the "correction" required, an imbiber will order their espresso "alla grappa," or "alla sambuca.") Ideally, the coffee should be the predominant flavor in the cup, simply kissed by the harder stuff for a little kick.

The espresso's natural bittersweetness is the perfect complement to the warming alcohol, and works for either perking up and winding down. Sambuca is often also served after meals, with a few coffee beans bobbing in it, as a digestive aid. It's sometimes accompanied by a stiff shot of caffeinated stuff, too, and can be drunk separately in rapid succession instead of mixed.

Are you a fan of spiked coffee? Have you ever tried your cuppa with sambuca or grappa? (Hopefully you're not sneaking a flask into your local Dunkin' Donuts, but hey, you'll get no judgments here.)