10 Unique Espresso Beverages to Try

Most American coffee shops have the usual selection of Italian classics. If you’re traveling, or happen to come across one of these other beverages in your own city, know what it is!

10. Espresso Romano

Espresso Romano is a bit of a misnomer for this beverage, because it isn’t commonly consumed in Rome or even the rest of Italy. Espresso Romano is simply a freshly-pulled espresso shot served alongside a slice of Lemon. Coffee and citrus may seem like an awkward combination to most, but fans of this delicious drink say that the bright acidity of the lemon helps bring out the sweet qualities of the espresso that accompanies it.

9. Flat White

A Flat White is just like a normal Latte, just stronger. If you’re looking for a creamy espresso drink with microfilmed milk and an extra kick, this is the drink for you! This drink originated in Australia and New Zealand but has recently been gaining popularity in the U.S. after Starbucks added it to their menu.

High quality milk, milk foam and espresso are essential to making a great Flat White. With the decreased amount of milk, the fat content of the milk and how it is foamed need to be perfect or the drink will turn into a simple cappuccino. Next time you’re up early, give the Flat White a try. You can get it at Starbucks, but chances are your local barista will know how to make a great one as well.

8. Vienna Coffee/Espresso con Panna

A sweet treat, Espresso con Panna, known also as Vienna Coffee is the perfect ending to any meal. This drink is made by scooping fresh, homemade whipped cream into a cup of espresso. The delicate sweetness and creaminess of freshly whipped cream complements the boldness of the espresso. The airy whipped cream also adds volume to the espresso, resulting in a beverage with multiple textures and layers to enjoy.

If you don’t have ice cream to make an Affogato, Espresso con Panna is an easy alternative that is just as good. Just be sure to have heavy whipping cream and a dark roast espresso available to make sure your experience is top notch.

7. Breve

Cafè Breve is a common espresso drink in many parts of the world, but not the U.S. It is made by combining a freshly pulled shot of espresso with a small amount of half and half. Breve is the Italian words for short. Cafè Breve essentially means to shorten the espresso with the fatty half and half, as you would with butter in a shortcake or shortbread.

The resulting beverage is a very rich and creamy cup of caffeine. The half and half brings out the natural sweetness and chocolate notes of the espresso, but allows some of the intensity to remain due to the small amount used. If you cant stand cappuccinos or you find milk foam to be too much, try a breve. It’s a quick little shot of energy that wont upset your stomach or break the bank.

6. Cubano

A Cubano is the perfect beverage for someone who likes strong coffee and likes it sweet. It is produced by pulling a shot of espresso over a small amount of brown sugar. The intense flavor of the Cubano isn’t for everyone, but some find the bittersweet combination irresistible.

A dark roasted espresso would be the ideal choice for this drink which is popular mostly in South America. The rich molasses flavor of brown sugar is the perfect pair for the nutty fiery flavors of a dark roast. It might be hard to find this drink in many parts of America and even in your local hipster coffee shop, but it is incredibly easy to make at home, so long as you own an espresso maker.

5. Black Eye

It doesn’t hurt, but it will wake you up! The Black Eye is similar to the popular Americano, but instead of water, the espresso is diluted with brewed black coffee. The resulting beverage is an intense and crazy-caffeinated cup of Joe that is not for those with weak stomachs. Many people add sugar and milk to their Black Eyes, but real caffeine heads will drink it straight up. The Black Eye is like shot of Moonshine when a regular cup is like a Pale Ale, it’ll put one hair on your chest, or not.

4. Affogato

Affogato is somewhat of a cross between dessert and coffee. This drink is similar to Espresso con Panna, except the whipped cream is replaced with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and served with a spoon. You could drink it if you wanted to, but it’s more fun to eat it out of your mug like a little ice cream sundae. This is another “drink” that is more common in avant-garde coffee shops, but it’s easy to see how it might go mainstream soon.

An Affogato is best served with Vanilla ice cream, but can be tasty with other flavors such as dark chocolate, dulce de leche or cinnamon. Some even serve Affogatos atop waffles or crepes for a particularly sweet breakfast treat. Give it a shot, even kids will love it!

3. Macchiato

The well-known Macchiato is on this list because most people don’t know what a real Macchiato actually is. The version popularized by Starbucks is simply another latte with heavy caramel syrup in it and whipped cream on top. This could not be farther from the reality of the Italian Macchiato.

Macchiato is the Italian word meaning “marked”. The powerful espresso shot is “marked” with a very small amount of unsweet milk foam scooped on top. This is the choice drink for fans of strong espresso. It’s nearly just a straight shot, but the tiny bit of milk foam added on top is mixed in to cut down on the intensity of the coffee. I you think you like espresso, go to your local shop and give the Macchiato a try!

2. Dalgona Coffee

While this isn’t technically an espresso beverage, it sure acts like one. This tasty, highly caffeinated drink was popularized in Korea, but recently has been adopted by many Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic due to its reliance on instant coffee. Dalgona Coffee is made by combining equal parts sugar, hot water, and instant coffee and whisking until a mousse is formed. The mousse is then scooped on top of a glass of cold milk and ready to enjoy!

Instant coffee may have a bad reputation, but using it to make Dalgona Coffee is a great way to make it not just palatable, but delicious! This beverage is most akin to a sweetened Latte, but can be altered to your own personal preference. After the mousse is formed, add a little vanilla extract for an easy vanilla Latte. Try some cinnamon in it for a spicy kick. In the wintertime, mix some bitter cocoa powder into the drink for a killer Mocha. This drink is delicious with Oat Milk as a dairy alternative as well! Folgers instant coffee will work fine (and honestly makes the stiffest mousse), but an inexpensive, much tastier option sold commonly in the U.S. is the Italian Medaglio d’Oro brand.

1. Cortado

The Cortado is rapidly rising in popularity across the country. While it is still mostly found in the hipper coffee shops, most baristas you encounter will know how to make one. A good way to think of a Cortado is like a miniature Latte. It is made with a 1:2 ratio of espresso and steamed milk.

Cortado comes from the Spanish word meaning “to cut”. In this case, the espresso is being cut with milk to reduce it acidity. It sounds similar to a Breve and a Flat White, but in reality the Cortado is situated somewhere in between those beverages. The textured milk is fatty enough to reduce the acidity of the coffee and bring out its most complex flavors, but is not overpowering. The natural sweetness, nuttiness and bitterness that define a good Cortado makes it the ideal beverage for many espresso fanatics.

This short list is just the beginning of your espresso adventure. An entire world of caffeine and great coffee awaits those who adventure to seek it! From Italy to Cuba and all the way to New Zealand, folks everywhere are innovating espresso every day. Today could be the day that you discover your new favorite drink; all you need is an open mind and a halfway decent Italian accent to order one.

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