The literal translation of Caffe Corretto is 'corrected coffee'. The implication is clear: in the absence of Italy's favorite spirit, a coffee might be termed incorretto or just plain 'incorrect'.
Arguably, the modern era of coffee really began in 1905 when the first commercial espresso machines began to be manufactured in Italy. However, it was not until 1945 that Achilles Gaggia perfected a piston-based machine capable of creating high pressure extraction to produce the thick layer of 'crema' that walie demand with our espresso today.
Typically, Italians add sugar to espresso. Some keep their espresso cup 'cicheto' (typical shot glass) entirely separate as they drink corretto. Others drink most of each before pouring the remaining grappa into the cup, swirling the two liquids together for a final exquisite mouthful. A further option is to take the corretto pre-mixed breaking the smooth surface of the 'crema' with a delicate shot.
For many Italians, drinking corretto is more than an everyday experience. Visit an espresso bar in any town in Veneto or Friuli - the regions that are home to Italy's finest grappas - and you will see corretto being enjoyed at breakfast time, mid-morning, after lunch and in the early evening before the journey home. While drinking corretto four or five times a day would be considered excessive by even the most seasoned afficionado, it's important to remember a little moderation. It only takes a small shot to deliver the corretto flavour experience. Of course, taken after dinner as a digestif, a 35 or 50ml measure is entirely acceptable...
While coffee was 'discovered' in Ethiopia as far back as 850 AD, it was introduced to Italy by Venetian merchants from Turkey in the early 17th century. Exactly when grappa was first added to coffee remains something of a mystery but by the end of the 18th century, it was an entrenched part of Italian culture. In 1779, it was already common practice when Bortolo Nardini opened his famous grapperia on the famous bridge at Bassano del Grappa, a town in the Veneto region.
The grappa produced by Nardini not only appealed to the Bassanese' but also to the traders and travellers that passed through the area at the time. As a result, while most other grappa distilleries enjoy only regional popularity, Nardini has since become both a national institution and Italy's favorite premium grappa. The disatillation processyand the flavour characteristics of Nardini grappas have also remained unchanged for over 200 years and it is widely accepted that a 'Nardini' is the best possible corretto grappa. Indeed, along with their typically lower alcohol content, the heavy floral or fruit flavors associated with the 'boutique' grappa styles introduced in the last forty years are much less suited to partnering espresso.
In the Nardini range, there are three - quite different - grappas that make ideal partners for espresso and other coffee recipes. All three feature 50 alcohol by volume.
Nardini 'Bianca':transparent and crystalline, this is the spirit upon which all Nardini spirits and liqueurs are based. Frank and generous, the flavor can be considered a little 'forward' for those new to grappa drinking, especially when savored on its own without chilling. Far and away Italy's best-selling premium grappa and a surprisingly versatile cocktail ingredient.
Nardini 'Riserva': aged for up to five years in Slovenian oak, this grappa is fragrant, delicate and deliciously smooth. As complex as any cognac and as noble as any malt whisky 'Riserva' not only delivers a superb corretto but it remains the most authentic digestif exeperience. Also delicious with chocolate and sweet pastries.
Nardini 'Mandorla': this almond-flavoured grappa makes a stunning corretto. By blending in a small quantity of cherry distillate to counteract the natural bitterness of almond, Nardini have created a remarkable spirit that manages to be both dry and sweet at the same time. Excellent with desserts, 'Mandorla' can appeal to anyone with a tendency to find grappa too intense. When used in place of brandy, this makes the superb 'Nardini Alexander'.