Often, after crossing the border, the first stop we make is for coffee. We love France, but in all honesty, we don’t love French coffee. In fact, top on our list of what to pack when preparing for our summer stay there is an adequate supply of Illy or Lavazza.
This morning, to cement my return to Milanese life, I indulged in the ritual of the homemade “Caffè Scecherato”—pronounced: you can figure out the “caffe” part, followed by “shakerato.” This is the Italian-ized past participle of the American verb “to shake.” In other words, “shaken” as a Martini. You can search this sublime drink on the internet and find more elaborate versions, but here are the basics of this Italian take on my Southern-girl standard, iced coffee.
A single shot of espresso, just made ideally in a Bialetti moka, vigorously agitated in a cocktail shaker full of ice, with the addition of sugar (at home I use one teaspoon of the granular variety but in a bar they are likely to use liquid sugar) and—optionally—vanilla syrup. I add a tablespoon of milk at home, but none in the bar. If you’re a bartender, you shake this over your shoulder, while doing a perfect waist-down imitation of Elvis.
When the shaker is so cold that it burns your hands, and the cacophony of the ice cubes has evolved into a soft, slushy percussion, you strain the chilled coffee into a glass then remove the strainer and top with the foam. Again, the bar presentation is different here. Imagine your frosted coffee in a martini glass, or something else created precisely for this purpose. But the real beauty of this drink isn’t the glass. It’s the fact that, between the action of the moka and the cocktail shaker, the coffee emerges in a creamy state, even though it contains no cream. Then it’s bottoms-up for a morning or afternoon, depending on your preference, successfully underway.
NOTE: I apologize for the slightly out-of-focus imagery, but that’s what happens when you attempt to photograph your coffee before you drink it.