When espresso first spread around the world from Italy, its flavor was much too intense for many cultures. As a result, hot milk was frequently added to the espresso in order to make the drink sweeter. The Cortado is one such drink that originated in Spain, particularly Madrid where it’s commonly enjoyed.
In a Cortado, the espresso is cut with steamed milk in order to dilute its bitter and intense flavor. In Spanish, the word “cortado” is the past participle of the verb “cortar,” which means “to cut.”
The Cortado is espresso with an equal part of steamed milk. It’s only offered in one size, and is traditionally served in a glass. The milk in a Cortado is very similar to that of a Latte — steamed but not frothy and with very little foam. It differs from a Latte in that a Cortado has a 1:1 ratio of espresso and milk, whereas there is much more milk than espresso in a Latte.
This drink has spread throughout the world, and has been given different names by different cultures. In the United States, the drink is known as a Cortado on the East Coast. However, venture to the West Coast and you may find a similar drink called a Gibraltar (named after the Gibraltar glass it’s served in, made by Libbey Glass in my home town of Toledo, Ohio). In the Czech Republic, the Cortado is called a Corto Classic. The drink is also known as a Tallat in Catalan, Ebaki in Basque, and Pingado or Garoto in Portugal.
Whatever you call it, I’d still call it tasty.