When espresso first spread around the world from Italy, its flavor was much too intense for many cultures. As a result, coffee drinkers frequently added hot milk 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, steamed milk cuts the espresso 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 made with espresso and 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 caffe 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 caffe latte.
This drink has spread throughout the world, with different cultures giving it different names as they’ve adopted it. In the Czech Republic, they call the cortado a “corto classic.” One also refers to the drink as a “tallat” in Catalan, “ebaki” in Basque, and “pingado” or “garoto” in Portugal. On the Eastern Coast of the United States, they call the drink a “cortado.” However, venture to the West Coast and you may find a similar drink called a “gibraltar.”
Fun fact! The Blue Bottle Company named the drink “gibraltar” because of the glass they serve it in. Intelligentsia in Chicago also refers to the drink as a gibraltar as well. Who makes the Gibraltar glass? Well, none other than Libby Glass in Toledo, Ohio! Such a proud Toledo moment!
- 2 oz espresso
- 2 oz steamed milk
- To make a Cortado, pull a double shot of espresso.
- At the same time, steam 4-6 ounces of milk with very light foam, as you would for a latte. You will only use 2 ounces of the steamed milk, but need to prepare more in order for there to be enough liquid depth when steaming.
- Pour 2 ounces of steamed milk over the double shot of espresso. Serve in a glass, as is traditional. If preferred, you can combine only one shot of espresso (1 oz) to an equal quantity of milk.