An Americano only has two ingredients: espresso and water. Espresso originated in Italy, so how does this drink get its name? The roots of this coffee beverage date back to World War II, when American soldiers stationed in Italy used water to balance the intense flavor of traditional espresso.
An Americano usually uses a two-to-one ratio of hot water to espresso. You prepare it by making a shot of espresso and then adding the hot water. This method results in a coffee drink with a thick texture and a layer of “crema,” or foam, on top. The hot water balances the espresso, making it less bitter while retaining the coffee’s rich flavor. Some people add sugar, milk, or syrup to an Americano to make it sweeter.
There are other versions of an Americano you can try. For example, you can order it iced or hot. You can also try a long black, which is nearly the same drink. The only difference is that you add the espresso to the hot water rather than the other way around. However you order it, an Americano should be on your radar.
Café Au Lait
The next time you’re at a coffee shop, channel your inner Parisian and order a café au lait. This drink, which gets its name from the French phrase “coffee with milk,” has been around for centuries. Despite its longstanding origins, many still have not tried this delectable drink.
Like its name suggests, café au lait is made with coffee and hot milk. You can also make it with espresso, though it’s less common. There’s no clearly defined amount of milk you need to add, though many coffee shops make this drink with equal parts coffee and milk. If you’re making it at home, you can add or subtract milk until you find the right flavor for you. You can also add sugar to make it sweeter or if you find the taste too intense.
When you want a strong coffee that still has some sweetness, order a Vietnamese coffee. Of course, this coffee drink hails from Vietnam, where it’s traditionally made with robusta beans that grow in the country’s central region. But you don’t have to travel to Southeast Asia to enjoy this coffee beverage, as it’s recently become more popular worldwide.
In Vietnam, people order their coffee either hot or iced and black or with sweetened condensed milk. Originally, the condensed milk for Vietnamese coffee came from France because of the scarcity of dairy in Vietnam. Since milk was difficult to transport, France sent over sweetened condensed milk instead. Vietnamese coffee continues to be made with condensed milk, known as a cà phê sữa đá.
There are numerous other variations of Vietnamese coffee you can try, each one as good as the last. Not sure where to start? You can take a coffee personality quiz to determine the best iced Vietnamese coffee for you.
If you’re strictly a latte drinker, you might enjoy a cortado. Think of a cortado as a small latte. It’s made with espresso and steamed milk, but it has no foam. The drink comes from Spain, named after the Spanish word “cortar,” which means to cut. It’s thought the name refers to the milk in the drink, which cuts down the bitter, acidic taste of the espresso. Today, the drink remains popular in Spain and in Latin American countries, though you can find it on coffee shop menus around the world.
A cortado usually has an equal milk-to-espresso ratio, giving the drink a bold yet sweet flavor. It’s usually served as a 4-ounce drink, making it much smaller than the lattes you order in most coffee shops. Also, there’s no layer of foam on the top of a cortado, like there is on a latte. Instead, the drink relies solely on the balance of the milk and espresso.
Now you know more about four under-the-radar coffee drinks. Whether you prefer your coffee bold or sweet, rich or subtle, there’s a beverage for you to enjoy. Don’t limit yourself to one type of coffee — try them all.