You should be acquainted with the multitude of coffees listed in an ordinary Italian menu: espresso, macchiato, corto, lungo, in vetro, cappuccino, mocaccino.
Among them, you won’t often see the name of bicerin, and this depends to two main reasons. First, it is not a pure coffee, but rather something more elaborated. Second, it only dominates the pages of a single city’s menu: Turin, the homeland of bicerin.
Between meticulousness and tradition
In the Turin’s dialect, it means “small glass”: the bicerin is Turin’s typical beverage, whose recipe has been handed down since 1700.
Originally, there were three different bicerin in Turin: the pur e fior (today’s cappuccino), the pur e barba (coffee with chocolate) and the un pòch ed tut, meaning “a bit of everything”. This last one was a combination of the previous twos and constituted the origin of today’s bicerin.
Its embracing and warm taste allowed it to become successful, both among common and famed people: politician Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour and writer Alexandre Camus have longly praised its uniqueness.
The bicerin has acquired such a prestige and recognition that, in 2001, it has been rewarded with the title of “traditional beverage of Piedmont”.
The recipe might seem simple: coffee, chocolate and heavy cream. Actually, it is not so easy to prepare: the coffee, espresso, of course, has to be hot enough, yet not too much; and the heavy cream must be measured carefully, not to fill it out.
The bicerin is not served in a cup, but in a specific glass that allows you to gaze at the different colours and the densities merging together. Some cafés of Turin have chosen to change the recipe and to add some whipped cream instead of the heavy one.
Is it still bicerin? For sure, it is something different, that probably neither Dumas nor Cavour would have appreciated so eagerly. Luckily, you can still taste the original bicerin in the café that, according to the tradition, was the first to serve it: Al Bicerin. Be careful, though: don’t get confused with the alcoholic drink that bears the same name.
The distillery Distillerie Vincenzi owns its recipe and its brand and produces the alcoholic bicerin, a drink whose main ingredient is Piedmont nut chocolate, mixed together with spirits.Official website: www.distillerievincenzi.com.
Tasting original bicerin since 1783
Turin, 1763. There’s a small café near the Santuario della Consolata.
It’s brand new and its owner, Dentis, has decided to paint it with dark, elegant colours and to fill it with sober wooden furniture. Dentis does not know the name of its café yet, and decides to wait for something peculiar and distinctive.
Something that will occur only a few years later, when Dentis comes up with the bicerin recipe that soon makes the café special and well-known all around the city. Clients line up to enter the café that, soon, changes its looks and acquires a more refined taste.
The external wrought-iron frame, the small pillars, the cast ironed capitals: new details that make the café appearance more interesting. Furthermore, the wooden interiors are adorned with mirrors, marbles-topped tables and jars of sweets: a true “joy to behold”.
Today, you can still witness this unique and elegant style: the café has remained the same and still treasures its special atmosphere, as well as its glass of bicerin. www.bicerin.it