How to make the classic Turinese drink once even praised by famous writer Alexandre Dumas

Turin, the capital of Piedmont in Italy stands for a lot of things, from being the home of one of Italy’s most famous car manufacturer to stunning architecture, plenty of art galleries and the city’s famous cafés along with the food grown in the nearby countryside, most famously the local hazelnuts and truffles. Indeed, Turin is something as the secret food capital of Italy and it’s the place where slow food was created.

Though with its stunning historic palazzi and rich culture, Turin is a city more than worth a visit, it is still overshadowed by places such as Rome, Florence, Venice, and even Milan. Yet especially if you love coffee, Turin is a destination that should be on your travel bucket list. Of course, café as the Italians call their espresso plays a large role across al of Italy. Yet no other Italian city has a coffee culture like Turin. It counts the highest number of cafés per capita, and many of them are looking back at a long history.

Even better yet, Turin is also Italy’s capital of chocolate. Gianduja, the well-known hazelnut and chocolate paste was created here. The city is also said to be the place where hot solid chocolate was invented.

The culmination of Turin’s historic coffee and chocolate culture is perhaps the city’s most notorious drink, the bicerin.

What is a Bicerin?

The name derives from the Italian word ‘bicchierino’ meaning small glass, in which the bicerin is served. It is a rich, hot drink consisting of espresso, hot chocolate, and frothed milk.

Bicerin: The Classic Chocolate-Coffee From Turin

A rich, hot drink consisting of espresso, hot chocolate, and frothed milk, bicerin is served everywhere in Turin. However, if you want to sip the most authentic, you must head to Caffe al Bicerin where the drink was invented in the late 18th century. The famous café is located at Piazza della Consolata in the historic centre of Turin.

By the way, fans of Italian writer Umberto Eco might remember both the place and the drink from his book The Prague Cemetery. And before Umberto Eco, it was Alexandre Dumas who praised the bicerin as a drink that he would never forget in his compendium of recipes, ingredient definitions, and food anecdotes Le Grand Dictionnaire De Cuisine.

How to make a Bicerin?

The original recipe is well guarded by the owners of Café Bicerin, where it is handed down from generation to generation. But what is known is that bicerin derives from a popular 18th century drink called bavareisa which was served in large glasses and made of coffee, chocolate, milk, and syrup. Initially, all ingredients of the bicerin (coffee, hot chocolate, and milk) were served separately. Later, they would be served in a single glass and available in three slightly different versions: coffee with milk (similar to today’s cappuccino), coffee with chocolate, and a version of all three ingredients together. The latter turned out to be the most popular, and this is what the classic bicerin became to be.

Bicerin: The Classic Chocolate-Coffee From Turin

Buy the way, bicerin is not called after the place where it was created. Rather Caffe al Bicerin is called after its most famous drink!

To make an authentic Bicerin, you need coffee/espresso, heavy cream, milk, dark chocolate, and cocoa powder.

When preparing the drink, bear in mind that tot chocolate in Italy is not a liquid drink. In fact, when you order a hot chocolate what you will get will be a mug full of thick, smooth melted chocolate. Usually, it will be too thick to drink. Instead, you need to spoon it. That’s how thick it is. For the bicerin, the hot chocolate needs to be a little bit more liquid. Albeit only a bit so in the glass it can mix up with the espresso.

What is also important to create the most authentic drinking experience, is to never stir the drink. It is meant to be enjoyed in layers, with the flavours of the different ingredients coming together when you drink it.

By the way, you might see bicerin served with heavy cream on top. And while this is not following the original recipe, if you prefer to top it off with frothed milk or heavy creme entirely depends on you own taste.

Bicerin: The Classic Chocolate-Coffee From Turin

Recipe: Bicerin Chocolate-Coffee

60 ml espresso
60 ml heavy cream
40 ml milk
60 g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
additional milk to froth

In a small pot, add chocolate, cream, milk, and cocoa powder. Bring to a light simmer and continue until the chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, prepare the hot espresso. You can either use a coffee machine or a moka pot (the traditional stove-top Italian coffee maker brewing coffee by passing boiling water by pressure through ground espresso powder).

In a small glass, first add the hot chocolate, then pour over the freshly brewed espresso. Froth some milk and spoon over the espresso.