If you go to Livorno and stop off at a bar, allow yourself the little temptation of a steaming glass of Livorno Punch. Much more than just a coffee with a shot of alcohol, this drink has distant origins and is, to this day, the pride and joy of the city. After revealing a few interesting facts about its origins, our article today is going to show you the original recipe, plus we will be telling you about the equipment and ingredients you must have in order to get the perfect drink. Finally we will also be giving you some tips for trying your hand at home with the preparation.
Here is everything you need to know about Livorno Punch.
History and interesting facts about Livorno Punch
Are you cold? Drink a Punch.
Do you have a cold? Drink a Punch.
Are you depressed? Drink a Punch.
Are you happy ? Drink a Punch.
Right from the beginning, Punch has always been considered by the Livorno population (and others) as an effective remedy for many ailments: just drink a little and … it’s away with any ailment. Whether this is true or not, what is sure is that the name of this drink comes from the English word “punch”, and that there were originally five essential English ingredients: tea, sugar, brandy, lemon and cinnamon. To understand how this then became transformed into the Tuscan version, which uses coffee instead of tea and liqueur instead of brandy, we need to go back in time to the early XVIII century. It would appear that a ship coming from the Americas was carrying a cargo of rum and headed for Livorno. During a storm, some of the barrels of rum were accidentally broken, and the contents flooded over the nearby sacks of coffee beans. Consequently, these bags of rum-soaked beans had to be sold at a lower price. However, the rum flavored coffee was an instant success, so much so that people tried to replicate it and sell it in many establishments.
A quick note concerning the legend of “the sail”, in other words the lemon peel which is essential to the Livorno punch recipe. The most likely hypothesis is that the host on duty one day had the habit of rubbing a slice of lemon cut in half along the rim of the glass to clean it, thus leaving a little of its characteristic flavor which blended with the coffee and rum. The half slice was then dipped into the drink, creating what is known today as “the sail”.
Livorno Punch: the classic version and variations
After a little background information on the origins of Livorno Punch, let’s take a look at the variations you might find in the bars of this Tuscan city.
The classic Punch
This is made with Rumme or Rum fantasia, a variation of original rum obtained from a mix of alcohol, sugar and rum-flavored caramel.
The “half and half ” Punch
To the traditional rum-based recipe the same quantity of aniseed liqueur (known as Sassolino) is added, bringing this half and half Punch to life.
The “cognacche” Punch
A third variation on the Livorno Punch theme is based on Cognac. A drop of this is added to give more impact to the rum.
The torpedo Punch
This is the “reinforced” version of the Punch, which is prepared by adding a pinch of chili pepper to the coffee powder.
The recipe for Livorno Punch: equipment and ingredients
Here’s what you need to make the perfect Livorno Punch.
Espresso machine: a fundamental step in preparing the Punch is that of heating the alcohol and sugar well, using the steam from the espresso machine.
Coffee: in order to get the best Punch possible, prepare a very concentrated espresso and tip the glass under the spout of the espresso machine as the coffee comes out. That way the foam will remain firm on the surface.
Gottino: no espresso cups for this drink, the Livorno Punch is drunk from a gottino, in other words a special and typical glass. Its main characteristic is the hexagonal base whose grooves indicate the maximum level to which the rum should be poured in. It has a thick base which allows it to be held easily even if the drink in it is boiling hot.
Sail: as we have seen, this is the name that the Livornese give to the piece of lemon zest which accompanies the Punch and which settles at the bottom of the glass
The recipe for Livorno Punch: the traditional bar version
According to the traditional recipe for Livorno Punch, the concentrated espresso must be poured into the inclined glass. That way the foam remains intact on the surface. Let’s take a look at the whole procedure for preparing this drink.
Ingredients for one person
● 1 shot of Filicori Zecchini coffee
● 1.014 fl oz of fantasia rum
● 1 teaspoon of sugar
● zest of half a lemon
1. First of all, put a spoonful of sugar into the glass and then immediately pour in the rum.
2. With the steam arm of the espresso machine bring the mixture to the boil: when you start to see small bubbles on the surface, move and leave the glass and mixture to rest, waiting for the sugar to dissolve with the heat of the steam.
3. Prepare a very concentrated espresso. Place the glass, holding it in a leaning position, under the spout of the espresso machine, until the foam reaches the rim; then rotate the glass a little. Once the coffee extraction is finished, rest the glass, you will find a firm foam on the surface. Finally, add a twist of lemon and drink hot.
The “half and half ” punch: the home-made version
Well aware of the fact that not everyone has an espresso machine at home, here is our suggestion for making the home-made version of Livorno Punch using the mocha.
Ingredients for two people
● 2 shots of caffè Filicori Zecchini
● 1.014 fl oz of rum fantasia
● 1.014 fl oz of sassolino
● 2 spoons of sugar
● zest of half a lemon
1. Prepare the coffee using the mocha. Separately, in a small saucepan, mix the rum, sassolino and sugar. Heat and, as soon as you see the bubbles appear, remove from the heat.
2. Cut the lemon peel and place it on the bottom of a small glass cup.
3. Pour the mix into the small glasses, then add the coffee. Drink hot.
Did you know this typical specialty from Tuscany? If you are interested in regional recipes for warm winter coffee-based drinks, you should take a look at the recipe for valdostana coffee.