Have you ever heard of “Caffe Viennese” or “Vienna Coffee”?
I have to confess that I never really checked if it actually has anything to do with Vienna, or if it does my version may not be the most authentic: I discovered this perfect beverage during my college years, in the historic cafes of Venice and Trieste – such as the Florian and the Tommaseo – and regarded it as my grown-up upgrade from Italian hot chocolate, and my roommates and I found that it helped immensely with the cold, the fog, the all nighters before exams, and bad breakups .
While in general I find that most elaborate coffee drinks are just bad examples of “gilding the lily”, please trust me with this: it’s an improvement upon perfection!
Keep in mind that we are not talking about ordinary ingredients. Yes, chocolate tastes great, but there is more to it than what meets the lips: it’s full of chemicals that are associated with mood and emotion (phenylethylamine, theobromine, anandamide and tryptophan, since you are asking), to the point that a shocking percentage of women report to prefer chocolate to sex (sorry, guys!), and that Daniele Piomelli from the University of California compares its effects with those of marijuana.
And don’t get me started about coffee. Coffee was never a simple drink, it was a social revolution! Where it spread, it opened up the night to a range of possibilities… whether pious or profane: it started with the Yemenite Sufis for their night wakes, was loved by the kabbalists, who also preferred night prayers, but it also became the beverage of choice of Casanova (a regular customer at café Florian, whose special hidden rooms upstairs offered protection to his illicit trysts). Do you really think there would have been an Industrial Revolution in Europe without its help?
On a more personal level, how many of us would have graduated from college had it not been for those midnight Americanos, and could we still call New York “the city that never sleeps” without the omnipresent to-go cups of joe?
Obviously, the pairing of the two is a marriage made in heaven, as long as if you don’t suffer from gastric ulcers or tachycardia. My version is different from the popular “moka” beverages, in that I use dark chocolate in lieu of cocoa powder: I find that the mood-lifting powers of chocolate get a serious boost from its sensual, creamy texture!
Finally, do not ask me how many calories are in a cup of this concoction. I have no idea. And besides, thinking about the calories may just make you crave it more, according to Debra Zellner, a psychology professor who maintains that women crave chocolate because they have turned it into a nutritional taboo.
Just enjoy it, but do try to stop after the first two cups! Happy Holidays to All.
- 4 small cups of espresso “ristretto” (strong and concentrated)
- 4 ounces really good bittersweet chocolate
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp sugar, or to taste
- Whipped cream to decorate, if you like (I prefer it without)
- Ground cinnamon, if liked
Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan and place a second saucepan or heat-proof bowl on top to create a bain-marie. Add the chocolate pieces or shavings to the top saucepan or bowl, and allow them to melt, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the heavy cream and sugar and keep stirring. Add the espresso and keep heating until some bubbles form and it thickens. Remove from the heat, and add cinnamon or chocolate liqueur if liked. You can also decorate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but… serve immediately!