Bicerin – Gusto de Torino

by Jeanne


I wrote this post over a week ago as it is related the Olympics. The longer I waited to post the more irrelevant it seem to become as others had the same idea.  But you know what, not so much.  Every post I came across had a different voice and angle.  So without further hesitation here is my version of the story. 

A renowned Torino specialty drink, not to mention a passionate favorite of many is the bicerin (bee-ched-REEN) . To simply call it new-fangled mocha would be wrong.  The drink is going through a bit of a rebirth on the Piazza della Consolata. According to a recent NY Times article the drink "returned in fashion about 10 years ago, with the recuperation of traditional and authentic foods."  Thank you Slow Food.

The elixir was created at the café of the same name and evolved from an 18th century drink made there called the “bavareisa.” It was a favorite of writer Alexander Dumas and many other writers of the city including Giuseppe Culicchia. The Italian contemporary writer once said that this drink is “served with such finesse here, that many customers would come risking the barrage of machine-gun fire in order to procure a chalice.” 

The name bicerin comes from the Italian word for glass, bicchiere, but in its diminutive form means "little glass". There are three ways to order this beverage:

  • pur e fiôr – coffee and milk/cream

  • pur e barba– coffee and chocolate

  • un pô ‘d tut– coffee, chocolate and milk/cream

The concoction is made of 3 equal layers of heaven, a bottom layer of espresso, topped with sweet Florentine hot chocolate prepared with water, intensifying the chocolate taste and topped with whipped cream.

It’s a heavily kept secret recipe in fact café employees’ lips are sealed by contract.  In 2001 the drink was elevated to the “traditional Piedmontese drink by the publication Bollettino Ufficiale della Regione Piemonte. Today it is often served in espresso cups personally I think it’s best served up in a glass in order to enjoy the mélange of dark liquid mixing together as you drink it.

Other relateed sites worth a look:

Cafés of Turin (via Exploring the Globe)

David Lebovitz post (such a tease with all this talk of chocolate!)

Faith Willinger’s Version of Bicerin