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Bicerin - q.b. cucina

Bicerin: The Iconic Drink of Turin, Italy

Written by Kelly Leonardini

Bicerin is a rich and decadent drink hailing from Turin, Italy. It is served hot in a clear glass so that the layers of hot chocolate, coffee, and lightly whipped cream are visible.


Turin is a regal city of porticos and elegant cafes located in the northwestern corner of Italy, adorned by the Alps to the north as if they were a crown. As the first capital of a unified Italy and the seat of the former Savoy Monarchy, Turin’s royal past is echoed in everything from the architecture to its regional culinary specialties. The Bicerin, Turin’s iconic beverage, made of layers of chocolate, coffee, and cream, is as rich and elegant as Turin’s royal history. 

Though the Bicerin has become a symbol of Turin and can be found throughout the city, the original recipe from Caffè al Bicerin is a closely guarded secret. With good reason–historically all-female management has taken great care to maintain traditional methods of production and source quality ingredients. No corners are cut. The chocolate is carefully selected for its low acidity and simmered for hours in large copper pots, and even the coffee is made using traditional methods. 

Turin native and culinary guide Lucia Hannau describes the Bicerin as “not only the symbol of Turin, but also its velvety texture and diplomatic flavor (not overpowering, not overly sweet, but still chocolaty and coffee-like) are the perfect metaphors for our local way of life and mindset.” 

Turin, Italy | Photo by Kelly Leonardini
Turin, Italy | Photo by Kelly Leonardini

Caffè al Bicerin is found in the quiet and intimately small Piazza della Consolata, tucked away just blocks from Via Garibaldi, one of Turin’s bustling shopping streets. Locals and tourists alike sip Bicerin (bee-chair-EEN), which means “small glass” in Piedmont dialect, in front of the majestic Baroque Consolata church. 

Inside the cafe is an atmosphere of cozy opulence: tapered candles with dancing flames atop marble tables, and red velvet banquette seating against polished caramel-colored wood-paneled walls. Behind the counter, colorful confections in glass jars line the shelves. It is distinguished, yet inviting. Even the Count of Cavour, Italy’s first Prime Minister, and a driving force behind unification, sipped Bicerin here himself. 

Though the Bicerin is served with a spoon, do not be tempted to swirl the layers together. According to Caffè Al Bicerin, “the secret to savoring the true Bicerin is to avoid mixing it, thereby allowing the various ingredients to come together directly on the palate, with their different densities, temperatures, and tastes.” The contrast of strong flavors and delicate textures is a timeless delight for the palate. 

Bicerin-Inspired Recipe

Serves: 1 large glass or 2 small glasses

Special Equipment

Blender or mixer
Saucepan
Clear serving glass (such as a wine glass)
Moka pot or coffee maker of choice

Ingredients

Hot Chocolate Layer
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Coffee Layer
½ cup strong brewed coffee

Cream Layer
â…“ cup heavy whipping cream
â…“ cup 2% or whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Method

For the hot chocolate layer:
Mix the sifted cocoa powder, sugar, and milk into a saucepan. Heat the cocoa mixture over the stove on medium heat. Stir the cocoa mixture frequently with a wooden spoon until it becomes hot (but do not let it boil).

For the coffee layer:
Brew coffee in a moka pot or method of your choice.

For the cream layer:
Add the milk, heavy cream, and sugar to a blender. Blend the cream mixture on high for no more than 20 seconds (the consistency should be thickened, but still pourable).

To assemble the Bicerin:
Pour each layer slowly over the back of a spoon, starting with the hot chocolate, followed by the coffee, and topped with the cream. Each layer of the Bicerin should be distinct and not mixed together–all of the flavors will blend together delightfully with each sip.

Notes:

  • Sugar may be replaced with a sweetener of choice, such as maple syrup.
  • Milk may be replaced with a non-dairy milk of choice.
  • Heavy whipping cream may be replaced with coconut cream.
  • Thicken the cream with a mixer or by hand with a whisk instead of a blender.
  • Dutch-process cocoa powder and sugar may be replaced by 2 ounces (56 grams) of dark chocolate chips or a chopped chocolate bar (to melt chocolate, place in milk and heat over the stove or in the microwave in 15-30 second bursts, stirring frequently).

Bicerin-Inspired Recipe

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes
Total time: 20 Minutes
Servings: 1 large glass or 2 small glasses
Bicerin from Caffe Bicerin in Turin, Italy

Ingredients

Hot Chocolate Layer
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Coffee Layer
  • ½ cup strong brewed coffee
Cream Layer
  • â…“ cup heavy whipping cream
  • â…“ cup 2% or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Instructions

1. Mix the sifted cocoa powder, sugar, and milk into a saucepan.
2. Heat the cocoa mixture over the stove on medium heat.
3. Stir the cocoa mixture frequently with a wooden spoon until it becomes hot (but do not let it boil).
4. Brew coffee in a moka pot or method of your choice.
5. Add the milk, heavy cream, and sugar to a blender.
6. Blend the cream mixture on high for no more than 20 seconds (the consistency should be thickened, but still pourable).
7. Pour each layer slowly over the back of a spoon, starting with the hot chocolate, followed by the coffee, and topped with the cream. Each layer of the Bicerin should be distinct and not mixed together–all of the flavors will blend together delightfully with each sip.
Print
·Sugar may be replaced with a sweetener of choice, such as maple syrup.
·Milk may be replaced with a non-dairy milk of choice.
·Heavy whipping cream may be replaced with coconut cream.
·Thicken the cream with a mixer or by hand with a whisk instead of a blender.
·Dutch-process cocoa powder and sugar may be replaced by 2 ounces (56 grams) of dark chocolate chips or a chopped chocolate bar. To melt chocolate, place in milk and heat over the stove or in the microwave in 15-30 second bursts, stirring frequently.

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