Just as the affogato has taken New York's Italian restaurants and cafés by storm, now comes another Italian coffee drink, this time from Torino, which may even displace the iconic New York egg cream in my heart.
I give you the bicerin (pronounced bi-che-REEN): a multi-layered, multi-sensory work of art that is slowly spreading through the New York espresso bar scene. First, a double espresso is poured into a small glass — never a paper cup, bicerin literally translates to "small glass." Next comes a layer of the finest quality Italian hot chocolate. Finally, a spoon is interposed to act as a buffer (similar to when you add seltzer to the milk and syrup when making a proper egg cream) as the hand-shaken heavy cream is added as a snowy cap. Garnish, if you like, with chocolate nibs and espresso beans.
It has a bit of a chocolate egg cream kind look to it, but in terms of technique you need to adopt a different approach. Unlike an egg cream, which must be stirred vigorously to ensure a proper mixture of the three ingredients, bicerin is intended to be enjoyed unmixed. This way, you experience the espresso forcing its way through the upper layer of hot chocolate while gently warming the ice-cold cream on top.
Credit Eataly (another Torino import) with introducing the bicerin to Manhattanites at their Lavazza espresso bar just inside the entrance. But here's the real insider tip: A superior version is available at Pubblico Espresso Bar in the West Village — let's just say they take their bicerin very seriously.
Want to try your hand at making bicerin? Check out these recipes.