Most of you probably never heard of it but Manhattan Special is a espresso flavored soda. It’s not sold all over and is typically only available in Italian delis and grocery stores although lately it’s been turning up in some high end food stores. They’ve been in business for a long time (1896) and I remember drinking it when I was a kid in Manhattan’s Little Italy. It tastes like the best iced coffee you’ve ever had – only made from espresso and with a fizz. When we were kids we’d sometimes have it with a splash of milk, the way you would drink iced coffee.
A while back I found a vintage Manhattan Special bottle, empty of course. It didn’t hold much, just 6 ounces and it has their old Brooklyn telephone number on it with an “Evergreen” exchange. What I liked most about the old bottles is that instead of paper, the label is painted on. Spaces are left blank so that the man and woman are outlined in black (the color of the soda) and when the bottle was empty those spaces became transparent.
For Cuban coffee the only ingredients you’ll need are espresso and sugar. For equipment, a moka pot is preferred but any other espresso maker will do. This recipe is for two cups.
Start by putting a two-cup espresso pot on the stove.
While the coffee is brewing start making the espuma –
Add two teaspoons of sugar to a small serving pot for each cup plus one more. More sugar makes more crema. As soon as it’s brewed, add two teaspoons of coffee to the sugar and stir vigorously for a few minutes until you have a creamy café au lait colored syrup. Pour the coffee over it and stir until the espuma rises to the top.
When I was growing up the standard after dinner question was, “Who wants brown or black?” Brown being American coffee, usually Maxwell House and black was espresso. Our brand was Medaglia D’Oro and I still use it. We started drinking coffee very young. I remember my little China cup filled with half coffee and half milk and some sugar. Kids were allowed milk in espresso. Adults used Anisette.
Not long ago we offered espresso to some guests and one said, “Oh, you have an espresso machine.” I told him we didn’t have an espresso machine but we didn’t need one because we had a Napoletana Macchinetta. Macchinetta actually means ‘little machine.’
Fill the top with water, put the coffee grounds in the screw in filter and place the pot on the stove upside down. When you hear it boil, turn it right side up. A vacuum is created that forces the hot water through the grounds making a rich brew.
It’s not the only type of espresso maker. I have some others.
If I ever get a full-sized espresso machine, I’d like one like this –