Known in Italy as 'caffè corretto', the ancient practice of adding a dash of alcohol to a shot of espresso has led to numerous recipes and customs. In the Val d’Aosta in Italy, the grole adds a touch of conviviality to this type of drink.
Mixing coffee and alcohol is an ancient practice in many countries. For many years, in rural areas, it was customary to add a few drops of locally-produced alcohol to one’s coffee, sometimes discretely, on the basis (or excuse) that it was ‘invigorating’. Traditions developed everywhere along with a myriad of recipes. Some examples include Irish coffee made with a dash of whiskey, café ‘brulot’ in New Orleans with cognac and café bourguignon with red wine or marc (pomace brandy) from Burgundy. The Val d’Aosta in Italy developed its own particularly festive tradition that is very popular in winter months and is highly original, as guests drink coffee and alcohol from a convivial grole or ‘friendship cup’.
A folklore coffee tradition
Woodengroles, also known ‘friendship cups’, are typical of the Val d’Aosta and some of the neighbouring valleys. Coffee is poured into them with grappa, orange zest and sugar, then the mixture is flambéed. Guests then take turns drinking from the same cup, each person taking a sip from a different ‘spout’, without their mouths actually touching it. The cup is only set down when it is empty. This tradition, which was still very popular in the last century, especially during the winter, is waning now, mainly for reasons of hygiene. Thus the grole is gradually becoming a souvenir for folklore enthusiasts.
Coffee first arrived in Europe from the Muslim world during the 17th century. It was amazing and it amazed, with an exoticness that charmed Europeans, its stimulating effect and the fact that it made a welcome change from traditional alcoholic beverages. Establishments serving coffee began to open, providing an environment for wonderful social, cultural and political exchange and, within a century, coffee had become part of everyday life.