A cortado is an espresso based beverage that may refer to any espresso and milk combination in small quantities. Most commonly, it consists of a single espresso with an equal amount of steamed or scalded milk that does not contain texture or microfoam. It can be served in a demitasse or in a special 6 oz cup that is not common place in most coffee shops.
The word cortado is Spanish and means “cut”. This refers to the milk cutting the acidity of espresso and making it a milder drink.
The cortado is comparable to the Italian caffè macchiato and the French Noisette. However, outside of Spain, the cortado should be considered a different beverage to the macchiato, which only has a tiny amount of milk, compared to the standard cortado serving of equal parts coffee and milk.
The cortado isn’t so common in everyday coffee culture and is rarely on a coffee menu. More commonly, it is requested particularly by a customer who wants a beverage that has more milk than a macchiato but less than a cappuccino. In Spain, the standard coffee orders are either café solo or café con leche.
Various variations of the cortado exist, and how it is served is largely down to the coffee shop’s discretion. A cortado might be served with a double shot of espresso for example. In Cuba, the cortado is served with condensed milk, turning it into a very sweet beverage.