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Home » Cortado: What is It and How to make It

What is Cortado? (+ Honey Bee Variation Recipe)

We’ve all woken up from a rough night of little sleep and scrounged around for any drop of coffee we could find. In those moments, the focus is one thing: quantity. But not every coffee-drinking experience should revolve around that primal, “survival” attitude, should it? After all, coffee can be a very sophisticated drink.

And while the Italians are acknowledged for their contribution to the world of coffee drinks, the Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin Americans have their own beautiful and balanced contribution: the cortado. It’s still growing in popularity, so you might not find it at every coffee shop, but that’s why we’re here – to make it for ourselves, right? Read on for the basics, and for a very special and super-easy variation.

What is a Cortado?

Cortado is a Spanish word that means “cut.” Simply put, a cortado is an espresso that has been “cut” by an equal amount of steamed milk (1). The usual recipe is 60 ml of espresso, 60 ml of warm milk. It came into the United States through San Francisco but quickly spread from coast to coast (2).

“I was first turned on to the Cortado by a barista at my neighbourhood coffee shop a couple years ago. What began as an occasional cup grew into an exploration of – and documentation of – cortados across New York City.” 

In the UK, it represents part of the “third wave” coffee movement, emerging a bit later than in the US (3). From its origins in the Basque country of Spain, across Galicia to the northern part of Portugal, cortado doesn’t use as much milk as ‘cafe con leche’ (the Spanish name for the French café au lait or the Italian caffe latte), just enough to balance the pungent espresso with warm, creamy milk.

And while that milk is slightly frothy, it’s not all foam. The Cortado isn’t about latte art, it’s about the enjoyment of pure, balanced flavour. It’s the coffee of choice of people who like espresso based drinks with a strong coffee taste.

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Honey Bee Cortado
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How to Make Honey Bee Cortado

Honey Bee Cortado

3.6 from 5 reviews

  • Author: Scott
  • Total Time: 6 minutes


So you’ve decided the cortado is for you, but you want a little sweetness and something extra in the flavour – creamy, maybe a little floral, and rich. Sound good? Then you need to try this honey bee cortado recipe, with vanilla and honey syrups adding a unique flair to this drink.




  1. Brew a double shot of espresso.

  2. Steam the milk.

  3. Add in the vanilla and honey syrups to the coffee and mix it up.

  4. Add equal parts milk into the coffee/syrup mixture, leaving a thin layer of foam on top.

  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 minutes
  • Category: Drinks
  • Cuisine: Australian


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 408 kcal

Keywords: honey bee cortado

And there you have it. If you’ve made it this far you should have a deliciously sweet cortado in hand. Nice job! Remember to sip it slowly, as the name of the game here is taste, texture, and overall experience – not inhaling it at lightning speed.

An important tip: the better your espresso machine and beans, the better your Cortado.

“The old man drank his coffee slowly. It was all he would have all day and he knew that he should take it. For a long time now eating had bored him and he never carried a lunch.”  – The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

This is NOT a large cup of drive-through crap! It’s coffee at its finest. If you care to share, we’d appreciate it! Also, please comment and let us know how your own experience went.

Other drinks to try:

Frequently Asked Questions

A macchiato, meaning “marked,” is an espresso just dotted with a little milk foam – rarely more than 25% of the volume. The cortado is next in line, with equal parts milk and espresso. Compared with other popular milk and coffee beverages, a flat white has more milk, a cappuccino even more, and a latte is predominantly milk.

No – a Cortado is not the same as a flat white. The flat white comes from Australia and the cortado from Spain, though they’re next-door neighbours on the spectrum of milky coffee beverages. The flat white has more milk than a cortado but less than a cappuccino. Additionally, the flat white’s milk is steamed to a velvety microfoam texture, while the cortado uses hot milk with just a thin layer of foam on the top.

A typical cortado contains two espresso shots (or one double). The 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk is the key. To make a 120 ml cortado, brew a 60 ml double shot of espresso mixed with 60 ml of milk, topped with a fine layer of milk foam. Some people like to use two 30 ml ristretto shots for the concentrated flavour that comes with the higher extraction ratio that the ristretto gives.

The cortadito is a sweet Cuban speciality, made by mixing the crema from a Moka pot with sugar, and whipping to a thick froth. This is divided among the cups when the Moka pot finishes brewing. Some cortadito recipes add frothed milk or frothed condensed milk to the sweetened coffee. Here’s an overview of coffee types if you want to learn more coffee drinks.

Cortados should be consumed slowly, with great elegance. Whether the classic milk-espresso drink or the honeybee variation here, a cortado is meant to be sipped graciously, while engaging in conversation with one’s friends or while preparing oneself for an epic struggle.

  1. What Is a Cortado? What to Know About This Drink. (2018, February 15). Retrieved from https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/what-is-a-cortado
  2. Janelle, P. (2013, October 18). The Cortado Effect: How They Do It in New York City and Spain. Retrieved from https://www.bonappetit.com/drinks/non-alcoholic/article/cortado-coffee-new-york-spain
  3. Andrew N. (2015, March 11). Call the shots: why we should all be drinking our coffee short and strong in London. Retrieved from https://www.standard.co.uk/reveller/restaurants/call-the-shots-why-we-should-all-be-drinking-our-coffee-short-and-strong-in-london-10099963.html
Jovana D
I come from a country where people drink domestic coffee (what the rest of the world knows as Turkish coffee) and where Nescafe designates all instant coffees ever made. So, imagine my first encounter with, say, Hario V60...Yes, it was love at first sight.  Today I’m a moderate coffee connoisseur and a huge coffee lover. My favorite brewing methods are the V60 and traditional espresso-making. Yet, despite my country’s long tradition of Turkish-coffee-adoring, I somehow cannot stand it. That’s just too dark, even for me.