The recipe for Asiático coffee as it is known today dates back to the 1940s, when it was prepared by bar owner Pedro Conesa Ortega in the Cartagena region of Southeast Spain. Before Ortega’s additions, however, local fishermen were already drinking a crude version of this very alcoholic drink. They used to carry with them a beverage made from recuelo (a poor quality coffee), brandy, and milk, which helped keep them warm during long fishing trips.
Ortega’s recipe consists of coffee with condensed milk and brandy, spiced up with a few drops of Licor 43. This 62-proof Spanish liqueur contains 43 ingredients, including citrus, vanilla, and various herbs and spices. To add to the aromatic experience, Asiático is traditionally served with a few coffee beans, a lemon rind, and occasionally cinnamon. However, it’s not unusual to receive the drink without them.
The warming cocktail is commonly served in a special thick glass that can handle the heat without cracking. Since 1945, the José Diaz Company has been the sole manufacturer of this short, wide-lipped glass. Besides being the ideal vehicle for Asiático, it’s become one of the most popular souvenirs of Cartagena.
Need to Know
Ortega's bar, Pedrin, still serves up its signature drink, but you can find it throughout Cartagena.
Where to Try It
The bar where Pedro Conesa Ortega concocted the current recipe.