I can’t exactly remember the first time I saw this beautiful South American lady, her penetrating eyes, her beaming smile, her red lips. She had a rose behind her ear, a sombrero on her head, and she was wearing yellow clothes.
I was so little that I have this memory, but I’m not aware of the fact that it’s related to a label, the label of Brasilena. But I do remember the first time I drank it, My grandma used to keep at least six bottles of Brasilena in the fridge so that they were always cool and ready to be served if some guests wanted it.
What is Brasilena?
Brasilena is a fizzy coffee drink that can be found only in Calabria, one of the most Southern regions of Italy. You can eventually find it somewhere else in the country only in bars that are run by Calabrians.
The Brasilena’s bottle is dark brown, similar to the one of a beer and it looks quite old-fashioned. There’s an Italian flag on the top, and it has got a yellow label: this is where you can find the South American girl I was describing before.
Like every fizzy drink, it sounds like a small vent when in contact with the bottle opener, and you might choose to drink it directly from the bottle or pouring it in a glass. In that case, you will notice its caramel color, a light foam, the half roasted half chocolaty taste of coffee grounds.
Once in your mouth, it’s extremely sweet, especially if you don’t usually put any sugar in your espresso like I do, but at least it isn’t that sparkling.
It’s like a liquid piece of candy, just perfect during summertime.
If you drink it once, you’ll recognize it forever
The most interesting fact about Brasilena is that kids who were born and live in Calabria tend to taste coffee way before other Italian kids because parents will let them have a tiny sip of Brasilena considering its lower concentration of caffeine. That’s probably why, as a Calabrian boy, I can’t really remember when was the first time I tasted a Brasilena neither a proper coffee shot.
Following my grandma’s ritual, even though I’m not a big fan of Brasilena, I keep 6 fresh bottles in my fridge even in winter. I do it mostly to travel back in time when I was trying to take a bottle of Brasilena without destroying the sort of Tetris that was in my grandma’s refrigerator. It was impossible to drink a Brasilena without her noticing it!
I do live in Bologna now and recently it happened: I had a guest coming over who recognized the South American silhouette.
She shouted: “but that’s a Brasilena bottle!”.
“How do you know about it?” I’ve asked her, and she told me she used to have a Calabrian flatmate.
Here you are! I gave her a bottle that she opened straight away confirming that her memories were better than the actual taste of Brasilena fizzy coffee drink, even though I can swear that its recipe has never ever changed.
I spent a summer in Calabria a long time ago and one of the things I remember distinctively of my time there is the taste of Brasilena on a hot day. I loved the stuff, I just couldn’t put it down! I forgot about all that until today, I made myself an espresso tonic (basically tonic water with espresso and kahlua). It tastes exactly like the Summer 2015.