Meals of the Mundo: Ponce Livornese

On August 4, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

There are many wonderful drinks you can make by mixing coffee with alcohol. Unfortunately, the Italians haven’t figured out any of them. For some reason, the country has mastered wine and coffee. But when they tried to go a step further, all hell broke lose and they came up with a Ponce Livornese.


I have a theory. This theory says that there are four basic types of world drinks: coffee, beer, wine, and hard alcohol. No country is allowed to master more than two of these. I admit, there are more than a few holes in my theory, but I don’t intend to explore those in this blog post. Maybe I’ll devote an entire afternoon to writing a post about all of my crazy theories. This is not that afternoon. In fact, it’s not even an afternoon since it’s past midnight.

Anyway, back to my theory. Italy mastered coffee and wine. Their beer is not good. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Peroni, and there’s a solid 30% chance that’s a fancy water company and not a brewery. Their hard alcohol is also generally bad. Ever heard of Italian whiskey? Neither have I.

Need another example? Ireland mastered hard alcohol and beer. Their coffee is borderline undrinkable and their wine is completely undrinkable. I’m not even sure there is Irish wine. If so, I have willfully erased it from my memory. ponce-cassie-drinking-bad-drink


So before I go any further, I need to give a big shout out to our cousins, Patti and Martino, who gave us the opportunity to try a ponce. We had an amazing dinner with them on our last night in Livorno, and they bought us a ponce at the train station before seeing us off the next morning. ponce-dinner-final-night

Dinner on our final night… and a Lego man


Ok, so we have the Italians who have this fantastic coffee. Some of the best in the world. They know how to appreciate an espresso, a cappuccino, and so much more. The problem is they started experimenting. And the crazy experiments that led to the Ponce Livornese happened in, you guessed it, Livorno. Back in 1614.

Legend has it that a ship carrying coffee beans and rum docked in Livorno. Innkeepers nearby smelled the strange-smelling coffee beans and started making drinks with them. Before long, they combined the rum with the coffee and made what has come to be known as a Ponce Livornese.

According to the City of Livorno’s Official Tourism site, viewed through the interpretive lens of Google Translate, “These fragrant and mysterious beans immediately aroused the interest of some landlords who tried to use them in their taverns, adding hot rum, to prepare a strong drink and a tonic for the sailors shivering because of bad weather that could not get out to sea.”


So the only problem with a ponce is that it’s not good. I tend to finish most drinks that I buy (including palinka!), and even I didn’t finish this one. It’s a bit like mixing good coffee with bad Jagermeister. That shouldn’t sound appealing to anyone! Want something better to put in your coffee? Try whiskey. That’s why you’ve heard of an Irish Coffee, but have probably never come across a ponce. Even this website which gives the recipe for a ponce says, “You should not use good rum, which will ruin the taste.” Think of how awful this drink must be if adding a good ingredient makes it worse!

If you do want to make it, it’s quite simple. Take a small glass and fill it halfway with rum. Add a lemon peel and two spoons of sugar. If you have the proper equipment, heat this mixture with the steam from an espresso machine. If not, nuke it for 30 seconds. Then add hot coffee to fill the rest of the glass and enjoy!

Patti and Martino – we can’t wait to see you again!

Just don’t make us drink a ponce.


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7 Responses to “Meals of the Mundo: Ponce Livornese”

  • LOVED this piece for oh-so-many reasons … You two will just have to come back one day and we’ll treat you to a caffe’ corretto (corrected coffee). A shot of booze (grappa, sambuca — who needs whiskey???) is added to a caffe’ (espresso in American parlance). This “corrects” the coffee.


    • That sounds very…. Italian! We’ll try it 🙂 Now we just need to plan our triumphant return to Italy. What we have triumphed over? Who cares?!? Let’s celebrate anyway! Salute!!

      • You two are welcome ANY TIME & I am so enjoying reading the other thoughts on this thread.

  • Coffee and Jager. Wow. I am intrigued by your theory. This has held up so far on our own trip. Except maybe Ecuador where they suck at all of them (beautiful landscapes, though!). I got to know fresh juices really well there.

    • Some of the tropical countries have incredible juices! Everywhere we went in Thailand, we bought big cups of fresh juice from street vendors for $1. It was awesome.

  • Wait, this theory of yours really has me thinking….I haven’t found a great example to break it yet, either. You definitely need to do a post on that alone 🙂

    • Two straight comments about my theory! I will absolutely write a blog post about it now 🙂

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