What is an Affogato: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know

What is an Affogato

Of the many espresso-based beverages, the Affogato stands out as the most indulgent. Whether or not you believe this unique coffee preparation qualifies as a dessert or a drink, you have to admit, the Affogato grabs your attention.

 At first glance, it seems simple enough: a scoop of ice cream drizzled with a shot of espresso. But, as with the best Italian food items, the Affogato’s simplicity is deceptive.

There is more to this coffee-based drink/dessert than meets the eye. If you’ve ever wondered exactly what goes into making an Affogato— or, if you’d like to try your hand at making one yourself –keep reading!

What is it?

In its simplest form, the Affogato is a single scoop of ice cream (or gelato), over which a shot of espresso is poured. While most common preparations of the Affogato use vanilla ice cream, more high-end versions use “Fior di latte”, (which translates to “flower of milk).

This upscale ice cream more closely approximates the flavor of “pure”, high-quality cream, reminiscent of the frothed milk you would find in a Cappuccino or a macchiato.

However, if you want to experience this more refined version of the Affogato, be prepared to do a little searching. Fior di latte is not easy to come by, and restaurants that use this ice cream in their Affogato aren’t exactly common either.

If you order an Affogato in the states, you’re far more likely to receive one made with good old vanilla ice cream. In Europe (especially Italy) gelato is the default dessert of choice. Often, chocolate syrup is also drizzled on top.

Whatever the flavor or type of frozen cream, the general rule is to pour the espresso shot over the cream, then eat the Affogato immediately, before it melts.

Besides the use of ice cream or gelato instead of steamed or whipped milk, another thing that sets the Affogato apart from other, more traditional, espresso-based drinks, is the way it’s served. Instead of a cup, most restaurants or cafes serve the Affogato in a bowl.

Drink or Dessert?

While some coffee purists maintain that Affogato is one of the traditional espresso-based drinks, others place it more in the dessert category.

While I can see the argument for classifying it as a drink, it becomes a little hard to justify when the Affogato is served with a spoon and drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Depending on the restaurant, the Affogato is even sometimes garnished with biscotti and fruit, further making the case for its dessert status.

Affogato: A (Very) Brief History

When it comes to the history of the Affogato, unfortunately, not much is known.

Because of Affogato’s use of espresso, It’s widely accepted that the dessert/drink was invented sometime after 1884 when the espresso machine was invented. But the specifics end there.

In Italian, Affogato roughly translates to “drowned,” no doubt referring to the appearance of the scoop of gelato submerged in espresso.

The word “Affogato” wasn’t added to the English Dictionary until 1992, around the time that the Affogato had begun to become more well known in the states.

Recently, Starbucks introduced a version of the Affogato to their menu, bringing the drink further into the American mainstream.


The Affogato more than makes up for its mysterious past with its renowned versatility. Diced fruit, berries, chocolate syrup, and caramel, honey cone, almonds, and biscotti crumbles are all common toppings you’ll find on the Affogato.

But some restaurants will even take it a step further, changing the flavor of the ice cream itself.

If you’re so inclined, ice cream flavors that pair well with espresso, besides the obvious vanilla are:

  • Chocolate
  • Caramel
  • Butter Pecan

In South America, you’ll even find fruit-based ice cream flavors in Affogatos. While you might think that fruity flavors would clash with the bold, rich flavor of the espresso, the result is surprisingly tasty!

The fruit contrasts beautifully with the natural citric acids in the coffee, bringing out exciting, unexpected flavors.

There is even a savory version of the Affogato which gets rid of the espresso altogether, and instead uses– get ready –olive oil!

While I understand your hesitancy, I wouldn’t pass up a chance to try this unique version of the Affogato. The fats from the olive oil pair surprisingly well with the richness of the ice cream.

Affogato Corretto

The most common variation of the Affogato is, without a doubt, the Affogato Correto.

Instead of espresso, this boozy version of the Affogato is traditionally made with grappa, an Italian brandy. Dessert wines like Port, PX Sherry, or Marsala also work well.

But if you, like me, would rather stick with the coffee flavors, I recommend going with coffee liqueur instead of brandy.

Common Affogato Corretto preparations use Baileys, an Irish liqueur made with coffee and whiskey. This preserves the espresso flavor while adding a creamy smoothness as well as an alcoholic kick.

But, if you want the alcohol without losing the intense flavor of the espresso, Kahlua is the better option.

How to Make Your Own Affogato

So, now you know all about the Affogato. The only question that remains is: how do you make one? Well, the good news is, it’s very easy!

As with anything coffee-related, the trick to making a great-tasting Affogato is using high-quality ingredients. Because there are really only two necessary ingredients for this dessert, don’t skimp! You’ll thank me after you take that first sweet bite.


  • Concentrated coffee: Espresso is ideal. But, if you don’t have access to an espresso maker, brewing a strong (I mean very strong) cup of dark roast will suffice. Instant coffee is also a good substitute. Remember, you’re not drinking this coffee straight; the richness of the ice cream will reduce much of the harshness.
  • Ice cream: If you have access to fior di latte, then, by all means, use that. Otherwise, vanilla is standard. I recommend a quality French Vanilla.


  1. Place one large scoop of ice cream in a bowl.
  2. Drizzle over 2 oz of concentrated coffee.
  3. Eat immediately.

Calories: 318

Caffeine: 64 mg