Back when we were getting read to open our Hayes Valley Kiosk—at the time located in a dead-end alleyway that smelled like pee—someone bought a bunch of Gibraltar tumblers under the (mistaken) impression that they would be big enough for cupping coffee. At 4.5 ounces, the octagonal-beveled glasses turned out to be just a little too small, but when our baristas realized that the petite, transparent cups were perfect for evaluating shots, our Gibraltars were repurposed for making sure our new espresso machine was up to snuff.
Searching for a daintier version of the standard shot for a few of their new regulars, our Hayes Valley baristas started adding a generous helping of steamed milk to the hot espresso in their new glasses. What they created was a drink built for immediate quaffing.
"It's really a cortado," writes founder and CPO James Freeman in The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee. "But we didn't know that at the time."
Not unlike Blue Bottle itself, the baby latte in a pretty cup took off. Just as our cafes started popping up around the country (and even crossed the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo), the Gibraltar has had surprising international success, appearing on menus in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
While he doesn't think Blue Bottle is responsible for the uptick in the drink's popularity, James does think it capitalized on an unarticulated desire for a short, concentrated espresso drink that's made to be consumed on the spot. Whether you're looking for a middle ground between the macchiato and the cappuccino, or are a barista in need of quick pick-me-up before going back to the hectic work of espresso-slinging, this adorable little drink is right up your alley.
This month, we're celebrating fifteen years of making delicious coffee.