When it comes to coffee, there are countless variations and recipes from around the world. One such unique and delightful coffee beverage is Café Asiático, a traditional Spanish coffee that originated in the coastal city of Cartagena. This article will explore the history, ingredients, preparation, and cultural significance of Café Asiático, providing you with a comprehensive guide to this flavorful drink.

The History of Café Asiático

Café Asiático has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century in Cartagena, a port city located in the region of Murcia, Spain. The drink was introduced by sailors who returned from their voyages to Asia, hence the name “Asiático” which means Asian in Spanish. These sailors brought with them spices and ingredients from their travels, which were then incorporated into the local coffee culture.

Over time, Café Asiático became a popular beverage among the locals and gained recognition as a specialty of Cartagena. It is now considered an iconic drink of the city and is often served in traditional glass cups with a distinct design.

The Ingredients of Café Asiático

Café Asiático is made using a unique combination of ingredients that give it its distinct flavor and aroma. The key ingredients include:

  • Espresso: A strong shot of espresso forms the base of Café Asiático. It provides the rich and bold flavor that balances well with the other ingredients.
  • Condensed Milk: Instead of regular milk, Café Asiático uses condensed milk, which adds a creamy and sweet element to the drink.
  • Licor 43: This Spanish liqueur is a crucial component of Café Asiático. It is made from a blend of 43 different ingredients, including citrus and vanilla, which contribute to the unique taste of the coffee.
  • Cinnamon: A sprinkle of ground cinnamon on top of the coffee adds a warm and aromatic touch to the overall flavor profile.
  • Lemon Peel: A small strip of lemon peel is often used as a garnish, providing a subtle citrusy note to the drink.

The Preparation of Café Asiático

Now that we know the ingredients, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of preparing Café Asiático:

  1. Brew the Espresso: Start by brewing a strong shot of espresso using your preferred method. The quality of the espresso will greatly impact the final taste of the Café Asiático.
  2. Warm the Glass: To ensure the coffee stays hot, warm the glass by rinsing it with hot water before pouring in the ingredients.
  3. Add Condensed Milk: Pour a generous amount of condensed milk into the warmed glass. The exact quantity can vary depending on personal preference, but a 1:1 ratio of espresso to condensed milk is a good starting point.
  4. Pour the Espresso: Carefully pour the freshly brewed espresso over the condensed milk, allowing the two to mix naturally.
  5. Add Licor 43: Gently pour a shot of Licor 43 into the glass, allowing it to blend with the coffee and condensed milk.
  6. Sprinkle Cinnamon: Finish off the Café Asiático by sprinkling a pinch of ground cinnamon on top of the drink.
  7. Garnish with Lemon Peel: For an extra touch of flavor, add a small strip of lemon peel as a garnish.

Once all the ingredients are combined, the Café Asiático is ready to be enjoyed. The contrasting flavors of the espresso, condensed milk, Licor 43, cinnamon, and lemon peel create a harmonious and indulgent coffee experience.

The Cultural Significance of Café Asiático

Café Asiático holds a special place in the cultural heritage of Cartagena and has become an integral part of the city’s identity. It is not just a coffee beverage but a symbol of tradition, hospitality, and socializing.

In Cartagena, Café Asiático is often served in traditional glass cups known as “tazas de asiático.” These cups are adorned with intricate designs and patterns, showcasing the craftsmanship of local artisans. The use of these cups adds to the overall experience of enjoying Café Asiático and enhances its cultural significance.

Furthermore, Café Asiático has become a part of various festivals and celebrations in Cartagena. During the famous Carthaginians and Romans Festival, which commemorates the city’s historical past, Café Asiático is served in abundance, allowing locals and visitors to immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant culture.


1. Can Café Asiático be made without alcohol?

Yes, Café Asiático can be made without alcohol by omitting the Licor 43. The absence of the liqueur will alter the flavor profile of the drink, but it will still retain its unique character.

2. Are there any variations of Café Asiático?

While the traditional recipe of Café Asiático remains the most popular, there are variations that incorporate different liqueurs or spices. Some variations include adding brandy, anise, or even a touch of orange zest.

3. Can Café Asiático be served cold?

While Café Asiático is traditionally served hot, it can also be enjoyed as a cold beverage. To make a cold version, simply prepare the drink as usual and let it cool before refrigerating. Serve over ice for a refreshing twist.

While Café Asiático originated in Cartagena, it has gained popularity beyond the city and can now be found in various regions of Spain. However, it remains most closely associated with Cartagena and is considered a local specialty.

5. Can Café Asiático be made with decaffeinated coffee?

Yes, Café Asiático can be made with decaffeinated coffee for those who prefer to avoid caffeine. The decaf version will still capture the essence of the traditional recipe, minus the stimulating effects of caffeine.


Café Asiático is a delightful and unique coffee beverage that showcases the fusion of flavors from different cultures. Its history, ingredients, and cultural significance make it a fascinating drink to explore. Whether you enjoy it in the traditional glass cups of Cartagena or experiment with variations in your own kitchen, Café Asiático is sure to provide a memorable and flavorful coffee experience.


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