For almost two decades, Dallas food photographer Manny Rodriguez has been making his cortado for clients and friends. He was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, and learned how to make what amounts to the national drink from his mother. More or less.
“It’s a taste memory,” Rodriguez says. “I saw it often enough. My mom always made it with evaporated milk, condensed milk, coffee, and that’s it.” The recipe itself had to be deciphered from gestures. (Same with her black beans and ropa vieja, Rodriguez says, feigning exasperation, “Because she would never tell you!”) But, he adds, “I think most Cubans would make it this way”: on a stovetop, in a Moka pot, and in Rodriguez’s case, with the best coffee and the best milk he could find.
Some may have already sipped Rodriquez’s cortado during pop-up Sunday brunches which he holds periodically in his airy, spacious photography studio in North Oak Cliff, where natural light streams in and you can salsa dance unobtrusively. I’ve had a steaming mug of his sweet, strong cortado accompanied by sweet and savory scones made by Katherine Clapner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate or croissants and quiches by Samantha Rush of Rush Patisserie.
More recently, Clapner taught Rodriguez how to scale up his recipe—Guatemalan coffee, which he has roasted dark by Full City Rooster, with organic milk and sugar—and he’s selling it now as Manny’s Cortado in places like Cox Farms Market ($6.99 for 16 oz.). Sipped hot or cold, it’s creamy and intense. For those needing a hint regarding the original story, “Cafe con leche a lo Cubano” is printed on bottle.
Available at Cox Farms Market. $6.99 for 16 oz.