Barbajada: a drink with an intriguing name

Taste the traditional dishes of Milano

A drink with an intriguing, almost mysterious name, Barbajada is actually and quite simply named after its inventor, Neapolitan Domenico Barbaja.


The drink was invented in the Café Cambiasi that was located next to the La Scala Theatre (and was also called Caffè del Teatro, or Theatre Café) and was the meeting place for singers, musicians and theatre-goers. The inventor, Barbaja, was a waiter in the café and later managed singers and performances at La Scala.

In the mid-1800s, at a time when the city was colder and foggier than it is today, he came forward with this drink, claiming  it would warm and pamper the palate of the Milanese.


Barbajada was made of cream, coffee and chocolate. It remained in vogue until the 1930s and survived for a few years after that before completely dying away. Today, however, if you ask the real Milanese what a Barbajada is, they will certainly know the answer.


Furthermore, Barbajada also owes its fame to the fact that it was famous composer Gioacchino Rossini’s favourite sweet treat.

The recipe

Ingredients – Serves 4


  • Drinking chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Milk or cream


In order to recreate the original Barbajada, be careful with the proportion of the ingredients, irrespective of the amount you wish to make.


Put one third drinking chocolate, one-third coffee and one-third of milk or cream in the chocolate pot; as it heats up, beat vigorously with a whisk (or handheld mixer) so that it becomes frothy.


Barbajada is also excellent cold in summer.