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La ricetta del ponce alla livornese

The Livorno-style punch

If you go to Livorno and stop in a bar, let yourself be tempted by a steaming glass of Livorno-style punch.

Much more than a correct coffee, this drink has distant origins and is still the pride of the city today.

After having revealed a couple of curiosities relating to its origins, in today's article we will illustrate the traditional recipe and tell you what are the tools and ingredients essential to obtain a perfect drink.

Finally, there will be suggestions to try your hand at home with the preparation.
Here's everything you need to know about Livorno-style punch.

History and curiosities about Livorno-style punch

Are you cold? Have a punch.
You have a cold? Have a punch.
Are you depressed? Have a punch.
You are happy? Have a punch.

Since its origins, punch has been traditionally considered by the Livornese (and not only) as a remedy for many ailments: just drink a little and… every ailment is gone.

Whether it is true or not, what is certain is that the name of this drink comes from "punch", and that the original English drink included 5 ingredients: tea, sugar, brandy, lemon and cinnamon.

To understand how from this we arrived at the Tuscan version, which provides for the use of coffee instead of tea and liqueur instead of water, we need to go back in time to the early eighteenth century.

It seems that a vessel from the Americas was carrying a cargo of rum and coffee destined for Livorno.

During a sea storm, some barrels of rum accidentally broke, which spilled onto some sacks full of coffee beans.

It was therefore necessary to sell the latter at a reduced price.

Rum-flavored coffee was an immediate success, so much so that attempts were made to replicate it and sell it in many establishments.

A brief comment about the legend of "the sail", i.e. the lemon zest that cannot be missing from the recipe for Livorno punch.

The most probable hypothesis is that the innkeeper on duty used to rub a slice of lemon cut in half on the edge of the glass to clean it, thus leaving a characteristic aroma that mixed with those of coffee and rum.

The slice was then dipped in the drink, precisely creating what we know today as "the sail".

Leghorn punch: the classic version and the variations

After the historical notes on the birth of Livorno-style punch, let's see what are the variations that can be found in the bars of the Tuscan city.

The classic punch

It is made with Rumme or Rum fantasia, a variant of rum obtained from a mixture of alcohol, sugar and rum-flavoured caramel.

Half-and-a-half punch

The same quantity of aniseed liqueur, called pebble, is added to the traditional rum-based recipe, giving life to the half-and-a-half punch.

“Cognacche” punch

Third variant of Livorno-style punch, based on cognac.

A drop is added to give a more decisive flavor to the rum.

The punch torpedo

This is the "strengthened" version of punch, which is prepared by adding a pinch of chili pepper to the coffee powder.

The recipe for Livorno punch: tools and ingredients

Here is what you need to make a perfect Livorno-style punch.

Espresso machine: a fundamental step in preparing punch is to heat the alcohol and sugar well, using the steam from the espresso machine.

Coffee: to make the punch perfect, prepare a strong coffee and tilt the glass slightly under the spout of the espresso machine as it drips. In this way, the foam will remain firmly on the surface.

Gottino: no cups, Livorno-style punch is drunk in the gottino, the typical glass.

It is characterized by a hexagonal base shape, whose grooves mark the maximum level at which to pour the rum.

It has a thick bottom that allows you to hold it between your fingers even if the drink is hot.

Vela: as we have seen, this is how the Livornese call the lemon zest that accompanies the punch and which is placed on the bottom of the gottino.

The recipe for Livorno punch: the traditional bar version

According to the traditional recipe for Livorno-style punch, the restricted espresso must be poured into the tilted cup.

In this way, the foam remains firmly on the surface.

Let's find out together the complete preparation process.

Ingredients for one person

● 1 cup of Filicori Zecchini coffee

● 3 cl of fancy rum

● 1 teaspoon of sugar

● a zest of half a lemon


1. First, put a teaspoon of sugar in the small glass and immediately pour the rum.

2. Bring the mixture to the boil with the steam from the espresso machine: when it starts to bubble on the surface, move and put the glass down, waiting for the sugar to melt with the heat of the steam.

3. Prepare a very strong coffee.

Position the glass, keeping it tilted, under the spout of the espresso machine, until the foam reaches the edge; then swirl the glass a little.

Once the coffee is finished, cutlery and you will find yourself with the froth firmly on the surface. Finally, add a lemon zest and drink it hot.

The “half and half” punch: the homemade version

Well aware that not everyone in the house owns an espresso machine, we suggest a homemade procedure for making the recipe for Livorno-style punch with a moka pot.

Ingredients for two people

● 2 cups of Filicori Zecchini coffee

● 3 cl of fancy rum

● 3 cl of pebble

● 2 teaspoon of sugar

● a zest of half a lemon


1. Prepare the coffee with the mocha.

Separately, in a saucepan, mix rum, pebble and sugar.

Heat and, as soon as you see the bubbles, turn off.

2. Cut a lemon zest and place it on the bottom of the gottino, or a small glass.

3. Pour the mixture into shot glasses, then add the coffee. Drink hot.

Did you know this typical specialty of Tuscany?

If you are curious about the regional recipes for coffee-based winter drinks, we suggest you discover the recipe for Aosta Valley coffee.

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