Carrajillo in a glass flaming

He stepped into the side street bar. From the long gaze of the patrons it was evident that he was a new oddity, one that might not be welcome.

The bar was long, built of aged and scarred oak and was about the only inviting item in the small room. Two men sat at one of the tables playing domino. The barkeep was a man of hard face that had seen harsh times in this Torrejon neighborhood.

“What do you want sir?”

“I would like to try something I have just heard about — carrajillo”

“You want to have carrajillo? Do you know what that is? Are you sure you can handle it?”

The domino players laughed.

“I am not sure, but I would like to try”

The barkeep stared at him as if trying to decide if this was worth the effort or not.

“Ok — I will make you carrajillo”

With this said, he stepped back to the espresso machine which dominated the back half of the bar. The machine sputtered to life as he released hot steam into the waiting cup to heat it for the black espresso.

With a bang, he emptied the portafilter from the last brew. He filled it with fine coffee, which he tapped down hard. With a quick upward thrust, he pushed the portafilter into place. With a twist to the right, it locked into the deep recess of the machine head.

The thick black coffee extract dribbled from the portafilter spout. The small cup waited below, filling bit by bit. The heavy crema of spent coffee created atop the blackness of the brew.

The tiny cup on its small saucer came sliding down the bar to stop right in front of him. Before he could move, the barkeep had stepped up close to him. With the swipe of his hand behind the bar, a bottle of nut brown brandy appeared. A healthy serving of this went through the crema into the waiting coffee. Just as quick as the bottle disappeared, a flame appeared from nowhere. The barkeep struck a match and set the top layer of the coffee alight.

As the liqueur caught light a small spoon of sugar doused the flame. The rough sugar caramelized on the surface of the coffee.

“This is carrajillo” — the barkeep’s voice was low and reverent.

“Can you drink it?”

“I think I will try” — it was the best thing he had ever had and with its drinking came a change in the whole room. A change from hostile humor to acceptance — from suspicion to trust — from coffee to carrajillo