We try to occasionally give a shout out to spirits we love that don’t get the limelight a lot, and this week we’re taking a look at grappa. Grappa is cognac’s ne’er-do-well cousin, an un-aged brandy made from the fermented skins, stems, and seeds leftover from making wine. It tends to be sharp and musty (go figure) with some dried fruit flavor, in addition to carrying over characteristics of whatever grape varietal it is made from. Read on to get reviews of a few reasonably available bottlings as well as some cocktail recipe recommendations that will hopefully lead you to love it as much as we do 🙂
Po di Poli Morbida
- Nose: Woody must, raisins, pine resin, straw. Slightly astringent. Warm, heavy jasmine floral notes as it opens up a bit.
- Palate: Raisin on the front. Mid-palate is floral with heavy jasmine notes, followed by resinous wood and dried vegetation like straw. Finish is peppery with a surprising caramel-y sweetness. The floral notes stand out strongly when tasted side-by-side with the others.
il Moscato di Nonino
- Nose: Grapes, dried fig, little bit of chocolate. Bit of an alcohol bite, though still smoother than the other two.
- Palate: Strong chocolate notes to start. Mid-palate is dried figs and yeasty, spicy ginger bread. Finish is very gentle and dry, with a hint of coconut. Nice heavy mouth feel. Chocolate and gingerbread flavors stand out the most when tasted side-by-side.
- Nose: Grape must and pine resin. Spicy herbal notes, mostly black pepper and resinous rosemary.
- Palate: Grape must and pine resin to start. Grape-y sweetness with some herbal notes like rosemary or thyme on the mid-palate. Finish is sharply spicy with strong black pepper flavors, followed by a little bit of an alcohol bite. The roughest of the three, though not in a bad way, more that it is assertive enough to stand up to strong flavors. Resin and pepper really stand out when tasted side-by-side with the others.
We really like our Veneto as a martini alternative, especially with the Poli Morbida (though another moscato grappa will do in a pinch), but we also wanted to offer another, somewhat less spirit-forward cocktail for folks who are still warming up to this spirit. After mucking about with grappa, various vermouths, citruses (is that even a word?), and orange or lemon liqueurs, we came up with:
- 2 oz grappa (we used the Candolini)
- 1/2 oz bitterish dry vermouth (We used the Imbue Petal & Thorn)
- 1/2 oz limoncello
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 1/4 oz honey
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
- Nose: Very clear grape must and pine resin, followed by lemon, thyme and tiny bit of honey (more pollen-y than sweet).
- Palate: Opens sharp, with tart lemon and grape must. Interesting combination of honey-lemon sweetness and resin going into the mid-palate, which turns tart with some herbal notes and a hint of beeswax. Finish is strong pollen notes and herbal bitterness. A very approachable grappa cocktail.
We hope this inspires you to, if not pick up a bottle of grappa for the bar, at least ask a bartender at your favorite watering hole to assemble an introductory grappa cocktail for you, and see what you think. We hope its unique flavor will open up a whole new range of delicious cocktail possibilities for you. Here’s how!