I recently had the opportunity to visit Veneto and Trentino in Italy, and explore the world of Grappa! This was an educational trip for journalists and bartenders, where we had the chance to explore how this spirit is produced, distilled, and bottled. It was fascinating learning about Grappa because I had only known a little bit about this type of spirit before coming here. We only touched upon this subject in Sommelier school, so I was very excited about my first spirits trip. Spirits really interest me, because they’re so different from wine. I enjoy making cocktails and host many cocktail events at One Sixty Madison, so this was an ideal trip for education and inspiration!

Grappa is a distilled spirit made from grape skins. This is just like Brandy except for its grappa. They distill the pomace, which is the grape skins and seeds until it turns into alcohol. They can use a multitude of grape varietals including: Chardonnay, Moscato, Amarone, Prosecco, Traminer, and more. They use copper stills in the distillation process, which is an intense process and very scientific but releases the right aromas and flavors into the spirit.

Grappas are classified into categories according to age and include young white grappa, reserve or vintage grappa, aromatic grappa, aromatized grappa (addition of herbs or fruit), and single varietal or Monovarietal grappas.

Our trip began in Rome at a very sleek and modern cocktail spot: Il Marchese Osteria. This bar is full of great cocktails, Italian light bites, great pasta, and more! We started off with a Grappa Negroni, which was absolutely delicious. It tasted like a regular negroni, so if you’re into these cocktails, you will love the addition of Grappa. We also enjoyed a Grappa Sour made with a white grappa and citrus. It was a creamy textured very smooth cocktail, made with Casta, a cocktail style grappa that’s perfect in lighter libations such as this. Just a sprig of rosemary is all it needed, to express wonderful herbaceous notes, fruit, and nice citrus.

Other fun grappa cocktails you can make include a Grappa Mule, Grappa Margarita, Grappa Mojito, and a Grappa Libre. What I learned from my first night, was essentially as long as you are using good quality grappa, you can re-create any of your favorite cocktails!

Paired alongside the cocktails was a selection of delicious light bites from the menu. We enjoyed Marchese Rice Balls, Salmon Confit, Fried Zucchini Flower with Buratta, and Pasta Amatriciana. All went very well with the cocktails because grappa is actually very food-friendly. The flavors in grappa, although strong, compliment fried foods and pickled flavors very well.

After a fabulous evening at Il Marchese Osteria, I realized just how versatile and fun grappa really is. I also came to realize that I was drinking not so good grappa, and couldn’t wait to dive into this unique and sustainable spirit world! Keep reading through my travel section, to see all the great grappas we tasted, distilleries visited, cocktails tasted, and food devoured!

Always remember, eat what you like and drink what you love! Please pair responsibly.