For generations, people have reached for Grappa after a hearty meal and on cold winter nights. It is the perfect after-dinner drink and even has some uses in other cocktails. It’s an intensely divisive drink, with people either loving or hating it.
What is Grappa?
Does drinking wine residue sound appealing to you? If so, congratulations, you found grappa!
Grappa is a blend of grape seeds, stalks, and stems. It is everything leftover from wine production that would normally be considered waste.
It is an extremely strong drink and, on average, contains anywhere between 37.5% to 60% alcohol by volume. This would be the equivalent of 120-proof vodka!
History of Grappa
The first recorded distillation of what we know as grappa happened in the early Middle Ages. At this time, it was called “brum” or “brume.” This is because the alembic stills (the equipment used for distilling) used to make it were often placed on top of a fire, making them look like they were smoking.
The first recorded grappa producer was a Venetian monk named Mariano di Jacopo, also known as Friar d’Alessandro. In 1495, he began distilling what he called “acquavite di vinaccia.” This was made from the pomace of the local grapes grown near his monastery.
Want to learn more about other local foods in Venice? We wrote the guide on it.
How is Grappa made?
The distillation process can happen either in batch or continuous stills. Batch stills are what we typically think of when we think of moonshine or whiskey being made in a pot still.
This is a smaller batch process where the pomace is placed in a pot with water and then heated until it boils. The vapor that is produced is then collected and condensed back into a liquid. This liquid is what we know as grappa.
The second method for making grappa is through continuous stills. This is a much larger operation and is more common for industrial-scale grappa production.
The pomace is placed in a large tank with water and then heated until it boils. The vapor produced is then passed through a series of condensers that cool it back into a liquid. This method can produce a lot more grappa in a shorter amount of time, but some people believe that it doesn’t taste as good as batch-produced grappa.
To be fair, I don’t think grappa tastes good at all, so I don’t notice much difference between batch stilled and continuous stilled. Both taste like paint thinner to me. But it’s tradition, so I try grappa at least once on each trip to Italy.
Different Types of Grappa
There are many different types of grappa, but the two main types are white grappa and aged grappa.
White grappa is made from white grapes and is typically clear like vodka. It’s the most common type of grappa.
Aged grappa, meanwhile, is made from red grapes and is usually brown. It is aged in wooden barrels, which gives it a more complex flavor.
There are many flavored grappas on the market to supposedly enhance the sweetness and flavor profile. These are made by adding different herbs, fruits, or spices to the grappa during the distillation process.
Aperitivo: The Italian Tradition of Pre-Dinner Drinks
Aperitivo is a must when visiting Italy. Click here to read our in-depth guide to this unique tradition.
What’s the Difference Between Brandy and Grappa?
The two drinks are actually quite similar. Both are made from the leftover grape pomace from wine production and both are typically around 40% to 60% alcohol by volume.
The main difference is that brandy is aged in wooden barrels, whereas grappa is not. This aging gives brandy a more complex flavor, whereas grappa tastes more like vodka.
What Is the Best Way to Serve Grappa?
Grappa is typically served in a small glass called a “Cappelletti.” You are supposed to drink it in one shot, but I recommend sipping it if you want to avoid being knocked on your ass.
It’s fairly common to see grappa served with a piece of fruit, typically a slice of lemon or orange. This is supposed to help cut the bitterness of the grappa.
If you’re on the fence, grappa is best avoided altogether. Again, I think it’s awful, but if you need to try it, sip it slowly and chase it with a piece of fruit.
Is Grappa Good for Digestion?
Some people believe that grappa is good for digestion because of the grape pomace that it is made from. The grapes contain many different antioxidants and nutrients that can help digestion.
I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say for sure if this is true. But if you’re struggling with digestion, it might be worth giving grappa a try. Just be sure to drink it in moderation, or you’ll quickly have larger issues than digestion.
If you don’t like your friends or want to wow them with your unique palate, look no further than grappa. If you have had grappa and lived to tell the tale, leave us a comment below!