Words by Simon Difford
Grappa bottles should be stored upright, particularly those with cork stoppers as the spirit attacks cork. Bottles should be kept out of direct sunlight and heat. Once open reseal between serves and beware that clear spirits gradually lose subtle aromas as they degrade due to oxidisation.
"It's a perfect example of things like tequila that we've gone through the eighties associating it with bad hangovers. But this stuff is beautiful and it's delicate and well crafted", says Jamie Oliver. He's talking about grappa.
In Italy, grappa is mostly served as a 'digestivo' (after-dinner drink) or in the morning with espresso coffee as a kick start to the day. Grappa also makes a characterful cocktail base.
Young and aromatic grappa should be served chilled (9-13°C); aged grappa at slightly below room temperature (15-17°C). That said it's better to serve too cold than too warm. Ideally a medium sized tulip shaped glass should be used. Avoid serving grappa in balloons and flutes.
It is common for Italians to add a dash of grappa to espresso coffee to create a caffè corretto, meaning 'corrected coffee'. Or, alternatively they drink what's called ammazza caffè ('coffee-killer') where the espresso is drunk first followed by a small shot of grappa. In Veneto they tend to prefer what's termed the 'resentin' (little rinser). After finishing a cup of espresso, a dash of grappa is poured into the empty coffee cup, swirled and gulped in one. All three of these traditional Italian ways of drinking grappa with espresso taste better if the coffee has been sweetened with sugar. If you prefer drinking coffee without sugar then consider accompanying with a grappa liqueur.
When tasting a range of grappa, start with young grappa before moving to aged grappa, and within those categories begin with those with the lower alcohol strength first. If known leave the more flavoursome grappa towards the end of each category.
Typical flavours found in grappa are: woody, grapes/wine, plum, date, cheese, burnt rubber, oily grease, floral, fruit and cooked fruit.