As the story goes, some Egyptian alchemists had designed special equipment for distillation that went under the name of “Cleopatra’s philosopher’s stone”. The Romans came somehow to know it as the “Crisiopea di Cleopatra”. Such equipment was eventually stolen from Cleopatra’s court in the II century AD and later reappeared in the Italian village of Bassano del Grappa, in the hands of a Roman soldier.
From grapes to Grappa
The “Crisiopea of Cleopatra” was basic distillation equipment made of hourglass-like bottles. The Roman soldier applied the distillation principles ruled by the School of Salerno to process grape pomace (i.e., grape skins, pulp, seeds, and stems).
What he obtained was grappa.
Grappa is a fragrant graped-based pomace brandy containing 35 to 60 percent alcohol by volume (70 to 120 US proof).
Like wine, grappa’s flavor can vary consistently according to the quality of grapes and distillation process used. What we call “pomace” are leftovers from the winemaking process. Professional tasters distinguish four categories of grappa: young, cask-conditioned, aromatic and aromatized grappas. Grappa is now a protected name by the European Union to distinguish Italian brandy from all other types of brandy. The most famous brands are Nonnino, Nardini, Poli, Brotto, Sibona, De Negri, and many more.
The grappa etiquette
As many other Italian products, grappa has its own etiquette: its use is that of a “digestivo”, or after-dinner drink. Indeed, drinking grappa after a heavy meal helps the digestion. It is typically drunk in shots, separately or in the tiny espresso cup, after coffee. When liquors are drunk after coffee in a shot, as is the case of grappa, they are commonly called “ammazzacaffé” (literally, “coffee killer”). In the province of Venice, where Bassano del Grappa is, grappa is often used also as an ingredient for “caffé corretto” (meaning “amended coffee”). Posted by Giardino Italiano