It looks innocent enough right? It’s just a small glass of clear liquid. But hold on—grappa is a turbocharged experience. Grappa is the clear brandy that results when the pulpy mash of stems, seeds, and skins left over from winemaking is refermented and then distilled.
In most parts of the world, this leftover stuff is thrown away or spread on the ground as fertilizer. But in Italy, nothing gastronomical is wasted—even if it sometimes tastes like a grenade has just exploded in your throat. Historically, grappa, was a specialty of the cold, northern part of the country, where people put a small shot of it into their morning coffee. The best grappas today are usually made from the skins and stems of a single aromatic white grape variety, such as riesling, moscato, or gewürztraminer. Because of their feverish allegiance, grappa fans are fondly called tifosi di grappa—which more or less translates as typhoid victims of grappa.