Some mixed drinks venture outside the general mixology comfort zone to include some out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. Grappa, an Italian grape-based brandy made from pomace, which is the leftover grape bits after winemaking, is normally enjoyed by itself either chilled or on the rocks. If you are feeling adventurous, you can mix grappa with other ingredients, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, for some daringly tasty drinks.
Since it is basically a brandy, grappa mixes well with other distilled spirits. Vodka's light taste and scent blends well with grappa. The Genoese cocktail blends vodka and grappa with dry vermouth and Sambuca, an Italian anise-flavored liqueur: Chill 2 parts each grappa and vodka and 1 part each dry vermouth and Sambuca in a cocktail shaker, then strain into a martini glass. Substitute gin for the vodka for a Genoa martini. Another gin-based cocktail is the grappa gimlet: Chill 2 parts each gin and sweetened lime juice with 1 part grappa, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
Liqueur It Down
Grappas normally have a proof range from 70 to about 120, meaning that they have enough of a punch to successfully blend with lower proof liqueurs. An Italian limoncello cocktail mixes grappa with the Italian lemon liqueur limoncello. Pour 4 parts limoncello, 2 parts grappa and 3 parts simple syrup on the rocks, then add a sprig of fresh basil, cut lemon pieces and a splash of club soda. Simpler grappa-liqueur drinks include the Italian slider, which is equal parts grappa and Irish cream on the rocks, and the glassy-winged sharpshooter shot, which is 3 parts grappa and 1 part creme de menthe, chilled and served in a shot glass.
Grappling With Grapes
The grapes in grappa allow the spirit to mix well with other grape-based alcoholic beverages like wine. The Christmas champagne blends 1 part grappa with 2 parts sparkling wine, fresh cherries and caster sugar for a seasonal treat. Grappa also works well in sangrias, which are wine-based punches; one simple sangria calls for grappa, triple sec, creme de cassis, grenadine, orange juice and a few bottles of Lambrusco, an Italian red wine. Another more complicated sangria, the winter citrus sangria, blends grappa with orange liqueur, a medium-bodied red wine, orange juice, simple syrup and club soda, and fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, pears, green apples and blood oranges.
No Thrills Mixers
Given their high alcohol content, grappas will blend well with non-alcoholic mixers like dairy, juice and coffee. The milk liqueur is just what it sounds like: milk and liqueur. Mix 5 parts grappa with 2 parts each whole milk and sugar, then top with grated chocolate and lemon zests. For an after-dinner drink, try the tangerine, grapefruit, lemon and orange digestif; in addition to fresh fruit, the drink also contains grappa, water and sugar. The Christmas Eve hot chocolate mixes grappa with coffee and chocolate for a seasonal pick-me-up; the drink contains grappa, coffee liqueur, dark creme de cacao, chopped dark chocolate and coffee topped with whipped cream.