Poggio Basso Grappa del Piemonte

Grappa wasn’t at all on my mind when I went to the liquor store the other day. In fact, I Full Bottlewas hardly aware of the existence of grappa, having only heard of it while watching Mario Batali cook on one of his various shows. He added some to whatever it was he was cooking, and explained its origins. According to chef Batali, grappa come from the cast off grapes that nobles threw out after making wine. The peasants would take these waste solids and referment them into a strong concoction they called grappa. Grappa now is still made from grape skins, and is then distilled into a clear spirit.

This Grappa del Piemonte comes in simple but distinct bottle. While most liquors that come in a 375mL bottle are short and squat, this one comes in a tall thin bottle that’s as tall as most other spirits. It has a label that appears simple at first look, a plain rectangular two tone sticker with a logo and a name. Upon further inspection though, there’s the image of what looks like still, and the cap is a hollow glass bubble like you’d see on an inexpensive decanter. So while I wasn’t looking for grappa, this bottle caught my eye in the store. Once I’d read “Grappa” on the label, I knew I’d be buying some, as I’de never tried any before.

Poggio Basso’s grappa had me worried when I first opened it; pulling out the synthetic cork it smelled like something decomposing. I poured some into a glass and the scent didn’t change. My first sip didn’t make anything better, it burned my lips quite a bit. That, however, wasn’t the grappa’s fault. After taking a moment, I realized I’d become dehydrated during the day, and my lip was chapped. The burning wasn’t from the drink per se, but because I had a small wound and I’d put alcohol in it. Ouch.

My next sip was quite a different experience. Even at 40% alcohol by volume, this Grappa del Piemonte is very smooth, it leaves only a pleasant tingle on the tongue. Its flavor is also complex; it tastes like raisins, grape seeds, and grape stems. It also has a creamy taste that takes me back to my childhood. My mother used to sometimes give me these little whitish fruit flavored lozenges. They were semi-hard, but as they warmed up they would soften and become chewy, with a creamy texture to match their taste and color. One of strongest aspects of this drink’s flavor is just like those candies, and drinking it takes me right back to the feeling I had being a small child eating those sweet things.

I wouldn’t say that this liquor has an especially strong taste, it’s certainly not overpowering on its own, though it is definitely dominant. Every once in a while I’ll mix it with something else, it it almost always becomes the main flavor. Even Jägermeister, mixed with more Jäger than grappa, didn’t stand a chance when put up against this seemingly unassuming Italian brandy.

While mixing it I found that I usually prefer it on its own, but one exception is drinking it chilled with Master of Mixes cherry grenadine. It goes fantastically well with the fruit flavors in that grenadine, and takes to the sweetness well too. If you do chill it, you’ll find that it’s quite easy to float a layer of grappa on top of the grenadine. The rich red syrup with a crisp line separating it from the crystal clear grappa makes for quite an attractive layered shot.

The dry, fruity creamy flavor of this grappa goes quite well with sweet and fruity things or on its own, but after having had it for a while, now I’m curious what it would taste like if I cooked with it. I imagine it would go well with the tang of tomatoes, I think I may try adding it to some tomato sauce, or even better, put some into some home made salsa. Yum!

Metaxa 7 Star

Bottle.PNGOrange is something of an unusual color for a drink. Often when I put up my remarks about spirits, I’ll describe them as “amber,” something of a catch all description for several shades of yellow, orange and red that seem a little too similar to each other to be their own color. Even orange juice, by the time it gets to the supermarket from the grower, has usually lost its red tones and turned a light yellow color. Metaxa comes in a shiny orange box, which I expected to be some kind of marketing ploy; People tend to like things that have deep rich color, and often we’re told little lies through packaging about how impressive the product inside is. But Metaxa 7 Star brandy is really orange. Deep, dark rich orange. I tried to photograph it, and worked for many minutes to try to take a picture that showed its true color, but couldn’t quite capture it.

Metaxa 7 doesn’t have much of a smell however. It’s slightly fruity, and when I took deeper breaths to try and find lighter undertones, only found a waxy smell that I think comes not from the brandy, but from the packaging it’s in. In the glass, there’s a scent that reminds me of some kind of flavored cake, maybe a cake with berries or some other kind of fruit baked in.

Having such a light scent, I expected to also find only a small amount of flavor as well, but that was certainly not the case. Metaxa 7 Star is fruitiness embodied. It’s sweet and candy like, it rich and syrupy, it tastes like grape with a hint of orange, and reminds me somewhat of cough syrup. After a drink, when I move air around with my tongue to find the aftertastes, I get the flavor of fresh sweet pea pods.

Served in a snifter, after letting it warm up in the had for a little bit, its texture loses its syrupiness and its flavor loses that medicinal quality. I wouldn’t say that it’s more pleasant this way, it’s simply different. I’ve seen people with contraptions to hang a brandy snifter over a tea light, like some medieval liquor torture device, and I’m curious what it would taste like after being heated over such a small candle flame.

Letting Metaxa 7 Star warm in the hand might be the preferred method for some people Box.PNGto drink it, as when it’s left at room temperature some may find it a bit too sweet. The richness of the sugary taste may cloy in some people’s throats, and warming makes it go down just a little more easily.

The box and labels that Metaxa comes in talk up its smoothness, but at 40% ABV I expected this to be something of an overstatement, but it actually wasn’t. My first sip went down with no sensation that I had taken any alcohol until several moments later, when a comforting warmth spread through my chest throat and mouth.