I'd been meaning to post on this for month's, but kept getting sidetracked until I was reminded of this by seeing Helen Roy's column in a recent Tablehopper. The wine, bar and beverage director for SoMa's new InterContinental Hotel, Roy (above) has turned its Bar 888 into a temple to one of her favorite substances: grappa.
Grappa is one of those things that have a mixed reputation. Mention it to some people, and their eyes will roll as they recall rotgut they once downed or a hangover they experienced after sitting around an Italian dinner table too late into the night. Mention it to others, though, and their eyes will light up, recalling some fine spirit they tasted and a great experience they had sitting around an Italian table too late into the night. A fine grappa can be a digestivo, a mind-clearer and a light and ethereal abstraction of the beauty of grapes. It's good in espresso too, which old Italian men and hipster cognoscenti alike call a "caffe correcto" (corrected coffee).
Grappa is basically the thrifty Italians' way of exploiting every little bit of the grape left over from the winemaking process. You see, once grapes have been fermented and the wine is pressed off the skins, there's still alcohol remaining in those damp skins, which can be distilled and turned into high-octane juice. The difference between rotgut and genius, though, lies both in the skill of the distiller and the freshness of the grape pomace he or she sources.
Naturally, you want to seek out the better producers--Nardini, Poli, Nonino and Molino. And Helen's got them all at Bar 888, where you can sample to your heart's delight. Oh, and she's got some killer grappa cocktails too.