Although it conjures images of old men taking generous swigs post-bocce, not all grappa -- the robust brandy crafted from grape pomace -- grips the esophagus and burns its way down. At The Third Man, the Nessun Rimpianto cocktail illuminates this Italian white lightning in its most graceful form: softened with honey syrup, enlivened by fresh lemon and cucumber juices and deepened by the grassy allure of liquid nitrogen-frozen dill.
"Grappa has a reputation for being hard to drink because a person's first experience is often with a low-quality product consumed in volume," explains Edi Frauneder, co-owner of the dark, candle-strewn Avenue C bar a block away from his schnitzel and spätzle haven, Edi & the Wolf. "The product we're using, Candolini Ruta, is pungent and somewhat tannic, but the dill and cucumber round it out and emphasize grappa's savory notes."
Like grappa, cucumbers are native to the Mediterranean, Frauneder points out, "so the old adage, 'If it grows together, it goes together,' still applies."
After a heavy Austrian feast, the effervescent Nessun Rimpianto, topped off with club soda, is a welcomingly bracing digestif.
2 oz. Grappa Candolini Ruta
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. honey syrup
½ oz. cucumber juice
Dill for muddling and a sprig for garnish
Combine grappa, lemon juice, honey syrup and cucumber juice with a bit of dill. Shake and serve in a Collins glass. Top with soda and garnish with dill sprig.