NARDINI GRAPPA

The Nardini Family has been making Italy's finest grappa since 1779. Fine grappa complements bitter chocolate and espresso coffee like no other spirit. For Italians accustomed to the best, Nardini Riserva - aged for five years in Slavonian oak barrels - needs little introduction. As complex as any cognac and as noble as any malt, it can change post-prandial habits forged over a lifetime. But it's also surprisingly adaptable: just take a look at our 'mixology' section. Nardini 'Bianca' - the clear, young spirit of Bassano - delivers a distinctive flavour, controlled scent and high alcohol content: 50% by volume.

Italy's best-selling premium grappa is bright and intense in the mouth, but remarkable smooth on the way down. All qualities which combine to combine to make Bianca a dramatic and stylish alternative to vodka, gin and other white spirits in some of the best-known cocktail recipes. And as a chilled shot, it's quite superb. Then there's the remarkable almond grappa, Nardini 'Mandorla'. Excellent in a corretto and the basis of a superb 'sour' and a stunning 'Alexander'. Small wonder that Nardini is the only grappa brand to be name-checked in Schumann's 'American Bar'. 

Several fashionable Italian winemakers now market grappa derived from their own grapes, but they out-source the critical distillation process. Whilst they can't begin to match the Nardini Family's unrivalled distiling expertise amassed over two centuries, their control over production is inherently limited. Yet it rigorous quality control - from local vine to bottle - that ensures Nardini grappas are not only excellent, but completely consistent, year after year.

So, forget about fancy bottle shapes and banish pre-conceptions of 'fire water'. Nardini represents this classic Italian spirit at its very best.