Mezcal, bourbon, aquavit, vodka, cachaça—many countries and parts of the world have their own signature spirit. However, few are as directly tied to a state as chacha is to its home country of Georgia. Made with pomace, the pulp remaining from pressed-off wine grapes, it’s a heady clear spirit that shares many similarities with grappa. While few bartenders and drinkers outside of the Eastern European country would have heard of the spirit, there are bars in Georgia that are now highlighting chacha in their cocktails. One such place is 41 Gradus, in the capital city of Tbilisi, and one such drink can be found there: the Rustaveli.
The Rustaveli is named for famed Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli, who’s also the namesake of one of Tbilisi’s central thoroughfares. “We like to link our cocktails with some of the characters, places and events of the country, so each drink has a story to accompany it,” says Roman Milostivy, the owner and bar manager of 41 Gradus. Essentially taking a Georgian approach to a Manhattan, Milostivy uses equal parts chacha and sweet vermouth in the Rustaveli with a small pour of Cynar—an artichoke-based liqueur—standing in for the bitters and a few drops of absinthe for additional depth and complexity.
Of course, in order to make the Rustaveli, you’ll need to get your hands on a bottle of chacha. This can be tricky to do, as many places in the United States and other countries don’t carry the stuff. If you do manage to find some, say on a trip to Georgia, you’ll want to make sure it’s a more flavorful, robust example of the spirit category. “We like to highlight chacha in our cocktails rather than hiding this bold spirit,” Milostivy says. “While the modern trend for production is a light-bodied distillate with less flavor, we like to use powerful and full-bodied brands.”
- 1 ounce chacha
- 1 ounce sweet Italian vermouth
- 1 teaspoon Cynar
- 5 drops absinthe
Add the chacha, sweet Italian vermouth, Cynar and absinthe into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a coupe.