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Digestifs: The ultimate after dinner drink

Digestif Guide

Ah, the holidays. The time of the year where we connect with family, old friends and enough carbs and sweets to fill a public city pool.

Enter digestifs. A digestif is a kind of liqueur served after large, filling meals to help settle your stomach and digest your food – think fortified wines like Sherry, international brandies like Grappa and Armagnac, aged spirits like Scotch and bitter-but-flavorful world of herbal liqueurs like Amari. These fancy-sounding after dinner drinks aren't nearly as well known in America as they are elsewhere around the world, so we’re here

If there’s an after dinner drink, is there a before dinner drink?

You’re wise. It’s conveniently called an apéritif because its purpose is to stimulate your appetite. So while digestifs might skew sweet or bitter to cleanse your palate while massaging your stomach from the inside (it’s not as gross as it sounds), apéritifs tend to be dry. Think gin and dry vermouth, for example.

What's the deal with this stuff anyways?

Like we said, the purpose of a digestif is to help with digestion. Digestif alcohols in the Amaro family, are often sweet, herbaceous and sometimes even bitter. They have a medicinal vibe about them, and we promise even if you don't love the flavor (some of them take some getting used to), they will have a settling effect on a full stomach. As our SEO Manager, Jake, says, a drink like Fernet Branca is “a total acquired taste for a jaded palate.” (He suggests trying it with Coca Cola and lime.) 

The history of enjoying a small glass of liquor after a big meal isn't a new development, either. Many of the most popular digestifs in European countries can trace their roots back hundreds of years to when they were originally served up as elixirs or mixed into tonics by doctors.

So what am I looking for?

A proper after dinner drink is higher in alcohol content and helps to stimulate the digestive enzymes after a big meal. This could be a neat pour of whiskey, a glass of Port, or even a snifter of Cognac. You may have also heard of the popular Amaro from Italy as well. 

If you want to look extra cool and cultured at Thanksgiving this year, bring one of these digestifs to the table. 
-Fernet-Branca (Italy - bitter, medicinal)
-Bénédictine (France - sweet, herbal)
-Amaretto (Italy - almond flavored, sweet)
-Port (Origins in Portugal, sweet fortified wine)
-Limoncello (Italy - thick and sweet)
-Ouzo (Greece - sweet, black licorice)

But how do I serve it?

If you’re feelin’ fancy, there are plenty of cool cocktails you can enjoy that feature any digestif. Or, just grab some small glasses (yes, shot glasses will work). Serve about an ounce to an ounce and a half at room temperature and sip leisurely. If you’re looking for training wheels rather than immediate relief from gastrointestinal discomfort, experiment with trying them over ice or even mixing them (did we mention Fernet & Coke?) Enjoy, friends.