Digestifs: The After-Dinner Miracles
Last month, I talked about aperitifs and how they are great before a large meal. If aperitifs are good before a meal, then to talk about digestifs is a natural progression as a dessert after the entrée. Let’s get to know what exactly they are and why they are perfect after dinner.
If you’re like me, then at some point you have definitely finished dinner and been what I call “miserably full.” Sometimes the food is just too darn good to act like an adult and stop eating when you’ve had enough. When I get to this point, my stomach is at max capacity and it’s difficult to do anything other than moan complaints about how full I am. This is where a digestif comes in handy.
A digestif is an herbaceous alcoholic beverage that actually aids in, you guessed it, kick-starting digestion. These liquors are usually imbibed straight or neat because they aren’t meant to be consumed like shots. Slowly sip them. Some people do prefer a nice cognac or scotch at this point in the dinner timeline and that is absolutely fine. Regardless of what your choice is, they are great for helping out. What is a good one?
Chartreuse is a green liqueur that is veiled in mystery. It is made by Carthusian monks in France, has over 130 herbs in it and only two monks ever know the recipe at one time while never being able to be in the same room together. I’ve been fascinated by this one for a while now. There is such a unique flavor profile here. It’s herbal but so much more. There is an anise or licorice flavor but not intensely. It’s got basil, rosemary freshness and a balanced, slightly sweet finish on the tail end. It’s as complex and interesting as a Cormac McCarthy novel. I do recommend this one in 1-ounce portions to be sipped neat. If you need it chilled, stir it with large ice cubes. Don’t shake it — the shards from the ice cubes will dilute it and you’ll miss its beautiful subtleties.
A better-known digestif is Limoncello. It’s a crucial part of the dinner experience in a lot of European countries. To call it a dinner standard seems to be on point. While I was traveling in Spain a couple of years ago, every restaurant I ate at had their very own. It was so commonplace that they just brought out trays of it after the last course was cleared. So, what is it? In this case, it is a house-made lemon liqueur from lemon rinds (about 12-16), sometimes herbs, sugar and high proof alcohol. To make, it takes about three to four weeks but the wait is so worth it. It’s citrusy, fresh and sweet. Those citrus oils help process all that food you just ate. Frank’s Pizza Napoletana has an incredible one.
This wraps up our little series on before and after dinner drinks. I hope this may inspire you to plan fun dinners with friends or maybe try something new at your favorite restaurant. Remember the point of these aperitifs and digestifs isn’t to make a super boozy night, but to stretch it out over increments. Enjoy the company and the time.
Judd Smith is a local wine enthusiast who also works as Cadre Hospitality Group’s beverage director. To read more from Smith, check out his blog at www.BeardandBarrelBlog.com.