A digestif—the French word for a drink that’s imbibed as an aid to digestion after a meal—is the perfect treat after a filling holiday meal—and you’ll be having plenty of those in the next few weeks. That’s why WE contacted chefs, beverage directors and bartenders at hot spots around the country to find out what the best digestif beverages are.
Grappa: This favorite in Italy has evolved from an afterthought of the winemaking process to a go-to digestif. “I could think of only one thing that would fit after a holiday meal and it’s grappa!” says Gianni Cionchi, beverage director at New York’s FishTag Restaurant. “One style stands out as being an easier recommendation is that made from the grape Moscato.” This grape is herbaceous and sweeter than most, and contains hints of pear and honey. It produces a smooth and refreshing grappa with none of the fiery qualities of some others.
Amaro: Another Italian classic hailed by many, Amaro (bitter in Italian) is a variety of herbal liqueur that contains more than 100 ingredients, including barks, herbs, roots, flowers and fruit aged in cask. Long celebrated for their stomach-soothing qualities, these ingredients appear in dozens of varieties and brands, including Cynar, Fernet, Jagermeister and Averna. “Cynar supposedly has 175 ingredients,” says Paul Johnson, bartender at Two East in New York’s famed Pierre Hotel. “We suggest starting with Cynar and working your way up to a Fernet, and tread lightly around Jagermeister!” he adds.
Erh Tou Cha: A tea highly prized in China that when aged and sold as loose leaves or especially in bowl-shaped bricks has become known for its cholesterol-reducing and digestive properties, making it particularly good to drink after a big meal. “We have the patisserie, which is an area to host our guests at the late stage of dining and we’ve designed an entire beverage menu that aids digestion—tea is one of them,” says Lucas Paya of The Bazaar by Jose Andres in Los Angeles. Their digestif list also includes brandy and Calvados, an intense apple brandy from France.
Rosolio: This ancient liqueur (invented by a 14th-century Catholic doctor in Padua) is infused with rose petals and lavender and is another Italian favorite. “Rosolio is great for soothing the stomach after a big meal,” says Brick Loomis, sommelier at Culina, in Los Angeles, which is why it’s most often served after dinner.
Prichards’ “Sweet Lucy” Bourbon: If your tastes tend toward the domestic, Suzan Boyce of Cotton Row in Huntsville, Alabama, has an interesting suggestion: “We serve the Prichards’ “Sweet Lucy” Bourbon that will no doubt warm you up after that big holiday meal,” she says. Infused with apricot and orange, it has a slightly sweet finish. And as an added incentive, with each purchase, Prichards’ Distillery will make a contribution to Ducks Unlimited for their ongoing wetlands conservation efforts throughout North America.
Vin Jaune: A favorite of Peter Birmingham of Hatfield’s in Los Angeles, this wine from Arbois is nattily aromatic and gently sweet. “My love of the Jura knows no bounds,” says Birmingham. He suggests looking for classic producers in the clavelin bottles like Chateau Chalon, Gahier or Stephane Tissot of Domaine A&M Tissot.
A great digestif is no longer limited to a single spirit, at least at Osprey Point Restaurant in Rock Hall, Maryland. Under the guiding hand of Chef Eliza Abbey, this Eastern Shore gem prides itself on good digestifs. “Our favorite digestifs are creative martinis with fabulous flavors, like the Honey-Pomegranate-tini and our Sassy-Grass Martini made with Hangar One Buddah’s Hand Vodka. Try making these at home and serving them at your next holiday soiree:
2 ounces Hangar One Mandarin Blossom
½ ounce Cointreau
½ ounce POM Pomegranate Juice
1 tablespoon Honey Pomegranate Tea (Korean specialty that looks like a jar of honey).
Twist of lemon to garnish
Chill a martini glass (hyperlink to chill a glass technique). Combine all in shaker with ice. Strain into glass, and garnish with lemon twist.
2 ounces Hangar One Buddah’s Hand Vodka
½ ounce lemongrass simple syrup
Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker, stir and strain into a martini glass.