A meal doesn’t have to end once the plates are cleared. After-dinner drinks are a great opportunity for satisfied customers to extend their night-out with a digestif. It’s also a great opportunity for a server to increase their check-average and for a restaurant to increase sales. Digestifs and bitters can end the meal on a comforting note. Literally. And like many old-world staples, digestifs are pouring back into mainstream culture.
Often, there is a post-meal lull right after dinner. It’s the time when diners unbuckle their belts and lean back, hopefully satisfied after their meal. Servers may start to loose attentiveness, as focus shifts to other tables that have just been sat. Minds turn towards the check and questions of how the bill will be split. But it doesn’t have to be this way. No, meals don’t have to fade out, they can end with a bang.
Too often, suggestions of dessert are half-hearted. And post-meal drinks run the gambit from a lukewarm cup of decaf to your grandmother’s memories of the brandy alexander she ordered during the Eisenhower administration. But we should take a lesson for our European friends. They are masters of enjoying a meal that is paced, and know that a night out should be savored, not devoured. For a new libation after dinner, you should try an Italian or German digestif.
Some tips for ordering digestifs.
If the restaurant your at has a good cocktail list, it’s likely that they have some amaro or herbal bitters stocked and in use cocktail ingredients. The great thing about these ingredients is that they stand alone as tasty products on their own.
If you’re at a restaurant that is serving a regional cuisine, they probably carry a digestif or liqueur from that region. If you’re at a mediterranean restaurant, ask for a glass of Grappa or a pour of Ouzo when your meal is finished. Short of that, scan the dessert and after-dinner drinks menu for suggestions.
Side note: if you run a restaurant and you don’t have a separate menu for dessert drinks or digestifs, well, you’re doing it wrong.
Here a few after-dinner drinks that can settle your stomach and satisfy your taste buds:
Underberg is a classic German digestif that’s been aiding digestion (and hangovers) since 1846. The single-serving 20ml bottle comes wrapped in straw paper sleeve like a gift from the gods of indulgence. It’s the perfect after dinner drink. If you don’t believe me, take it from Underberg, their slogan is “Underberg…After a good meal.” Underberg is also fantastic at marketing. The company began a customer loyalty program in the early 2000s called “Tops & More” that encourages customers to exchange bottle caps for awards. Also, if you find Underberg at a bar, you’ll probably come across their bandolier, which is a pretty bad-ass way to holster your bitters.
Long before Underberg donned it’s straw paper sleeve and saved the stomachs of German’s everywhere, Becherovka was the Czech Republic’s herbal savior for all-things that ailed them. The restorative dram is the result of a collaborative effort between a pharmacist and physician. Becherovka became commercially available in 1807. The pharmacist was Josef Becher, and with Becherovka’s pedigree as the brain-child of two medicine men, it’s easy to understand the public’s use of it as cure-all tonic. Weighing in at a managable 38% alcohol by volume, the czech tonic has an interesting story behind it’s recipe: there are only two people in the world that know the recipe.
For spirit enthusiasts, fernet has been a familiar sight on back bars for a few years now. Fernet is actually its own style of Italian amaro, but in the U.S., fernet is generally associated with the brand Fernet-Branca. Though, I also love Fernet Vittone. Fernet caught on in the U.S. in San Francisco and began as popular shot for bar tenders and industry folk. It’s always been popular overseas in Italy, where it originates from, and can be found in one of Argentina’s favorite drinks, Fernet and Cocoa-Cola. I personally like to nurse a shot of fernet, paired with a ginger beer.. It’s a double shot of digestive relief and herbal deliciousness.
Fernet can also be used in small quantities to flavor a cocktail, like the use of Angostura bitters in a Manhattan.