What Is A Digestif?
This week we’re diving right into what a digestif? You may have seen it at a dinner table at a fancy European restaurant accompanied by coffee or to pair with dessert. It’s a drink one takes after a meal to aid digestion. (Can also be used as a fun excuse to have a small drink after every meal...just saying) So in contrast to an aperitif (meant to make you hungrier) a digestif kinda helps you process all that food you just ate.
Much like an Aperitif there is no strict definition of a digestif because so many different beverages can fall under it’s category. It is both what you drink and when you drink it.
There is a good chance you may have had a digestif, without being aware of it. For instance, if you’ve ever sipped a glass of scotch or a snifter of brandy after dinner, that counts!
Usually a digestif is any alcoholic beverage that you would enjoy after a large dinner, or sometimes even a lunch. It is not a dessert drink, however. You can enjoy it during, after, or instead of dessert, but a digestif tends to be far less sweet and higher in alcohol than the typical dessert drink. Serving suggestions with these drinks include savory snacks and cheese. The French usually prefer the cheese (no surprise there.)
A proper digestif should either coat or cut through the heaviness of the food you ate. Whether it’s a liqueur or a straight up spirit, the choice is yours, the only thing marking it a digestif is the after dinner tradition.
Types of Digestifs
There 5 different types of digestifs, which are pretty broad categories, but they will give you an idea of what type of drink to get if you’re looking for some digestive help. Remember, it is medicinal...most of the time.
Fortified Wines: Among the most popular digestifs, you cannot go wrong with fortified wines like port wines and sherry. While dry vermouth is an aperitif, its counterpart, sweet vermouth, is a nice digestif.
Aged Liquor: Almost any aged liquor makes a great digestif, though brandies are the most traditional. This includes eau de vie, calvados, grappa, and other brandies as well as the distinguished Cognac and Armagnac. Whiskies are also quite popular, particularly scotch, and añejo tequilas are excellent as well.
Herbal Liqueurs: Many of those medicinal elixirs of old are today's herbal liqueurs and they're popular digestifs. This includes names like aquavit, Becherovka, Benedictine, Chartreuse, Cynar, Fernet Branca, sambuca, Strega, and Zwack.
Bitter Liqueurs: In the same way that bitters are enjoyed as aperitifs, some can be digestifs. The ingredients that give them a bitter profile aid in digestion, though the digestif variety tend to be richer and slightly sweeter. Amaros, such as Averna and Amaro Meletti, are among the many Italian bitters to look for.
Sweet Liqueurs: Sweeter fruit liqueurs like maraschino and limoncello are also nice after-dinner sippers.
A Brief History
Being that Digestifs are mostly liqueurs their history goes back centuries. It’s safe to say, digestifs and aperitifs were born from the same tree. Except, digestifs stayed on the pharmacy shelves a little longer before debuting at dinner parties.
It was the 18th century when both debuted, but aperitifs had a bigger hit as they could be enjoyed throughout the day. The reason digestifs took a little longer to debut/didn’t hit with as much resonance was because they were part of a family culture and family value traditions near the Mediterranean.
According to Thrillist, that’s mostly due to the fact that in countries like Italy and France dinner is typically served a little later in the evening. Therefore, people would like something to help settle the stomach from all the rich foods they ate.
A certain concoction that might help you sleep without a stomach ache. That might sound strange to Americans because in the United States dinner was replaced with, “supper” and “usually held at sundown, as early in the evening as 5 p.m. and that’s not exactly the time for a nightcap.”
As one of the neat spirits you can serve as an digestif, añejo tequilas are also typically served as a nitecap. So if agave is your thing, drink up!
Hope you learned something from this article and that you have enjoyed it. Now you get to eat like the Europeans, or at least be able to share your knowledge with everyone else. If you did enjoy it please feel free to share this article.
Thanks for reading, and as always…