The holidays are officially here, and you know what that means. We are in for several weeks of heavy meals. We’re talking roasted turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and other filling foods that will make you feel like you need to undo one belt loop and potentially take a nap in the middle of the living room when you’re done shoveling seasonal fare into your mouth.
Before your meal, if you want to stimulate your appetite for garlic mashed potatoes and salty, fatty dark meat turkey, you might want to start with an aperitif. Aperol, various sweet sherries, Campari, and other liqueurs are good for this. And while you might enjoy a liqueur or a cocktail like an Aperol spritz or a negroni before dinner, it’s after the meal that you really need a drink.
After-dinner drinks, also known as digestifs or digestives, are designed to help in digestion (hence the name) and settle your stomach after the ridiculous amount of rich food you just inhaled. And while a cocktail, glass of bourbon, rum, or other dark spirit works well for this task, we like to turn to liqueurs for this challenge. Below, you’ll find eight of our favorites.
If you’re a fan of a warming dram of single malt Scotch after a heavy meal and you want to try something different, Drambuie is like a pre-mixed Scotch whisky cocktail. This 80-proof liqueur is a mix of Scotch whisky, heather honey, and various herbs and spices. This timeless after-dinner drink’s origins can be traced back to the 1700s when Bonnie Prince Charlie had the recipe created by his Royal Apothecary. It’s known for its flavors of candied orange peels, honey, vanilla, and sweet whisky.
A favorite of bartenders and drinkers alike, Fernet-Branca is an Italian brand of fernet (a style of Italian bitter liqueur). First launched in 1845, its recipe is a closely guarded secret. It is known that it contains myriad herbs and spices, including angelica root, myrrh, peppermint, aloe, gentian, chamomile, and more. Sipping it neat after a heavy meal aids in digestion and reveals bittersweet, medicinal flavors of licorice and other spices.
You might have heard of amaretto, but you might not know exactly what it is. Well, in the simplest terms, it’s a sweet Italian liqueur known for its almond-like flavor. While some brands actually contain almonds, Disaronno doesn’t. It’s made with apricot kernel oil and specially selected herbs and fruits. The nose has almond cookies and dried cherries, and the palate is sweet, indulgent, and filled with candied almond, cherry, candied orange, and other spiced flavors.
Another favorite of bartenders for the end-of-shift drinker, Underberg is a German digestif bitters. It’s a kräuterlikörs, a liqueur made with herbs and spices that closely resembles the Italian amaro. Underberg is known for its herbal flavor highlighted by notes of licorice, clove, gentian root, and star anise. It’s touted not only as an after-dinner drink to help settle your stomach but also as a drink to cleanse your palate and even freshen your breath.
First launched in 1840, this French liqueur is known for its vibrant green color and mix of herbs, plants, and spices (more than 130 to be exact). This 110-proof liqueur is made by macerating the ingredients and then steeping them in alcohol for eight hours. The result is a bold, potent liqueur with notes of pine needles, mint, citrus peels, and a wallop of herbal aroma and flavor. It’s a great digestif after rich meals.
Jägermeister is more than just a drink you did in shot form or mixed with Red Bull during your college years. This German digestif is made with an eye-popping 56 herbs, botanicals, and spices. It was first launched in 1934 and remains the same almost 100 years later — it’s even still sold in the same green bottle as it was back then. It’s syrupy and sweet with bold flavors like star anise, candied orange peels, cinnamon, and other herbs and spices.
There are a ton of different peppermint schnapps brands on the market, but one of the best and most known is Rumple Minz. At 100-proof, this German brand is a potent, peppermint-filled liqueur that you’ll want to sip slowly after a heavy holiday meal. Not only will it give you a gentle buzz, but it will settle your stomach and leave you with minty fresh breath. What could be better than that?
This U.S.-produced cordial comes from the folks at Ferino Distillery in Reno, Nevada. Distilled to be mixed into cocktails or sipped neat after a heavy meal, it’s a mix of brandy, neutral spirits, and spices, including various types of cinnamon (including Ceylon from Sri Lanka and cassia from Vietnam, China, and Indonesia). It’s known for its bold cinnamon aroma and flavor that deserves to be sipped slowly. It’s spicy, warming, and very memorable. If you’re a fan of Fireball and you want to try something different, get this cordial.
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