The after-dinner drink serves a dual purpose during the holiday season: to aid digestion and to keep you lingering, allowing you to wrap up one conversation and begin a new one with the tip of a bottle.
A digestif, like an aperitif, serves to round out the meal with a bittersweet finish. The after-dinner drink, common in Europe, can take on any form one desires or needs, both in terms of its definition and usage. Even after lunch, one could sip on it.
Consultant and Buddy wine bar co-owner Claire Sprouse says, “It’s an opportunity to revive you after a meal.” Sprouse recently opened Buddy in San Francisco.
She sees the post-dinner drink as a medium-A.B.V. cocktail’s domain. If you’re planning on walking home, even if it’s a pleasant walk, you’ll want a drink with a little kick to get you going.
There are a plethora of options. A well-known and excellent choice is a bitter-leaning amaro, which is full of restorative herbs. When it comes to the classics, there’s nothing better than a neat shot of Brandy, Cognac or Calvados.
The fortified wines of Ms. Sprouse include sherry, Madeira, vermouth, and port when she’s looking for a bit of acidity. In the event of a bloated stomach, herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse, Bénédictine, or even Underberg may be the answer.
From there, the list is endless. Aperitifs and digestifs have been around for more than a century, but according to Ms. Sprouse, modern after-dinner drinks don’t have to follow any set model. This isn’t the 1800s anymore, and we don’t have to act like it is.
Ms. Sprouse suggests that an aperitif could also be served after a meal. “I think Champagne is a fun way to finish a meal as well, but most people tend to start their meals with something like Champagne.”
Toss in a little dry tonic or soda water for some additional zing. Calvados or Pommeau with tonic is a favourite of Ms. Sprouse’s.
To add a final burst of fizz, the Nuitcap mixes Cognac and vermouth with a splash of soda water right before serving. Mix up a final batch of Bijou cocktails and serve them in half-size, sipping portions if you’re hosting a mixed-drinks party.
It’s also possible to join in the fun by setting out several bottles of wine and glasses of ice on the newly cleared table and taking turns pouring and passing the drinks around.The psychological impact of a nightcap is just as important as the physical.
As Ms. Sprouse noted, “we’ve all spent so much time apart that I think you’re looking to elongate that experience once you get in the room with people.”