Some people believe that a fine meal isn’t truly over until they’ve indulged in an after-dinner drink. It’s true that the right drink can help warm the belly and put the finishing touch on a delicious, enjoyable meal. What’s more, after-dinner drinks help ease your mind and body into a state of calm satisfaction, allowing you to slide gently into sleep later in the evening.
What are the most popular after dinner drinks? Depending on your mood and your preferences, you may choose a glass of port, a snifter of brandy, or a shot of Amaretto. If you’re not sure what to drink, feel free to ask your dinner companion for their recommendation, as well as your waiter. Pick an after-dinner drink that will help you round out your evening.
Sweet After Dinner Drinks
If you tend to prefer sweet tastes for your drinks, you’ll likely like the taste of a port. Port, from the Duoro region of Portugal, is a sweet, red wine that is fortified with Brandy, making it a bit more potent than the usual red table wine.
There are several different kinds of port bottled, from white to ruby to tawny to vintage. The differences lie mainly in the variety of grape used and the length of the aging process. Depending on the restaurant, you may find only one port offering on the menu, or you may be able to choose from several.
Another popular, sweet after-dinner drink is Bailey’s Irish Cream. This is nothing like port; instead, Irish Cream uses whiskey as a base. Bailey’s (and other Irish Cream brands such as Carolan’s) is a drink made from Irish whiskey, cream, and chocolate. The O’Mara’s brand uses red wine in place of the whisky. Bailey’s offers more flavors than just the original Irish Cream–you can also find it in hazelnut, mint chocolate, caramel, and coffee.
You would simply drink Irish Cream in a glass over ice. If you want more, Bailey’s can serve as the base in another popular drink, an Irish Coffee. Although this drink may not aid you in falling asleep anytime soon, it does tend to warm you all the way from the tips of your fingers down through your toes. This simple drink combines coffee (you can ask for decaf), Bailey’s, and more Irish whiskey, topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
What Can I Order With More of a Mature Taste?
There are plenty of popular after-dinner drinks that are not sweet, or are subtly sweet in a smoky, warm way. These are generally known as “the brown liquids” and include brandy, scotch, and bourbon.
Brandy is one of the most popular of these types of drinks, coming in many different varieties from which to choose. It is distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice, and is high in alcohol, at 40% (80 proof). Brandy is usually enjoyed at room temperature in a brandy snifter, allowing the warmth of your hand to gently release its aromas.
Popular kinds of Brandy include Cognac (from France), Armagnac (from France), Ouzo (from Greece), and Calvados (from France). Cognac and Armagnac differ mostly in the type of oak used to make the casks that house the brandy during the aging process. Ouzo has an anise base, which is similar in taste to licorice. Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France.
Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same drink. Scotch and bourbon are both types of whiskey: Scotch is made in Scotland, while bourbon is a specific way of making whiskey, with a blend of at least 51% corn.
Whiskeys are made by distilling grains in water and then aging the alcohol in oak casks. These grains can be corn, rye, wheat or barley, and the differences between whiskeys can be traced first to the type of grain used and then to whether there is just one type of grain used (i.e. malt whiskey, which just uses malted barley).
Similarly to brandy, there are many different tastes and nuances among different whiskeys. You may find you prefer a blended malt whiskey or a straight Tennessee bourbon. As after-dinner drinks, these are usually served either straight, or on the rocks–it’s pretty much your choice.
What Are Cordials?
Cordials are another type of sweet after-dinner drink. They are spirits distilled with flavorings, including fruit, nuts, and spices. Cordials tend to be lower in alcohol content than other after-dinner drinks, although very often brandy is used as the base in making a cordial.
Some popular cordials include Amaretto, which has an almond flavor; Grappa, which tastes like grapes; Frangelico, with its hazelnut taste; and Sambuca, which tastes like black licorice. Perhaps you’ve also heard of Drambuie, schnapps, Grand Marnier, and Midori–these are also kind of cordials.
When picking an after-dinner drink, you can let the meal dictate the type you order, or you can simply choose your old standby. Whatever your choice, make it enjoyable and drink it leisurely, relaxing in the satisfaction of a meal, and time, well spent.