What Is a Digestif?
Do you ever get so full after dinner that you feel as though you would not be able to move even an inch after all the over-eating you just did? Or do you feel as though your stomach is not being able to digest your food all that well? Or are you afraid that either of these two may happen to you, so you are trying your best to keep your hands off the delicious food on the table?
If yes, then it is time for you to finally get acquainted with the benefits of digestifs and to have an overall insight on what their purpose truly is to keep us healthy.
So, What is a Digestif?
In simpler words, a digestif is nothing more than a beverage that people drink to improve their digestion. However, there is more to a digestif, like, for starters, a digestif is an alcoholic beverage. This means that for a drink to be digestif, it needs to contain a certain amount of alcohol in it. But not every drink that contains alcohol is a digestif. Moving on, you will get a clearer idea about what it actually is and how it helps us, as you read ahead.
One important fact about a digestif is that it is only served after a meal not before. This includes after-the-meal coffee sessions too. It is meant to help you digest food better, using the contents inside of it. Some people also consume it during their meals. However, digestifs are mostly consumed after dinners and heavy lunches.
Coming back to the topic of ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ a digestif – this is honestly a very tricky question. A digestif is not a specific type of drink, rather, a variety of drinks fall in this category. For something to be called a digestif, it needs to meet certain requirements like what it is that you are actually drinking and when you are drinking it.
Thinking of a digestif now, you may end up confusing it with a dessert drink. But these two are very different from one another in the sense that digestifs are not meant to be drunk as fluid desserts. They are not as sweet and in comparison to dessert drinks, they have a significantly higher alcohol content in them.
Besides, it is next to impossible for a digestif to have cream or chocolate in it like most dessert drinks generally do. But you can, of course, swap the dessert drink for a digestif or have the dessert as well as the digestif at the same time (or afterward).
The practice of drinking digestifs is quite rare in America since meals are usually simple, unlike Europeans who are more into multi-course meals. Hence, this practice is different for the people of the two continents, seeing that the elaborate dinners mean going to bed with too full a stomach in contrast to a typical American one-course dinner. Nonetheless, wherever you live, this is one thing that will undeniably be beneficial to you.
Digestifs vs. Aperitifs
If you had any vague idea about digestifs before, chances are, that you may have heard about aperitifs too. Aperitifs, like digestifs, are made from alcohol. Their sole purpose is to be drunk in order to increase appetite, which obviously means they are consumed before you dive into your meal.
Though people generally do understand the difference between aperitifs and digestifs, what confuses them is how to determine which drink is which. Now, to know what drink is an aperitif, you need to know its characteristics. The first feature of an aperitif is that it should be dry, very dry. So, when is a drink dry? It is dry when it has a low sugar content. The other feature of it is low alcohol content.
The sugar content of an aperitif is low because high sugar levels instead of increasing your appetite, decreases or checks it in certainly. The high alcohol content, on the other hand, will prevent your taste buds from working properly. This means that your sense of taste will diminish significantly and you will not be able to taste much of any flavor unless it is very strong. A gin or dry martini can be good choices in this case.
A digestif is dissimilar in a way that both the sugar and alcohol levels are higher in comparison to aperitifs. Drinking this after a meal will curb your appetite and give your body an idea that it needs to start digesting as if you are done with all the feasting. As for digestif options, you could have a simple liqueur, whiskey or Sherries. As a side note, remember that digestifs are taken neat and not diluted.
The Types of Digestifs
Originally, digestifs had been made from herbs and spices for health benefits. However, with the passage of time, they have become a part of the daily meals for people across the globe. If the digestifs were to be divided into categories, you would generally find these:
- Aged or old liquor
If you are in search of a good digestif, it is time to take out your most aged alcohol. Almost any will do a good job but brandy is what you should be looking for. Starting from the most well-known ones that are cognac and Armagnac to eau de vie (fruit brandies, Schnapps and Calvados) which are considered as the best of the best. You could also go for pomace brandy which is also known as grappa. If brandy is not your thing, go for whiskeys like scotch.
- Fortified wines
If you have had Port, Sherry or Madeira, you know exactly what we are talking about. Fortifying wines had started in order to prolong their shelf life. But as other methods developed, there was no need to use this particular process. However, the added taste made these wines quite popular and honestly who would not like wine with a shot of brandy in it? Nonetheless, all fortified wines make great digestifs, even sweet vermouths, and they taste just as great.
- Sweet liqueurs
Fruit liqueurs are the most common ones found in this category. The Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge makes one of the best liqueurs due to its orangey flavor. Limoncello, the lemon flavored Italian liqueur, is equally famous as a digestif. A few others that you could try are maraschino and Curacao.
- Bitter liqueurs
While bitter liqueurs can be consumed as aperitifs, the ones that are sweeter and richer in taste are used as digestifs. The bitterness in these digestifs comes from ingredients that are very useful in improving digestion and so, you could very well try these. Underberg and Averna, two bitter liqueurs, are the ones we recommend you to try.
- Herbal liqueurs
Herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse, Sambuca and aquavit make great digestifs, quite like the ancient ones made from herbs and spices which promoted good health. Jagermeister is another German herbal liqueur which we guarantee will be worth trying.
All in all, drinking digestifs should be of no bother at all. Take them like you normally would but neat and at room temperature. They also need not be consumed in huge amounts, so small glasses with no more than one or two ounces should suffice. For special occasions, bring out the glasses and instead of keeping a single choice, give the guests a few to choose from. Then they can pick what they prefer, bringing the night to a satisfactory end.
Digestifs in the Form of Cocktails
If neat brandies and herbal liqueurs are not your thing, no need to worry because digestifs can also be drunk in the form of cocktails. There are so many options to choose from, you are bound to love at least one. The first you could try is “the Manhattan” in which, whiskey (or bourbon) is the main alcohol. Another fine choice would be “French connection” together with cognac and amaretto. For coffee enthusiasts, Italian coffee with Strega would be perfect. There are many more besides these. A quick search on the internet would give you infinite recipes to try that not only taste great but work great too as digestifs.