After a massive, multi-part feast with many glasses of wine, what does your stomach want? Probably, a digestif. For centuries, thoughtful gluttons have opined that a meal capper of strong booze will ease digestion. The science may be out on that, but there's no doubt that an intensely-flavored dram feels right at the end of the night.
Sadly, digestifs—which range from sweet liqueurs to warming brandies—have fallen out of fashion. But Thanksgiving is the perfect time to bring them back. Here, a few of the best digestifs to guarantee your post-binge comfort (or happiness, at least).
The two premiere regions for French brandy are Armagnac and Cognac. While Armagnac is produced using alembic stills and Cognac is made with pot stills, both are distilled from wine, both are aged in oak and both are classic French ways to end a meal. Chest warming, a snifter of Cognac or Armagnac will both refresh and ready you for a pleasant nap.
Bottles to try: Marnier XO Cognac ($174), a superbly mellow, nutty spirit. Tariquet XO Bas-Armagnac ($63), Armagnacs are typically fruitier than Cognacs and this is no exception with nice bright notes of candied lemon.
Traditionally in Normandy, diners take a shot of Calvados in the middle of a meal to “burn a hole” in their stomachs and make way for more food. Both the French apple brandy and American apple brandy are a fantastic, fall-centric ways to close out a meal (or make way for dessert).
Bottles to try: Boulard VSOP Pays d’Auge ($45), smoky, woody, toasty and, above all, packed with clean red apple flavors. Laird’s Apple Brandy 100 Proof ($28), a New Jersey-made apple brandy, this is honeyed, spiced and rougher (in a good way) than its French cousin.
If you love all things herbaceous and bitter, then Chartreuse is your best bet. A French liqueur made with 130 different herbs and plants, the spirit comes in two colors: green and yellow. Green is typically stronger and bitterer while the yellow is milder and sweeter.
Bottles to try: Chartreuse Green ($55), a complex, herbal, slow-sipper. Chartreuse Yellow VEP ($98), more and more bartenders are becoming interested in aged Chartreuse as the botanicals evolve over time. This one is aged in oak casks and would be a fun special, boozy treat for guests after dinner.
Deliciously bittersweet, amari, a large and varied group of Italian liqueurs, have been enjoying some time in the restaurant limelight over the past few years. F&W’s Ray Isle has been a fan for about 15 years now. Made by infusing grape brandy with herbs, roots, citrus peels and spices, there are a myriad of bottles to try and, thanks to America’s current obsession with them, many of them are available in the states.
Bottles to try: Amaro Ramazzotti ($20), an affordable and popular pick right now. It’s easy drink and laced with vanilla-tinged anise. Fernet Branca ($27), this peppery, aromatic liqueur is the digestif (and hangover cure) of choice for many bartenders.