Digestif, Anyone? | After-Dinner Cocktails and Spirits

Lebowski Fan Art by Joe Forkan

There are four types of drinks: the drink without food, the drink with food, the drink before food and the drink after food. The drinks that rotate around your food consumption like some kind of drunken rings of Saturn are aperitifs and digestifs. The aperitif is the spirit that is consumed before your meal. It is designed to propel your appetite into overdrive. Classic pre-dinner drinks, depending on where in the world you are located, include: champagne, vermouth, gin, calvados brandy, cognac, ouzo and dry sherry.

Also: Reinventing Classic Cocktails

The digestif is the spirit that is consumed after a meal. Once you’ve filled your belly with whatever greasy meat and starch combination that is on the menu, you’re going to need help digesting it. That’s where the after dinner drink comes in. Classic post-dinner drinks, depending on where in the world you’re located, include: Grand Marnier, Schnapps, sweet brandy, port, drambuie, limoncello, amaro, kahlua, whiskey or a cocktail containing any of the above named. 

The digestif is the most important drink because it’s designed to aid in the digestion of your meal. If you ate so much that you had to unbuckle your belt, your in need of a great digestif or after-dinner cocktail.

After-Dinner Cocktails

Irish Coffee 


This turbo charged coffee is the perfect after dinner drink. Its contents of caffeinated coffee and an extra kick of whiskey are just what you’ll want after a massive meal.


  • 3 ounces Hot Coffee
  • 1.5 ounces Irish Whiskey
  • 1 ounce Fresh Cream
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar


Pour the hot coffee into an Irish coffee mug. Add whiskey and brown sugar and stir. Add fresh cream to the top and enjoy.

Brandy Alexander 


This creamy, cognac driven cocktail fits two post dinner criteria. It’s an alcohol filled cocktail with desert-like chocolate flavor.


  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 1 ounce Crème de Cacao
  • 1 ounce Fresh Cream


Add everything to a shaker, shake and strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Top with grated nutmeg and drink up.



This minty, creamy after dinner drink gets its name from its green color. Crème de Cacao and crème de menthe are the perfect mix to sip on after dinner.


  • 1 ounce Crème de Cacao
  • 1 ounce Crème de Menthe
  • 1 ounce Fresh Cream


Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice. After a brisk shake, strain the drink into a cocktail glass and enjoy.

White Russian


Made famous by Jeffrey Lebowski in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, the White Russian is similar to the mudslide, but it contains Irish cream and heavy cream instead of Kahlua.


  • 1.75 ounces Vodka
  • .75 ounces Kahlua
  • 1 ounce Fresh Cream


Pour Kahlua and vodka into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Add Fresh cream to the top and slowly stir the contents together.

Digestif Spirits

Brandy – Brandy is fairly high in alcohol (usually 80-120 proof) so it’s best to imbibe it in very small quantities. After dinner, brandy fans sip the spirit, made from the wine distillation process. Sometimes brandy is aged in casks, similar to whisky. The most famous brandies are Armagnac and Cognac.

Eau De Vie – Eau De Vie is a popular after dinner drink. Technically a brandy, it’s un-aged and fruity in flavor. The main difference between brandy is that Eau De Vie doesn’t contain grapes, but it made with different fruits. Popular varieties include: Schnapps, Calvados and fruit brandy.

Grappa – Grappa is made from pomace (the leftover grape pulp and skin from the winemaking process). Its alcohol content ranges from 70-120 proof. Although the drink has roots in ancient times, its contemporary history can be traced to northern Italy in the late 1970s. It has imbibed throughout the Mediterranean and all over the world.

Fortified Wine – The reason these spirits are called “fortified wine” is because they are a wines that have a spirit added to them (usually a variation of brandy). Popular varieties include: vermouth, port, sherry, Madeira, marsala and commandaria.

Liqueur – Unlike spirits, liqueurs have an added ingredient or flavor such as sugar, corn syrups, fruit juice, botanicals, spices, and cream. Liqueurs are usually sweet, potentially syrup-like and are perfect for mixing into cocktails or after-dinner sipping. They are typically lower in alcohol than most spirits (usually around 30 to 60 proof). Popular varieties include: Amari, drambuie, fernet, herbal liqueurs, Grand Marnier, chartreuse, limoncello, Unicum, Irish Cream, crème de menthe and Herbs de Majorca.

Hard Liquor – If you aren’t the type of person who wants to sip on a glass of sweet port or cream liqueur, your best bet for after dinner digestion should be your tried and true hard liquor. If you can handle your liquor on the rocks or neat, there’s few things more pleasurable than a nice glass of whiskey after a long dinner. It might not have the scientific digestion effects of some other alcohol concoctions, but a dram of scotch, a glass of great, aged tequila, bourbon, rum or rye is one of life’s simple pleasures. If you can afford it, grab a bottle of Macallan 18, Glenmorangie Lasanta, Ardbeg Uigeadail or if you get really lucky, a bottle of Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask.


Lebowski Fan Art by Joe Forkan; Brandy Alexander image by HonestlyYUM; other cocktail images: Getty Images.