Red vermouth with a twist. Red vermouth is
sweeter than white vermouth, but still a
good apéritif wine. Photo courtesy
Sherry is a fortified wine made from Spanish white grapes, which are fermented and fortified with grape spirit to increase their alcohol content. There are eight different varieties, from dry to sweet. The dry varieties (amontillado, fino, oloroso, manzanillo, palo cortado) are used as apéritifs.
Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with various botanicals—a proprietary blend of barks, flowers, herbs, roots, seeds, spices. They can include, among others, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon balm, nutmeg, orange peel, sage, star anise, vanilla…and wormwood, the base ingredient of absinthe.
Amari (Averna Cynar, Fernet) and bitters (Becherovka, Underberg)
Brandy (including Alambric, Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac)
WHAT ABOUT DIGESTIFS?
A digestif is the opposite of an apéritif: an alcoholic beverage served after a meal to stimulate digestion (that’s the theory*). Examples include:
Dessert cocktails (Black Russian, Brandy Alexander, Irish Coffee, Mudslide)
Eaux de vie (fruit brandies) and grappa (pomace brandy)
Sweet liqueurs (Drambuie, cream liqueurs, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Limoncello the many, many others)
Whiskey and other distilled liquors (akavit, ouzo, tequila, etc.)
Much as we love all of these, we’re usually far to full after dinner to consider a digestif. If we could only give up dessert….
*Digestifs have not been found scientifically to help with digestion. People feel that they do because the alcohol in the stomach initially widens the blood vessels, generating a positive feeling. But then, the alcohol starts competing with the food to be digested. So in reality, it hinders digestion instead of facilitating it. Instead of a digestif, take a slow stroll around the block—avoid anything too active like jogging or a treadmill. This motion of the body is the best way to stimulate digestion. Another suggestion: a few drops of bitters in a short glass of water may help to alleviate that stuffed feeling.