Dining Partners

Before- and after-dinner drinks serve their purpose—the palate and digestion, respectively.


Aperitif. Digestive. The two words are rarely used in casual conversation but represent an almost unlimited assortment of spirits from around the world. While Americans might knock back a before-dinner cocktail or a postprandial whisky, diners in Europe look toward sometimes ancient and esoteric concoctions as the opening notes and final chords of a finely orchestrated experience.


Paul Schmidt, assistant director of food and beverage at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, puts the difference best. “Americans like martinis before dinner, cognac after. In Europe, nobody would do this; it doesn’t open the palate or calm the digestion.” 
More assertive than the average cocktail, the aperitif is not only a drink, but a social occasion, created for shouts of “Cheers!” and “Salud!” The bitterness of the before-dinner drink is designed to make your mouth water and liven up the tastebuds, an appetizer for the tongue. Licorice is popular: Pernod, a French anise-flavored liqueur, was created in the early 1900s to replace the banned absinthe, that most wicked of beverages. Ouzo from Greece, Italian Galliano, French pastis, Lebanese arak, Czech Becherovka, Salmiakki from Finland and Mexican xtabentún all make use of the sweet-bitter taste.  
Digestivos (to use a lovely Italian word) are almost medicinal in nature, but while most digestives are designed to settle the stomach after a fatty meal, some, like the Italian sgroppino (lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco) are practically dessert. Europeans like cognac served warm, Spaniards love sherry alongside tapas and mixed in with very strong espresso afterward, while Germans drink Jägermeister, despite its hipster popularity, after heavy meats. Italians, the masters of the digestive, quaff an anise and elderberry Sambuca con la mosca (“with flies’’) topped with coffee beans — always three—or the almond-flavored amaretto or green walnut nocino after a rich late-night supper. 
On the facing page are some readily available options and average prices per bottle. Salute!
Cynar Made from artichokes, Cynar (CHEE-nar) was invented in the 1950s, mixing the bitter essence of this edible thistle with a dozen herbs to make an unexpectedly refreshing base for pre-dinner drinks. Venetians love the spritz (pronounced “spriss”) before lunch: Cynar, soda and prosecco, served with an olive and a twist of lemon zest. $30
Lillet A curious French amalgam of wine and liqueur, Lillet, both red and white, adds sweet and bitter citrus and quinine to sweetened Bordeaux wines for a fruity and mildly bracing drink that is mixer and cocktail all in one. Lillet blanc, with origins in the 19th century, certainly wakes up the tongue before a meal. $20
Limoncello Limoncello is both a digestive and celebratory beverage, uncharacteristically sweet and cheerfully colorful but deceptively strong. From the sunny island of Capri and the winding cliffside Amalfi coast, where only Italians and the insane drive, Limoncello di Capri is made solely with lemons grown in Italy and is worthy of slow, pleasurable sipping. $25
Grappa A bad grappa, disturbingly easy to find in the U.S., can be like drinking a short shot of lighter fluid. A good one, made from good grapes, is as heavenly after dinner as great brandy. A vineyard byproduct, grappa is distilled from the grape skins, seeds and solids left over from wine production. Some drink sweetened espresso mixed with grappa for a caffè corretto, (a “proper coffee”), and those in the know drink Nonino Prosecco Grappa, made from sweet prosecco grapes. $50
Pimm’s Cup Invented in 1823 in England as a digestion-aiding tonic to wash down raw shellfish (Pimm owned an oyster bar and, one suspects, a gin distillery), the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup  is a gin and quinine-based fruit infusion popular with the tennis and hip cocktail set. It’s usually served with mint, cucumber and lemonade (British lemonade is more like Sprite than good old Southern lemon squeezings). $25


Edit Module
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Guides & Resources

2019 Premier Veterinarians

The 2019 Central Florida List is OUT! Each year Orlando Magazine publishes the Premier Veterinarians List. Take a look at the full list now.

2018 Premier Doctors

Our annual list of over 500 doctors.

Premier Realtors 2019

Let Orlando's best realtors help you find your dream home!

Retirement Living 2019

This feature highlights several great retirement communities that Central Florida has to offer.

Orlando's Best Lawyers 2019

Our annual list includes hundreds of Orlando-area attorneys in dozens of areas of practice.

Orlando's Top Dentists of 2019

Our annual list featuring 220 of the area's finest dental professionals.

Guide to Private Schools 2019

Our searchable annual database will help you chart an educational course for your family.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

Focus On With Dr. Sadek: Women’s Health and Epilepsy

Did you know women face additional challenges with epilepsy due to hormones?

Health Hub: Why Are Flu Shots Important?

Fall has arrived, and with it, the start of flu season. While you can get the flu at any time, cases typically rise in October and hit their peak around the holidays. Learn why it's important to get your flu shot!

Special Olympics Florida Celebrates Its Annual Champions Gala

This annual exclusive event honors community leaders and fundraises for statewide athletics!

Taste! Central Florida Giveaway

We've partnered with Taste! Central Florida for their 30th Anniversary to give 3 lucky couples two tickets to this amazing annual event!

Health Hub: Robotic-Assisted Spine Surgery

When back pain is almost as common as a cold, feel confident in finding the right option for you!
Edit Module