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

Dentists Q&As

We selected 4 dentists to weigh in on questions related to dental health.

Orlando's Top Dentists of 2015

Our annual list featuring 216 of the area’s finest dental professionals.

Guide to Private Schools 2015

Our annual guide to private schools will help you chart an educational course for your family.

2014 Finest Doctors

Two national surveys name the Best and Top Doctors in Orlando, as recommended by their peers.

Orlando's Top Chiropractors of 2014

More than 75 Central Florida chiropractors make our inaugural list.

Fall Getaways

Fall is finally on its way and now is the perfect time to plan your getaway. Check out some of these great deals and special destinations just a short drive from Orlando.

Real Estate's Hot 100

Whether you’re trying to buy or sell real estate, getting the best deal means finding an agent who possesses savvy and know-how and gets results. This list showcases some Central Florida agents who have demonstrated those skills.

Spotlight on Plastic Surgeons 2014

This special advertising section highlights the accomplishments of plastic surgeons, who tell about their commitment to helping people look their best.

Orlando's Best Lawyers of 2014

Get informed with our annual list of more than 400 Orlando-area attorneys, compiled by Best Lawyers in America. The annual selection features lawyers in 78 areas of practice.

Spotlight on Lawyers 2014

Our special advertising section featuring profiles on local lawyers.

Premier Doctors

This special advertising section highlights the professionalism, backgrounds and achievements of dozens of doctors.

Best Lawyers

When you need an attorney, you want someone with a strong reputation and a proven track record.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

The 411 on I-Drive 360

10 Things You Should Know About Orlando's Newest Attraction

Morse Museum's Tiffany Collection Dazzles

Winter Park's Morse Museum houses stunning glasswork by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Where to Find the Best Sushi in Orlando

Our top picks for the best and most creative sushi spots in and around Orlando.

Parent-Friendly Staycations

With scores of resorts and hotels dotting the Orlando landscape, options for kid-friendly overnights are seemingly endless. But what about a getaway where parents get a little rest and relaxation too?