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Happy endings

A post-meal drink is a habit most of us are unacquainted with. The last stop on our plates is still a dessert, writes Girija Duggal.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2008 15:34 IST
Tavern talk | Girija Duggal

A post-meal drink is a habit most of us are unacquainted with. The last stop on our plates is still a dessert, with perhaps a pinch of saunf afterwards to round it off. Or, if it’s a more formal dinner, then a round of coffee or tea. But alcohol?

I plead guilty to being alien to the stomach-warming joys of digestifs until quite recently. Perhaps it was that shot of drambuie post-dinner at an aunt’s place, the glass of tawny port sipped slowly after an al fresco dinner in Goa, or the Irish cream coffee to finish off a hearty meal at Olive Beach recently — I don’t quite know — but by the time the portly waiter came up to me after a sumptuous dinner at India Jones in Mumbai last week, I knew I had developed an affection for this ritual. “Kahlua, please,” I requested without hesitation.

Digestifs (or nightcaps) are generally sweeter and contain a higher alcohol content than their pre-meal counterparts (hence the small serving quantity). The list includes fortified wines like port, sherry and Madeira; brandy, especially cognac, armagnac, grappa (Italy’s special grape-based pomace brandy), and eaux-de-vie (fruit brandies like the popular French apple-flavoured Calvados); whisky (a small pour, please); and bitters, like Angosturra.

Then there is the entire range of fruit- or herb-infused liqueurs. Many are sinfully delicious — kahlua, irish cream, and from what I’ve heard, amaro and Chartreuse, too. Others, like paan and aniseed, are so vile I’d sorely advice against a sip.

The original intention behind sipping a digestif was to aid digestion. Be that as it may; for me, a digestif works wonderfully because of its ability to surprise a by-then slumbering stomach with each fiery, then warm, then soothing sip. Equally important, it provides for a chance to linger on after a meal, to indulge in relaxed conversation or to reflect with satisfaction on a fulfilling meal.

So do try out some digestifs. They may take time to grow on you, but the effort will definitely be worth it. And if your mother objects, you can always plead indigestion.