Italy’s practice of bookending a meal with digestivo has yet to catch on stateside with the same fervor as our love for all things aperitivo. But, as Punch contributor and amaro expert Brad Thomas Parsons notes in our essential guide to the ritual, the rise of the post-dinner drink on American menus is a move in the right direction.
The bitter serves are not just functional drinks; they’re also perfect for the holiday season. After a long, probably dense and decidedly rich meal, why not turn to something that acts as both a palate cleanser and a way to extend the evening? While a simple, neat pour of amaro works well for the occasion, dressing it up as an after-dinner drink is never a bad idea either.
One of the easiest ways to zhuzh up an amaro is to simply shake it with ice. Using a reverse dry-shake method can crown the liqueur in froth and amplify its aroma and flavor. Just as easy, the amaro caldo approach likewise transforms amaro into a cocktail unto itself simply by adding water. Alpine styles of amaro work best for both of these methods.
Or, take the equally warming caffè corretto, which calls for spiking espresso with amaro or any number of spirits—digestivo, after all, has no hard and fast rules. The Livorno Punch, which fits right into the canon of coffee cocktails, turns to rum and adds sugar and a lemon twist for a bittersweet, brighter take.
While digestivo traditionally deals in neat pours and equal-parts mixtures (like the Ferrari), if you do opt for a more measured cocktail, turn to bitter and bracing versions of the classics. The Fernet-based Bitter Handshake, for example, reads like an Old-Fashioned with the addition of reduced blood orange juice and a simple rye whiskey syrup, while the Little Italy, with its half-ounce of Cynar, makes for a bitter-leaning Manhattan. Indeed, these amaro-tinged takes feel perfectly suited to the post-dinner task. As Chicago bartender Toby Maloney says of his classic-with-a-twist, Eeyore’s Requiem, they’re “an excellent foil to the sweet, bumbling, fruity drinks with very little brain” and to the richer, heavier food typical of a festive meal.