An Introduction to Digestifs

Digestifs are drinks taken after a large meal, and the word literally means “digestive” in French. There’s no surprise when you find out that these are drunk as a digestive aid. Often times these are taken to help one digest their food, to calm their stomach, and in the past they were used to help prevent excess wind and save you the embarrassment of farting. They are exactly the opposite of the apéritifs!

Do They Suit My Restaurant?

“Digestif” is somewhat of a foreign term to Americans for two reasons:

  1. It’s a European tradition
  2. The modern American dining style of “sit, eat, and leave” is very contradictory to the tradition of eating long and drawn-out meals, which is common on the continent across the Atlantic.

The digestif could still be applicable to your location.

Firstly, if your location is of the finer dining variety – where guests are urged to take their time at the table and the focus is really based around the experience, digestifs will be a good fit for you. Digestifs come in many forms and from many countries, for example, if you own a Greek restaurant, putting Ouzo (a traditional Greek digestif) on your dessert or coffee menu would be a reasonable addition; whether you’re considered fine dining or not.

What Classes as a Digestif?

Digestifs are rich, high alcohol spirits usually served neat. Digestifs don’t include creamy, chocolate, or other sweetened liqueurs. Although the term digestif originates in France, digestifs can be found all over Europe, and here are just some of the spirits that are classed as digestifs: brandies, fortified wines (such as ports, Madeira, vermouth, and sweet sherries), fernet, Sambuca, Chartreuse, limoncello, ouzo, tequila, and herbal liqueurs. Many of these, I’m sure, you’ve taken or served as shots. Although that might be their use now, they were designed for much more “sophisticated” purposes.

There are also cocktails that are drunk as digestifs, such as the Old-Fashioned, the Rusty Nail, the Sazerac, and the Black Russian. Although not traditionally considered a digestif, whiskey fits right into this category and is itself often regarded an after-dinner drink.

Tempting Customers into Trying Digestifs

Putting a small section of digestifs on your dessert or coffee menu is a surefire way to introduce customers to this class of liquors and liqueurs. Brandies and fortified wines will be categorized independently. Under the title of Digestifs you can list all the others you have available, including fruit liquors and herbal liqueurs.

Digestifs are a much easier upsell than aperitifs. The customer is already familiar with the tradition of taking a shot of brandy or whiskey after their meal, however, most locations simply don’t put the opportunity in front of the customer. If you start handing out dessert menus with digestifs listed in them you are sure to see an increase in sales. The average amount a customer spends in your establishment will rise. Give patrons a chance to take notice of the “suggestion” on the menu in front of them.


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Benjamin Michael Beddow

Food and Beverage Professional

As a food and beverage professional for over ten years, Ben has spent most of his time behind the bar, giving him a broad and in-depth knowledge of all things drinkable and drink related. Now, as a traveling freelance writer exploring the gastronomy, drinks, and food service industry of the world, Ben has taken his knowledge and experiences to the world wide web to share with others. The love for the trade never dies and Ben can still be found running around restaurants and slinging drinks in ski resorts in the USA during the winter season.

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