When it comes to late-night sipping after a hearty meal, nothing satisfies quite like a digestif.
The bitter and herbaceous flavors of digestifs have long been thought to stimulate digestion and help settle a stomach after a large meal. Although there’s certainly a pleasant placebo effect to sipping a post-dinner glass of Fernet, the actual science on this is as hazy as the IPAs we all love to sip. Regardless of what that tiny bottle of Underberg is doing to your gut enzymes, it will certainly put a perk back in your step.
Here are some of Drizly’s top digestifs to help you live your best post-meal life.
First marketed as a cure for cholera in Milan in the 1800s, the liquor is made with 27 herbs and spices, including rhubarb, camomile, and cinnamon, resulting in a dark and complex digestif that became popularized in the US thanks largely to San Francisco bartenders.
Legend has it that this spirit originated in the 1500s as a gift for a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. Although it sounds like a tall tale, Disaronno has been sticking to their story for centuries, and the almond-flavored liqueur has become a staple in bars around the world, as well as one of the primary ingredients in the Italian dessert tiramisu.
Matteo Zed didn’t have to think long before naming his favorite digestif. The Dutch amaro Petrus Boonekamp stands out due to the East Asian herbs that originally arrived in the town of Leidschendam via early international trade routes.
Sure, any glass of whisky is a pleasant way to end a meal, but the king of whisky digestifs is undeniably Drambuie. Scotch whisky, heather honey, and a grab bag of spices come together in an excellent after-dinner drink, which can be leveled up with the addition of a shot of espresso or iced coffee.
Created in Italy in 1885 and named in honor of the Princess Elena of Montenegro, this amaro has citrusy undertones thanks to three types of oranges (sweet, bitter, petite dried).
This brandy-based French liqueur originated in a monastery, but in modern times it’s most often found in an old fashioned glass mixed with rye, cognac, vermouth, and bitters in the classic New Orleans cocktail the Vieux Carre. A quarter ounce is enough to add a strong kick to that cocktail, so sip it sparingly as a digestif.
Zed is partial to spirits from his native Italy, and has been happy to see this amaro become more popular in the US for its woodsy flavor with a light fruit finish from sweet alpine berries.
Next time you’re at a bar, keep an eye out for a Chewbacca-esque bandolier filled with tiny green-capped bottles. The German digestif with unique single-serving packaging features not just 43 different herbs, but 43 herbs from different countries.
Inspired by the San Francisco founder’s trips through Sicily, this light-bodied grape brandy cordial incorporates four different types of cinnamon from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. It’s best enjoyed on the rocks with an orange twist.
This zesty liqueur features cognac combined with tropical Caribbean orange peel. The 80-proof spirit packs a punch, and has long had a reputation entwined with sophistication and opulence (it was reportedly served on the Titanic). Nowadays its luxurious association has waned, but it’s still one of the richest-tasting spirits on this list, and makes a fun substitution in cocktails like margaritas and sidecars.
One of Abou-Ganim’s new favorites is del Capo, a Calabrian infusion of local ingredients like bitter and sweet orange, licorice, tangerine, chamomile, and juniper. Italians typically enjoy it chilled or even frozen, so make some space in your fridge.
Like its cousin Benedictine, Chartreuse originated in a French monastery. Most commonly seen in green and yellow varieties, the digestif is said to contain 130 different plants, and only two monks currently know the full ingredient list. Buying a bottle for your home bar not only adds a rich digestif, but also unlocks classic cocktail recipes like the Last Word.
Dan Gentile is a journalist living in San Francisco. He is currently the culture editor at SFGATE, formerly worked as a staff writer at Thrillist, and has freelanced for publications including VICE, Rolling Stone, Texas Monthly, and many more. He enjoys negronis but tries not to be a “negroni guy.”