THE DRINK NATION IS A FREE RESOURCE FOR FINDING EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DRINKING IN YOUR LOCATION
Home Bar Project Leaderboard Below Navigation

After Dinner Drinks: Beginner's Guide to Port, Sherry and Brandy

Not just for Grandpa anymore
After Dinner Drinks: Beginner's Guide to Port, Sherry and Brandy

When someone mentions brandy, you might visualize old men retiring to leather-clad club chairs to discuss politics and smoke cigars. (Or you remember some chick from college we probably don’t want to know the details on...) As far as the drink form goes, digestifs — more commonly known this century as after-dinner drinks — have a bit of a stodgy air to them. However, that is changing.

More and more American restaurants are enhancing digestif selections, taking a nod from the Europeans, where lingering over a snifter after dinner is the norm. So take a pass on the chocolate lava cake, flip over the dessert menu, and class up your dinner with a drink that doctors once prescribed to help aid digestion. We promise it will be much more than medicinal.

On the Menu: Port

Port gets its name from its home country of Portugal, where vintners have been creating fortified wine in the Duoro Valley for centuries. First, wine is made from red grapes. Then, fermentation is halted with the addition of a liquor made from grapes called aguardente, which ups the alcohol content while maintaining the wine’s natural sugars. The result is a sweet and strong drink that is easy to sip and a perfect crossover beverage.

Most often you’ll see three kinds of port on restaurant menus: tawny, ruby, and LBV. Tawny blends are aged in wood, which give them a nutty flavor and a caramel color. Ruby is the simplest and cheapest of the family, aged in cement or steel and as a result, more fruity. For the best local taste of the region order a LBV — late bottled vintage — which contains premium grapes aged for at least four years.

On the Menu: Sherry

Often tied together with its cousin, port, sherry is actually a very unique drink. Made in Spain, there are two major differences between the preparation of sherry and port that affect the end flavor: the grape and the added alcohol. Sherry is made of the white Palomino grape, so there is none of the berry flavor often associated with reds. In contrast to port, grape liquor is added to sherry after fermentation has been completed, so there is considerably less sugar in the finished product. As a result, sherry is sharper and dryer. In fact, it’s not a “dessert wine” at all. If the sherry you are considering is labeled as sweet it’s often a blend of classic sherry and a dessert wine from the region.

On the Menu: Brandy

Call it the happiest accident, but brandy was discovered when trying to ship wine. Wine was distilled to remove the water and preserve it, making it last longer on long trips. The brandy that resulted was placed in barrels for transport, and the intention was to add the water back upon arrival for drinking. But merchants found that the resulting drink after aging in the wood was better than their original wine, and the process became popular.

Today you can find brandy made from quality wine — like those from the Cognac region of France — as well as fruit brandies made from produce other than grapes like the popular calvados, made from apples, or Kirschwasser, made from cherries.

Top photo via Flickr user ghirson; bottom photo: 1851 port wine that was refreshed in the 1940s via Flickr user Ryan Opaz

Recent Articles

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
This Late Night L.A. Restaurant is Serving Boozy Bowls of Classic Kids Cereal

This Late Night L.A. Restaurant is Serving Boozy Bowls of Classic Kids Cereal

Grab a boozy, late-night breakfast at L.A.'s newest concept....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Apr 19, 2016
Disney's Tower of Terror Is Getting a Bar

Disney's Tower of Terror Is Getting a Bar

Disney's Tower of Terror is getting its very own bar....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Apr 15, 2016
Bulleit Is Releasing a Barrel Proof Bourbon

Bulleit Is Releasing a Barrel Proof Bourbon

Bulleit is releasing a barrel proof version of their whiskey, at least to shops in Kentucky....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Apr 13, 2016
SPONSORED
Drink Nation Store Rectangle
Here's What People Really Look Like After 3 Glasses of Wine

Here's What People Really Look Like After 3 Glasses of Wine

Check out this revealing photo series about what people really look like after a few glasses of wine....read more ›

by Drink Philly Apr 12, 2016
New Bill Paying App, Full Society, Is Helping Baltimore Diners Give Back

New Bill Paying App, Full Society, Is Helping Baltimore Diners Give Back

With Full Society, Baltimore diners can pay their bill, split the bill, tip, and donate to one of the non-prof...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Apr 4, 2016
Bar Rescue Host Jon Taffer Thinks Mezcal & Mescaline Are Made From the Same Thing

Bar Rescue Host Jon Taffer Thinks Mezcal & Mescaline Are Made From the Same Thing

Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue spends his days teaching people how to run bars, but seems to have a few gaps in his ...read more ›

by Nina Starner Apr 1, 2016
Top 20 'Guy Walks Into a Bar' Jokes of All Time
by The Drink Nation Mar 31, 2016
Bold Brewers Add Squid Ink to Experimental Beers

Bold Brewers Add Squid Ink to Experimental Beers

You've probably seen squid ink in pasta, but what about in beer?...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Mar 29, 2016
Dock Street Brewery to Release Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Drumpf Beer Series

Dock Street Brewery to Release "Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Drumpf" Beer Series

Dock Street Brewery is (dis)honoring Donald Drumpf with a special series of beers. The Short-Fingered Stout, t...read more ›

by Drink Philly Mar 23, 2016
Cannabis Vodka Is Now a Thing

Cannabis Vodka Is Now a Thing

Humboldt's Finest is a vodka infused with legally grown cannabis. The cannabis lends the spirit a botanical flavor, with negligible THC present, makin...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Mar 22, 2016
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close