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.
The heist, which may in fact be the biggest bourbon boondoggle on record, saw 65 cases of Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 20 Year, and nine cases of...read more ›
On December 5, drinkers around the U.S. commemorate Repeal Day. But why did Prohibition come about in the first place?...read more ›
Roses, raspberry, truffle and smoke are all flavors associated with pinot noir, most of which could be ingredients in a turkey recipe, anyway. ...read more ›
Why is Thanksgiving Eve a big party night? It's the perfect storm for drinking fun. ...read more ›
Surely the bong-shaped tap handle Redhook sent to bars with kegs of the stuff had something to do with the buz...read more ›
Despite the rumor that Manhattan was named for the Delaware Indian word for "the place we got drunk that time," New York City is hard on local breweri...read more ›
Due to the exponential growth the craft beer segment has experienced in recent years, Brewer's Association can no longer fit in its current home. ...read more ›
Though inspired in part by last year's Superstorm Sandy, this wintertime brew is actually meant as a salute to...read more ›
According to the label, Dogfish Head had over a thousand ingredient suggestions, but they don't specify whether patchouli and weed were on the list. ...read more ›
When Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season next spring, Brewery Ommegang will introduce a third beer in this ongoing series inspired by the hi...read more ›
When you're a kid, Halloween is the ultimate holiday. How can adults add some excitement back into the pumpkin-themed October mayhem? ...read more ›