Eat and Drink like a European

sicilian-averna-bottle

We’ve officially entered the season of overeating, and the next two months will be a marathon of heavy meals. Sure, you could go easy or skip some holiday celebrations, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Fortunately, there’s a simple and age-old remedy for overindulging that can be found in your local liquor store. For centuries, Europeans have sipped a small glass of herbal liqueur after a meal. These traditional spirits supposedly help settle the stomach and aid in digestion. (They also taste better than Tums.)

When it comes to postprandial libations, Italians love their amaro. The bitter digestif is available in a wide range of varieties, each flavored with its own special combination of herbs, roots and other botanicals. Some, such as the Sicilian Averna ($30), are syrupy-sweet with a medicinal backbone, while the bitterness is more forward in amari like the bartender favorite Fernet-Branca ($31).

Many other European countries also have signature digestives, which are usually shrouded in mystery and made from top-secret formulas. French Carthusian monks produce the slightly sweet and earthy Green Chartreuse ($53), whose recipe calls for a staggering 130 different plants. They also make its milder and more honeyed sister Yellow Chartreuse ($53). “With an ice cube, it’s a refreshing digestif,” says Allen Katz, a Liquor.com advisor and director of mixology & spirits education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York.

Both the Czech Republic and Hungary have full-bodied herbaceous liqueurs of their own: Becherovka ($30) and Zwack ($24), respectively. The Dutch Nolet family, which has been distilling since 1691, now makes the smooth herb-and-spice spirit Harlem ($30) in addition to its better-known Ketel One Vodka. Even frat-boy staple Jägermeister ($21) was created as a digestif—sip it at room temperature and you’ll taste why.

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Comments

  1. Amanda Mork says

    I love chartueuse!! Great article, I’ll be keeping this one handy for all my holiday feasting…

  2. Sarah Douglas says

    So how or why does this work? And how effective is it? I don’t have a European handy otherwise I’d ask her.

  3. Alain Royer says

    And the 150 year old Verveine du Velay, Green, Yellow and Extra which contains 5% of Cognac are also great experiences. They are available through Preiss Imports, all around the US.

    The French also drink Marc, try and find also at Preiss Imports, the Marc from the Hospices de Beaune, vintage 1993

  4. Alain Royer says

    I agree on Alan Katz’s comment to enjoy herbal liquors such as Chartreuse with an ice cube. It is the same for the Verveine du Velay but try also leaving the bottle in the deep freeze compartment and only draw it out when you are serving. The alcohol is completely tamed, the liqueur becomes onctuous and delicate and the aromas and savours are enhanced.

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