Drinks

The Best Digestifs for Thanksgiving Dinner

The key step to avoiding that turkey-induced food coma
How to Avoid a Thanksgiving Food Coma
Photo: Tasting Table

Predinner cocktails, wine that pairs with turkey and cranberry . . . you might think you've got your holiday drinking plan set. But the pros know there's one bottle that's essential to a successful Thanksgiving: a delicious, bittersweet amaro to help the stuffing settle.

"Historically, the bittering agents and blend of herbs, botanicals and spices in amari were used medicinally, specifically for their digestive properties—whether stimulating the appetite or settling down a full stomach," Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Amaro and Bitters, says.

"It's pretty hard to deny when that glass of pleasing, herbal, bittersweet liqueur hits your lips; you suddenly feel a whole lot better than you did after that second piece of pumpkin pie," Parsons says.

It takes minimal effort to pouring a post-meal round—unlike so many other aspects of Thanksgiving entertaining—and guests will remember it as a gesture of hospitality. "It's about lingering at the table," Parsons says. "I always bring a bottle of amaro to a dinner party, and those bottles never remained unopened." 

Even the bottles themselves bring something to the table: "With their ornate labels and strange names, the bottles are often conversation starters, and it's even better when you can bring out a couple of different brands to causally mix and match."

And why stop with the liqueurs? Even spirits are fair game. Christopher Hirsheimer of Canal House Cooking is known to serve nips of gin between dinner and dessert at her own Thanksgiving table. "I do think that a sip of ice-cold gin mid-meal will help with digestion," she says. 

There's no science to it: Just assemble your prettiest shot glasses (or rocks glasses, if that's what you have on hand) and pour out an ounce or two from your bottle of choice. Take some ice to the table, for those who prefer it chilled.

Parsons recommends Amaro Marseille from Brooklyn's Forthave Spirits, Amaro Amorino from Seattle's Letterpress Distilling or Standard Amaro from Philadelphia's Rowhouse Spirits. All are American-made bottles, as it is Thanksgiving, after all.

 

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And you can never go wrong with the classics: earthy, bitter artichoke-based Cynar; rich and orangey Amaro Montenegro; herbal, minty Varnelli Amaro Dell'Erborista; or lower-alcohol, wine-based Cardamaro. And if you've really overeaten, there's always extra-potent Fernet-Branca.

Carey Jones is a New York-based food and travel writer and the author of Brooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits. Follow her on Twitter at @careyjones.

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