To understand the importance of the digestif, one looks to Europe.
Simply put, a digestif is the closing act of a good dinner – a final drink which prolongs the evening’s enjoyment and delays the inevitable goodnights. Enjoyed either at the table, or perhaps after retiring somewhere more comfortable, the digestif (or as Italians would call ‘digestivo’) is thought to aid digestion (hence the name).
According to drinks experts, there is actually some science behind the noble digestif, in that alcohol stimulates the stomach’s production of the chief digestive enzyme, pepsin, and the use of herbs enhance the digestion stimulating properties of this post-meal drink. Because they come at the end of a meal, many traditional digestifs are slightly sweet to complement the coffee and to satisfy our natural desire for sweet desserts at the end of a meal.
Port, sherry and Cognac come under this category as does fruit brandy, grappa and limoncello, but perhaps nothing is more modernly sophisticated than amaro. Not simply a drink on its own, amaro is a term used for a whole category of drinks. These tend to be bittersweet herbal liqueurs with a longstanding place in Italian culture. Wildly complex on the nose and easy on the way down, amaro offers a glimpse into the infinite flavour combinations of the botanical world.
The Rivolta Family
Ultimately, like it’s pre-dinner cousin the aperitif, there are no hard and fast rules as to what drinks make the perfect digestif, but it is widely thought that amari (plural for amaro) are the most prevalent digestifs as they have an almost medicinal quality to them. In fact, amaro goes back to ancient Rome when the nobles and the wealthy would sip it for its restorative qualities.
With the recent renaissance in traditional cocktails, a growing number of distillers and winemakers are reviving this strangely beautiful, what-is-this after-dinner drink. Among them is the Rivolta family, makers of Venti Amaro and Rivo Gin – two spirits that rely heavily on both the art and study of ethnobotany – through their Magi Spirits Italia.
Modern, yet traditionally classic
Venti is a modern interpretation of the classic amaro, created according to traditional distillery methods. Twenty botanicals, each inspired by one of Italy’s 20 regions, are skillfully blended to take you on an aromatic journey of the country. It is a bitter born of a profound knowledge of the botanicals that compose it and their aromatic properties.
The colour is dark, almost brown, the aroma fresh and balsamic with hints of medicinal herbs. One recognizes bitter orange on a background that smells of chocolate, rhubarb and almonds. Exquisite overtones of earthy and warm botanicals blend harmoniously for a well-balanced body, before giving way to a lasting round and gentle finish that lingers on the taste buds with a trail of elegant, essential taste that does not indulge in sweetness.
The perfect accompaniment for this after-dinner delight is small, sweet treats which give you a hit of sweetness without making you feel overly full. Macaroons and bite-sized Italian biscuits are popular choices.
If you’ve had a lovely long, relaxing meal that you wished would go on forever then you already understand the appeal of an after-dinner digestif. Afterall, it is one of Italy’s greatest traditions.
Amaro can also be the key ingredient to a lovely pre or after-dinner cocktail. Thankfully, we have bartenders to help guide us in this modern day embrace of this category of bittersweet, herbal liqueurs. It’s through their inventiveness in creating cocktails that demonstrate the dynamic versatility of the different styles that amaro has become a go-to behind the bar. For something different, try the below cocktails that incorporate Venti Amaro:
- 1 ½ oz. Venti Amaro
- 4 oz. ginger beer
- ¼ oz. fresh lime juice
- Garnish – fresh lime wheel & fennel ﬂower
- In a copper mug ﬁlled with ice add all ingredients.
- Give your cocktail a gentle stir to combine all ingredients.
- Garnish with a fresh lime wheel and fresh fennel ﬂowers.
- 1 oz. vodka
- 1 oz. Venti Amaro
- 2 oz. cold espresso
- Sea salt and vanilla bean foam
- Garnish – pizzelle
- In a cocktail shaker add vodka, Venti Amaro, and cold espresso.
- Add ice and shake for approximately 10 seconds.
- Strain into a chilled coupe.
- Garnish with foam and cookie.
Venti Amaro can be purchased online at con-nois-seur.ca/collections and is served at several restaurants and bars located throughout the Greater Toronto Area.