The traditional post-Thanksgiving dinner pants unbuttoning is practically an iconic gesture, rivaled perhaps only by the subsequent post-turkey moaning and groaning or post-pie antacid taking. Thanksgiving is a day resplendent with delicious, mouthwatering eats, but the discomfort that comes with overeating – who can turn down another helping of Grandma’s taters?? – can make the rest of the evening memorable in a completely unintentional way. Combat belly blunders by sipping on one of this delectable and, some say, medicinal Thanksgiving after-dinner drinks.
If you like your after-dinner drinks bitter, this one’s for you. Bernandino Branca first concocted this mouth-puckering tipple in 1845, mixing up a proprietary blend of 27 herbs with other ingredients to create a secretive formula still used to this day. Only the company’s president, Niccolo Branca, knows exactly what goes into each bottle. The licorice-flavored liquid is purported to be good for settling stomachs – especially sour stomachs accompanying a hangover – but it’s also just tasty. Drink it alone or as part of a cocktail to get the benefits without the bite. If the original Fernet-Branca is a little too bracing for your taste, try its sweeter, mintier cousin Branca Menta – perfect for some premeditated, premature mistletoe kissing if you play your cards right.
There’s widespread lore – probably due to some creative and particular effective marketing – attributing Bénédictine’s creation to a group of monks of the same name. In reality, it was created in the late 1800s by a gentleman named Alexandre Le Grand, a wine merchant, innovator, and industrialist who was looking for a way to put his hometown of Fécamp, France, on the map. Le Grand sought the help of a local pharmacist and together they blended 27 herbs and spices (what is it with the number 27 and digestifs?) including herbaceous myrrh and juniper, flowery saffron, and bright and acidic lemon rind. Bénédictine is sweet, rich, and warming, with plenty of fruit and herbal aromas. Drink it straight, cut it with brandy (a la B&B, a bottled version of Bénédictine and brandy), or try it in any number of interesting Bénédictine-based cocktails.
Fluorescent, loud, and pretty frightening – that’s what Strega looks like. Luckily, the flavor belies the bright visual assault. This vivid yellow Italian liqueur was created in 1860 in Campania, Italy. There are some 70 ingredients in Strega including mint, cinnamon, fennel, juniper, and saffron – hence the eye-widening hue. The taste is complex and lightly sweet, with something dark and unctuously lingering just out of reach. The label is especially lovely, with a cool vintage feel, making it a great bottle to give as a hostess gift (open-minded recipients only, please) or to put in a place of prominence on your home bar. Italian’s use Strega for sipping purposes as well as baking (seriously, life isn’t complete until you’ve tried Strega cake – maybe after the turkey has settled…?) and it makes a pretty good holiday drink, too.
Another Italian creation – this time from Abruzzo – centerba means “one hundred herbs” and it tastes like incredibly herbaceous, too. What’s in centerba? How much time do you have…? Traditional recipes include everything from orange leaves to rosemary to juniper to toasted coffee beans to thyme blossoms. Much like mom’s meatloaf or grandma’s spaghetti sauce, every centerbe maker has their own signature recipe, and indeed it’s not a difficult liqueur to make at home, so long as you have a bucket full of herbs, spices, and other flavorings, a bottle of high proof neutral booze, and some time. Buy a commercial version and experiment, but put the car keys away first; you’ll have plenty of time to sit and contemplate a second piece of pie once centerba’s 140 or so proof magic takes effect. And trust us, indigestion or no, you’ll be feeling zero pain.
Becherovka is made in the Czech Republic and produced under the auspices of the wide-ranging Pernod Ricard umbrella. The recipe is a secret – big surprise – but the flavor is punchy and predominantly warm and spicy note such as ginger and cinnamon. Traditionally it’s served chilled (just put the bottle in the fridge at the same time you’re chucking the turkey into the oven) and neat, but those in the know sometimes top it off with tonic water. Either way, it’ll ease your digestion, and at only 76 proof you’re not going to forget to thank your mom for dinner in the process.