During the winter, you could use another kind of medicinal vitamin D: a digestif. Bright and sometimes herbal, sometimes citrusy, digestif drinks do what they say they do. They make your stomach feel better, help you digest a big meal, and, well, they still give you a nice, smooth buzz. The infused liquors soothe and settle your stomach with their herbal mixtures. They are a touch sweet, intensely flavored, and often served chilled and sipped slowly. Make some yourself and see how good (and easy) they can be.
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The definition of a digestif is broad, and usually refers to a hard liquor that’s been steeped with various herbs and/or citrus. Limoncello is perhaps the best-known digestive liqueur out there, but you may only have had that cheap Lysol-flavored bunk served at many Italian trattorias. The digestifs listed here—including homemade limoncello, of course—are a handful of our favorites, though we encourage experimentation (say, with bay leaves or tangerines).
Tie a ribbon around the bottle and it makes a fantastic homemade gift.
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A step up from Mason jars, these leak-proof, swing-top bottles come with charming chalkboard labels.
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Warming with a slight astringency, this is what limoncello should taste like. Get our Lemon Digestif recipe.
Use it in this Paradiso Limoncello cocktail recipe. A twist on the classic screwdriver, the Paradiso welcomes a splash of astringent, slightly sweet lemon digestif that pairs well with Aperol or Campari, plus orange juice and orange-flavored vodka.
Deceptively orange-like in flavor with a hint of acidity, this is the most understated of the lot. Get our Mandarin Orange Digestif recipe.
Then make this Mandarin Orange Old Fashioned recipe. It’s appealing, easy, and tasty, but try something a little different with it. Instead of the packaged mandarin oranges in syrup, use some fresh orange slices and the digestif for an even more sophisticated Old Fashioned option.
Meyer lemons make for a more subtle flavor than the regular lemon digestif, with a nice floral note; this could be mistaken as a lemon-orange mixture but just uses the one type of fruit. Get our Meyer Lemon Digestif recipe.
Try it in The Chunnel cocktail recipe, a French-accented martini with St-Germain elderflower liqueur. With your Meyer lemon digestif infusion in the mix, it will be out of this world.
A brief break from citrus for a few other options to show how versatile digestifs can be. First, fresh basil leaves infuse this easy liqueur with their herbal, spicy flavor. Get our Basil Disgetif recipe.
Use it in our Basil and Rye recipe in place of the muddled basil and simple syrup called for.
Fennel infuses its licorice-like flavor into this digestif, which manages to be both delicate and potent. You use fennel fronds and seeds for this, so you can reserve the bulbs for braising. Get our Fennel Digestif recipe.
Try using it in place of the muddled cucumber and simple syrup in this Cucumber Gimlet recipe.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Fennel
The ingredients in this Scandinavian digestif vary, but some of the most common are caraway, anise, fennel, and cardamom. We use all but the anise and add cloves, lemon, and orange to the vodka base as well. Get our Aquavit recipe.
You can mix up aquavit cocktails, but honestly, we like it best sipped straight, ice cold.
Back to simple citrus, though we’ll close with two less common varieties. This second-to-last digestif relies on the peel from pomelos to create a wonderfully aromatic liqueur. Get our Pomelo Digestif recipe.
Then make this Pomelo Chili Paloma cocktail recipe. It’s a tongue-twister. Substitute or simply add your pomelo digestif into this tequila-based, spicy, and bright cocktail by Brooklyn Supper for another layer of flavor.
Sweeter, redder, and more intense in flavor, color, and aroma than regular oranges, the blood orange is more of everything you love about the plain old…well, orange ones. Get our Blood Orange Digestif recipe.
Then use it in in place of Cointreau in our Perfect Margarita recipe.
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— This article was originally published in 2008 and was updated by Amy Sowder.