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Classic After Dinner Cocktails



The Back Story of Classic After Dinner Cocktails
After Dinner Cocktails Recipe Sampling

There is a sense of complete satisfaction that settles in after a great dinner. That moment when you set your fork down and triumphantly proclaim membership in the “clean plate club” is close to paradise on Earth. Close, but not quite there...not while there’s still strength in the arms for dessert.

A marvelous way to cap off a sensational dinner experience is with a sumptuous cocktail. Sipping something marvelous after dinner is like putting an exclamation mark on the evening. Dessert drinks come in many different styles and are drop-dead delicious. What sets them apart from their plate-bound brethren is that these desserts also contain a dram or two of alcohol, which easily makes them the best of both worlds.

Like kitchen-originated desserts, the brotherhood of after dinner libations is a highly creative lot. There are primarily two ways to go with these drinks. Some prefer to quaff something neat, warm and soothing. Other tastes run toward the creamy and delicious, something akin to dessert, only better. Fortunately, there are libations ready to satisfy any taste or after-dinner request.


The Back Story of Classic After Dinner Cocktails

Any discussion of dessert drinks should begin with those celebrated libations that have achieved late night celebrity status. Perhaps the king of all after-dinner cocktails is the Brandy Alexander. This classic libation was originally made with cream and a shot of brandy and crème de cacao. Now blending the ingredients with ice cream, or hand shaking them with melted ice cream is the prevailing technique as it yields a richer, thicker drink. Served with a dusting of nutmeg, the Brandy Alexander is the reason why many of us eat dinner, simply to get to the last course.

But few things exist that cannot be improved upon. Consider substituting the ubiquitous crème de cacao in your specialty Alexander with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, or Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka. Your selection will bring about a creatively different drink.

Joining the Alexander in stature is the Stinger Cocktail, the postprandial darling of the first half of the 20th century. The drink is little more than a combination of brandy and crème de menthe. When vigorously shaken with ice the aerated cocktail becomes lighter than the sum of its parts, literally tingling with light foam. It’s a marvelous drink, especially when made with an elegant brandy. A V.S.O.P. Cognac performs the role handily. Likewise, the better the crème de menthe, the better the Stinger.

Personal preference will dictate the cocktail’s proportioning. Most recipes call for five parts brandy to one part crème de menthe. A drier version of the drink would be 7 or 8 parts brandy to one part menthe, while a 3:1 Stinger is slightly sweeter. Either formula, however, will result in spontaneous applause.

Also famous from the last century is the Frappé, which is not a specific drink, rather a style of service. Frappés are libations served over mounded shaved or crushed ice and served in Champagne saucers with short straws. In some cases, it’s just a liqueur or cordial served over ice, such as green crème de menthe, other times it’s a cocktail devised specifically as a frappé. Classic examples include Mulatta Frappé, the combination of Bacardi Gold Rum, dark crème de cacao and lime juice, Coffee Marnier Frappé, which features equal parts of Kahlúa and Grand Marnier, and the Mocha Frappé a drink made with Kahlúa, white crème de menthe, white crème de cacao and Cointreau.

After-dinner drinks have enjoyed enduring popularity and remain a major focus of mixology. From a hospitality perspective these cocktails form the evening’s final impression, the last chance to wow. Who said you can’t have dessert and drink it too?

  • Neat Drinks — One famous category of after-dinner drinks is comprised of those served neat in brandy snifters. Many of their predecessors were devised to act as a digestive, calming one's system after a hearty repast. Not surprising, a majority of these drinks are made with a base of brandy, such as the French Connection, a velvety blend of VSOP Cognac and Grand Marnier. Consider also the Framboise Kiss, which combines VSOP Cognac and a splash of framboise or Chambord. The combination of the cognac and a hint of raspberries is irresistible. The key to a great after-dinner drink is to deliver a lot of flavor.
  • Cream Drinks — Cream drinks are silky smooth, outrageously delicious and one of the classic categories of after dinner cocktails. Joining the Brandy Alexander as one of the established stars of the group is the Grasshopper, the combination of cream, green crème de menthe and white crème de cacao. Its creamy, chocolate-mint personality is timelessly appealing.
       Concocting after-dinner drinks with cream as the base has been popular for the better part of a century. Not only does the cream serve as an effective vehicle for delivering a huge array of flavors, it’s also a marvelous digestive. While a well-established style of drink, it still has a great deal of contemporary appeal.
  • Layered Drinks — Pousse Cafés are layered cordial drinks comprised of three or more stripes. In French, the name translates to “push coffee,” a reference to its popularity as an after-dinner drink. Among the classic layered drinks is the B & B. The drink, layered Benedictine Liqueur and brandy, originated in the 1930s at the famous 21 Club in Manhattan. A more recent example is the B-52, a layered concoction featuring Kahlúa, Baileys Irish Cream and topped with Grand Marnier. It’s unrivaled both in beauty and enduring popularity.
       When prepared properly, the ingredients will form distinct layers. This occurs as a result of using liqueurs with different densities, or specific gravities. The effect achieved is similar to the way oil will float on water or vinegar, thereby creating two layers in the glass.
       To accomplish the layering effect, pour the first liqueur directly into the glass and the second off the back of a spoon to slow the force of the pour. The spoon should be positioned just above the level of the first product. Each successive layer is poured using this same technique. The ingredients should be poured in the order specified in the recipe as ingredients are listed from heaviest to lightest.
       A layered drink like the B-52 should be served in a chilled glass. This will help keep the ingredients at their proper serving temperature and improve the drink’s presentation.