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Digestifs

Thea Euryphaessa rounds off her meal with a drink or ten – and finds the best espresso Martini in Manchester

Written by . Published on March 4th 2009.


Digestifs

“What are you drinking?”

“Irish coffee.”

“What’s that then?”

“Espresso, Irish whiskey, cream, a little sugar.”

“Can I try some?”

(Across the table, ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahhs’ can be heard between slurps.)

“Mmm...why didn’t you tell me about those?”

“You said you didn’t want coffee.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know you could get coffee like that. I’m having one of those next time.”

Ah, the humble Irish coffee. Just one of many delicious ways to round off a meal. It simultaneously manages to warm the cockles and make your insides melt. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, while providing a subtly delicious alcoholic kick at the same time. It’s also a crafty introduction to the world of digestif cocktails.

Whereas aperitifs tend to be slightly drier and more bitter in order to purse the palate and prepare you for dinner, digestifs tend to be sweeter, creamier affairs. Sexy, silken, decadent. I once introduced a friend to an exquisitely made Brandy Alexander (brandy, dark crème de cacao, double cream and grated nutmeg to garnish) whereupon tasting he announced, “That’s so rude it borders on porn in a glass”. Interesting way of putting it, but I knew what he was getting at. I watched bemused as he sank back into his chair, rolling the drink around his mouth, savouring its aroma, texture and taste.

The Brandy Alexander is a classic after dinner drink (try it with chocolate truffles). The problem is finding a barkeep who knows what they’re doing. Fortunately, the bar staff at Harvey Nichols Second Floor Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie, do. From the initial nose of nutmeg, through its silkily textured body and the warmth and quality of the brandy, their version hit the right spots at the right times (£7.50).

On the occasion my cocktail cohort and I visited, they also prepared a luscious, smooth espresso Martini (fresh espresso, vodka, dash of sugar syrup, coffee beans to garnish) with a velvet-like consistency that slinked down the sides of the glass (£7.50). This is a drink I’d recommend if you’ve just enjoyed a meal and are looking for a swift alcoholic kick in the pants to keep you going for the rest of the night (rather than a drink for unbuttoning them and slumping by the fire). We reckon they offer the best version of this cocktail in Manchester.

But if it’s after dinner slumping you’re after, you’ll want to take a look at Brandy, Cognac and whisky based concoctions. I sampled a Rusty Nail (Scotch whisky, Drambuie, orange zest to garnish) in the bar at Casino 235 (£6.60 – 10 per cent discount for members). For anyone who scoffs at the idea of cocktails, try one of these. If you’re wary of drinking whisky neat, the Drambuie softens the edges without diluting its spirited punch. Most blokes I know enjoy this drink as it seems to provide a show of manliness. Despite my high tolerance for spirits, even I have to take it easy with this one.

While in 235, my cocktailian cohort also sampled the Amaretto sour (amaretto, sugar syrup, egg white, lemon juice) – another delicious digestif that would work well with cantuccini. However, he wasn’t impressed. Neither was he impressed with the Amaretto sour offered in The Circle Club. After tasting, we half expected it to limp away from the table, head bowed in shame. Their Brandy Alexander and Black Russian weren’t up to much either. In fact, as far as their drinks and overall service were concerned, it was a poor show all round.

In another after hours joint, Corridor, I lingered over a Blood and Sand (£6). Although not on the menu, Ian Morgan whipped one up without breaking a sweat.

A similarly hardcore cocktail composed of Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy and orange juice, this is a digestif perhaps more suited for cocktail connoisseurs. If you’re well versed with your Scotch you may wish to opt for one that isn’t peaty. Nuanced, it’s not an easy one to get right: you’re looking for the drink to taste like liquid Christmas pudding, so you may need to experiment with various whiskies until you hit upon the right combination.

Digestifs should compliment dessert, so as with wine, think about taste combinations – Calvados (apple brandy) following an apple based dessert or Cognac teamed with crème brulee.

Next time, restoratives.

The breakdown:

Venue: Harvey Nichols, Second Floor Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie, 21 New Cathedral Street, M1 1AD. 0161 828 8898.
Cocktail: Brandy Alexander: (Flavour 5/5, Presentation 5/5, Flair 5/5, Ambience 4.5/5) Total 19.5/20
Cocktail: Espresso Martini: (Flavour 5/5, Presentation 5/5, Flair 5/5, Ambience 4.5/5) Total 19.5/20

Venue: Manchester 235 Casino, Watson Street, M3. 0161 828 0300.
Cocktail: Rusty Nail: (Flavour 3.5/5, Presentation 4/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 3.5/5) Total 14/20
Cocktail: Amaretto Sour: (Flavour 2.5/5, Presentation 4/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 3.5/5) Total 10/20

Venue: Corridor, 6-8 Barlow’s Croft, Salford, Manchester.
Cocktail: Blood and Sand: (Flavour 4.5/5, Presentation 5/5, Flair 5/5, Ambience 4.5/5) Total 19/20

Venue: The Circle Club, 13 Barton Arcade, Barton Square, M3 2BB. 0161 288 8118.
Cocktail: Brandy Alexander: (Flavour 2/5, Presentation 3/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 3/5) Total 11/20
Cocktail: Amaretto Sour: (Flavour 2.5/5, Presentation 3/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 3/5) Total 11.5/20
Cocktail: Black Russian: (Flavour 1/5, Presentation 3/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 3/5) Total 10/20

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BexyMarch 4th 2009.

Adam at Simple makes the best Espresso Martini and that's FACT!!

Caroline HMarch 4th 2009.

Whenever I think of Irish Coffee I sort of go weak. I remember one man I knew, who was a handsome devil but not steady, employing Irish Coffee as a seduction technique wich worked everytime. Yum.

JonhMarch 4th 2009.

Esquilo do your Mummy and Daddy know your playing on the internet and rubbing ur little fingers of over their dictionary?

esquiloMarch 4th 2009.

fair do's Wayne, edit: the lumpen idiocy of Fashiongeese. Better?

ChickMarch 4th 2009.

I'm loving Corridor!!

Thea EuryphaessaMarch 4th 2009.

Thanks Chick, your words are appreciated.

esquiloMarch 4th 2009.

cheers, from you that means so much xx

Espresso loverMarch 4th 2009.

Living Room make a mean espresso martini

toastMarch 4th 2009.

Growing up as i did in ireland, there was a lovely wee bar down the road from us that did a wonderful wonderful irish coffee - memory plays tricks but i seem to remember it involved 5 parts nescafe to 1 part Bells and on one occasion some squirty cream - "dats so rude its like an oul heur in a glass" my friend was heard to comment

WayneMarch 4th 2009.

Esquilo I think that anybody who uses lol is strange in the head. Fashion sheep, what about cliche sheep. Use your own words man.

chickMarch 4th 2009.

Sorry to hear about you laptop Thea

AnonymousMarch 4th 2009.

moron

Paul CarterMarch 4th 2009.

Harvey Knicks do the best cocktail in Manchester - the Old Fashioned (bourbon mixed with other stuff). It takes 15 mins to prepare and is well worth the wait. Have two and you feel it, have three and you're on your way.

esquiloMarch 4th 2009.

"30 years of cocktail development" - Hmmmm... development that entails tagging all-and-sundry random concoctions as a "martini". What a load of tripe. "30 years of cocktail development"....Lol, I'm keeping that phrase, it sums up the lumpen idiocy of fashionsheep. cheers for that xx

princess chunkMarch 4th 2009.

Lucky Thea getting all these cocktail gigs! Good girl!

mark mMarch 4th 2009.

Oh esquilo, where have you been for the last 30 years of cocktail development?

AnonymousMarch 4th 2009.

Esquilo- breakfast martini, french martini? Not much like the classic martini, but the list goes on...

esquiloMarch 4th 2009.

Espresso Martini (fresh espresso, vodka, dash of sugar syrup, coffee beans to garnish)....................................................so absolutely sod all like a martini at all. Hey, thea, you should try my Pie-Butty Martini (Sliced White bread, Butter, Steak Pie, Brown Sauce, cup of tea to garnish) Talk about the Emperor's New Clothes.

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