The purpose of after-dinner drinks, also called “pousse-café” by the French and literally translates as “coffee-pusher,” and “ammazzacaffè” in Italian, meaning “coffee-killer,” is to aid digestion after a copious meal and to cleanse the palate of any potentially unpleasant coffee aftertaste. The offerings vary from region to region, country to country, culture to culture. In Italy, for example, they are called “digestivi” and typically include grappa, sambuca, and limoncello. In the Caribbean, aged rum is the digestive liquor of choice, with “Single-Barrel Cruzan” being amongst the most esteemed.
In general, after-dinner drinks form three major categories: dessert wines, such as port and vin santo; cordials, such as chartreuse and grappa; and “the brown liquors,” such as brandy, akvavit, whiskey, scotch, cognac, rum, and bourbon. The general rule for selecting an after-dinner drink is that it should complement, but provide a contrast to, the dessert: A very sweet dessert should be followed by a dry after-dinner drink, while a more tart dessert should be accompanied by a sweet after-dinner drink.