I am in love with after dinner drinks. And (lucky for me) retro after-dinner drinks are popping up on dessert lists all over Cleveland. From trendy liquors to specialty coffees and fortified wines, classic digestive drinks offer a tasty way to cap off the night at home or out on the town. Not sure where to start? Here’s a few of my favorites around Cleveland. 

Drink Name: Mint Mocha Margarita

Description: Sweet. Creamy expresso flavors and refreshing chocolate mint on the rocks

Using classic recipes to create new drinks is not only tasty but entertaining. In 1940, socialite Margarita Sames created a party game serving up new concoctions on the spot. Zocalo’s General Manager Michael Grasso continues the fun with a Mint Mocha Margarita, blend of Patron XO, peppermint, and Mexican chocolate. “Most people do not think of a Margarita as an after dinner drink. It’s all about getting them to try it. Once they do, they love it.” In the spirit of paying homage to Ms. Sames’ namesake beverage, Grasso pairs up bananas faustos, glazed bananas with watermelon, strawberry salsa – another twist on a classic.

Drink Name: Grand Marnier Bridge Flight

Description: Very sweet. Bright topaz with orange, vanilla, nutty and toffee aromas

Liqueurs are made using a variety of flavorings of which orange, such as Grand Marnier, is the most popular. Used in margaritas, Grand Marnier also makes a great dessert drink straight up or on the rocks.  Moxie’s sommelier Cyrus Davarpanah serves a unique flight featuring Cordon Rouge, Cuvée du Centenaire and Cuvée du Cent Cinquentenaire. “It has a broad appeal and pairs well with many desserts,” says Davarpanah. “Sampling young to very old cognac side by side shows the progression of flavors and complexity.” Pastry chef Kate O’Donnell cleverly pairs it up with dark chocolate molten cake with white chocolate gelato and chocolate biscotti for crunch.

Drink Name: Dulce de Leche Martini

Description: Sweet. Coffee flavored with caramel and creamy aromas.

Presentation and balance are two ingredients needed to craft a cocktail. In fact, the history of the American cocktail is built upon the concept of balancing flavors, looking good is a welcomed bonus. Paying homage to the American martini, Hyde Park’s beverage director John Poggemeyer serves a dessert martini using Starbucks Coffee Liqueur and Bailey’s Caramel Cream Liqueur with the chef’s all-American apple pie topped with crumbled streusel with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. “When matching desserts with drinks, I always look to match sweetness levels. The caramel sauce gives sweetness, so we match it with a fairly sweet martini.”


Drink Name: Tawny Port

Description: Sweet. Coffee flavored with caramel and cream aromas.


Dessert wines are in a category all their own. Regional specialties such as Ohio ice wine, Tuscan vin santo and Spanish Sherry are crafted using traditional methods steeped in history offering dessert-worthy flavors such as honey, nutty and toffee. At Malorca, Jesus Demanuel prefers a tawny Port after dinner. “Before dinner I suggest Sherry, after diner

Port is better. It is lighter and helps you digest your meal.” With more than 80 varieties on the list, Jesus knows Port. “Try our house-made flan and see how the caramel custard and nutty flavors of tawny Port go together. It is beautiful.”


Drink Name: Café Brasil Santos

Description: Slightly sweet. Dark with medium crema and rich, roasted coffee aromas.


Whether you take yours black, regular or spiked, most area restaurants offer specialty cups of java to savor at the end of a meal. For serious coffee drinkers, sipping a sweet Brazilian coffee is an after-dinner must. Liz Horvath, bar manager at Sarava, promises that “anyone who loves coffee will love sipping an authentic Brazilian coffee made using lots of dark roasted beans.” Served up in a small plunger pot the coffee is sweetened to balance the bitterness. Best dessert pairing? Sarava’s Ouro Preto, a flourless cake with chocolate ganache and editable gold leaves – perhaps alongside a snifter of Kahlúa.