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Creating a dessert drinks menu

When it comes to increasing check averages, after-dinner beverage offerings are sweet. Liquid desserts generally have higher profit margins than plated desserts. To double the impact, you can pair selected drinks with edible dessert items. Or appeal to the too-stuffed-for-anything-else crowd with quaffable desserts that go down easy.

Offering sweet wines is as easy as popping a cork. Since these beverages are on the rich side, serve only a few ounces in a pony glass. Their high sugar content means they generally hold longer after opening—and they often come in smaller 375ml or 500ml bottles, so there’s less waste. Every wine region makes at least one dessert wine, so it’s easy to find a choice to fit your menu and budget. Some even do double duty as an aperitif.

Enhancing espresso-based drinks for a dessert upsell is easy too. Punch up the base coffee with an appropriately flavored syrup, top with whipped cream and sprinkle on cocoa or espresso powder. Hot or iced chocolate can be given similar treatment.

You probably already have a cocktail or two on your list that, properly merchandised and presented, can appeal as a dessert drink. The sweeter “martini” variations lend themselves to after dinner service. Anything chocolate or coffee flavored will work. Drinks involving cream liqueurs, creme de menthe and fruit cordials can also adapt to dessert. Just dial up the sweet aspect and tone down the alcohol.

Sweet dress-ups

Drink garnishes should complement or contrast the flavors in the glass.

  • Add a Cholive to a chocolate martini. The olive-shaped dark chocolate shell is filled with cream ganache.
  • Swirl warm chocolate in bottom of a cold glass to create an attractive pattern.
  • Top an espresso drink with candied coffee beans.
  • Rim glasses with a mix of finely ground coffee and Muscovado sugar.
  • Use crystallized ginger to garnish housemade ginger ale or a cocktail made with ginger liqueur.
  • Candy sticks make cool swizzle sticks.

Some top dessert wines

Sauternes
Type: Botrytis
Country: France
Details: Made from semillion and sauvignon blanc grapes affected by “noble rot”—the botrytis fungus which shrivels the grapes on the vine, concentrating sugars

Vin Santo
Type:  Drying
Country: Italy
Details: Golden-sweet Tuscan wine made from trebbiano and malvasia grapes, dried until they become raisiny.

Stickies
Type: Various
Country: Australia
Details: All sorts of methods are used for “down under” sweet wines, from ripening grapes on the vine to the max, to botrytis, drying and fortifying.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)
Type: Botrytis
Country: Germany
Details: This mouthful translates as “dry berry selection,” usually of the riesling grape. TBAs are made in years when conditions are right for botrytis growth.

Icewine
Type: Freezing
Country: Canada
Details: The first frost freezes the water in grapes, concentrating sweetness. Riesling, gewurztraminer, seybal blanc and vidal grapes often get this treatment.

Tokay
Type: Aszu Botrytis
Country: Hungary
Details: Made from mostly indigenous furmint grapes affected by noble rot. Botrytis grapes are mashed into a super-sweet paste and added to a base wine.

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