Customers too full at the end of a meal? Forget the wafer-thin mint and offer them a dessert cocktail instead. Imbibe challenged six spirits brands and venues to team up and create show-stopping after-dinner serves. Julie Sheppard reports on the results
Where: Satan’s Whiskers, 343 Cambridge Heath Rd, London, E2 9RA
What: French Press
For Geoff Robinson, delving into the world of dessert cocktails was a challenge that required lateral thinking. ‘I don’t have a sweet tooth, so the kind of desserts I like aren’t super-sweet, but fruity,’ he explained. Using black raspberry liqueur Chambord as his base, he also started thinking about other after-dinner elements, notably coffee.
His final drink used both espresso and Toussaint Coffee Liqueur, ‘which is rum-based, so it has that dryness’, he said. ‘My idea was to take the things I love about coffee and incorporate them into a drink – hopefully with a worthy nod to the great Dick Bradsell,’ he added with a smile. ‘To me, the appearance – with the crema – is reminiscent of an Espresso Martini, but the colour is different.’
The tasters were looking for a drink that could be served in place of dessert – and they found it with this pale pink, creamy cocktail. ‘A solid dessert replacement,’ praised Clinton Cawood. ‘This is a great use of Chambord. There’s a harmonious match with the coffee flavours, the sweetness is in check and the creaminess really works,’ he noted. ‘The raspberry garnish really pops with the pale colour of the drink and I like the thick milkshake texture,’ added Isabella Sullivan. ‘This drink is the full package. It ticks every box,’ concluded Julie Sheppard. ‘Pretty to look at, sweet – but not too sweet – to taste, with a delightfully creamy, mouth-filling texture.’
Listed on the daily-changing cocktail menu at Satan’s Whiskers, the French Press was selling for £8. ‘It works out at around 70-80% GP,’
said Robinson. So a drink that ticks the accountant’s box, too. We think Bradsell probably would have approved.
Garnish: Raspberry and grated chocolate
Method: Shake over ice and strain.
15ml Toussaint Coffee Liqueur
15ml sugar syrup
Where: Tredwells, 4a Upper St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2H 9NY
What: The Monk’s Pear
‘Most dessert cocktails are too sticky and heavy – and you can’t have a second one,’ noted Nick Chang. ‘So I thought about using herbal liqueurs, which aid digestion after a meal.’ Chang was also keen to make his cocktail seasonal, in line with the menu ethos at Tredwells, so he consulted with the restaurant’s chef, Chantelle Nicholson. They decided to use Grey Goose La Poire, as Nicholson was working with pears in the kitchen.
The result was a drink with a sweet, herbal taste and velvety texture, but a clean, bitter finish. ‘There’s a definite sweetness to this, but the herbs and rosemary add freshness,’ explained Chang. ‘Because it has a lot of flavour going on, it works as a dessert,’ he added. The Imbibe team agreed.
‘It’s the syrupy texture that makes this cocktail feel like an indulgent dessert,’ explained Sheppard, ‘but the herbal bitterness also acts as a digestif, so that the taste doesn’t become too cloying.’
‘The Bénédictine dominates the drink, so the pear flavour of the vodka is slightly lost,’ noted Cawood. ‘But, overall, this works as a dessert cocktail: it is elegant, interesting, not over-complicated and has saleability.’
Sitting on the menu of this West End restaurant at £10.50, The Monk’s Pear also makes a profitable alternative to dessert. ‘We list our dessert cocktails on the dessert menu, rather than the cocktail list,’ said Chang. ‘It gives our customers a suggestion of when to drink them, as I think people still see cocktails as very much a pre-dinner drink.’
THE MONK'S PEAR
Garnish: Wrap a fresh rosemary sprig around
the stem of the glass
Method: Add the Grey Goose La Poire, Bénédictine
and Yellow Chartreuse into an iced and
chilled mixing glass and stir.
Strain and spray with rosemary-infused Grey Goose.
35ml Grey Goose La Poire
10ml Yellow Chartreuse
1 spray Grey Goose infused
Where: Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT
What: Sloe Down
‘I wanted to challenge the idea that dessert cocktails always have to be sweet,’ said Michael Kurfurst. ‘We already have a Rum & Raisin cocktail on our menu and we sell a lot of Espresso Martinis, so I wanted a drink that would fit with those too.’ Using rum as a base spirit, Kurfurst created a drink around the complementary flavours of coffee, nuts and raspberry. Topped with a sloe gin foam and sprinkled with chocolate and dehydrated raspberry, it looked like a grown-up ice-cream sundae sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.
‘This cocktail is more fruity than sweet – but you can still taste the coffee,’ said Sheppard. ‘This is dangerously drinkable,’ approved Cawood. ‘I like the mix of coffee and raspberry; they interact really well.’
Sullivan was also a fan of the taste: ‘The red fruit brings out the coffee notes and although there are a lot of different elements in this drink, they all work well together.’
The tasters had just one criticism. Although the foam top created wow-factor – always necessary for a smart hotel bar – over time it separated from the rest of the cocktail, spoiling the overall look of the drink. In keeping with hotel prices, the Sloe Down would appear on Ham Yard’s cocktail list at £14. With desserts on its à la carte menu priced between £6 and £7, this cocktail offers a brilliant upselling opportunity.
Garnish: Chocolate shavings
and dehydrated raspberry
Method: Put all ingredients, apart from
the foam, in a shaker and shake lightly.
Fine strain, top with foam and garnish.
50ml Lavazza espresso
40ml Don Q Añejo Rum
20ml maple syrup
15ml raspberry coulis
10ml Delaforce 10 year old Tawny Port
3 dashes chocolate bitters
Sloe gin foam*
*100ml sloe gin, 100ml egg white,
50ml lemon juice, 50ml sugar
Where: Basement Sate, 8 Broadwick St, London, W1F 8HN
What: Almondy After Dinner
‘I might serve this with a spoon,’ mused Andrea Dionori, as he presented his cocktail, which was topped with both Chantilly foam and Chantilly cream. Using Luxardo Amaretto as a base, Dionori had created what he called ‘an Amaretto Sour twist’, using other products from the Luxardo range, too. He explained: ‘This drink is a cross between a sour and something more light, so it’s not too complex – it can be enjoyed by everyone.’
Like all of the drinks at Basement Sate – a bar that serves only desserts and cocktails – the Almondy After Dinner was designed to be enjoyed alongside pudding by punters who come in for a late-night sweet treat. Dionori was able to collaborate with pastry chefs in the bar’s kitchen, who whipped up the Chantilly foam and Chantilly cream for this drink.
Although it was created to be drunk with dessert, the tasters thought that the cocktail could work equally well as a lighter alternative to pudding. ‘The flavours are quite delicate, though the Chantilly makes it feel like a dessert,’ noted Sheppard.
Sullivan was impressed with the drink’s presentation. ‘The creamy colour and burnt egg-white top are very appealing and remind me of creamy desserts. The thick, creamy head keeps its shape and texture, adding just the right amount of richness,’ she commented.
With desserts priced at £7 to £10 and cocktails ranging from £9 to £13, the Almondy After Dinner sits comfortably in Basement Sate’s offer at £10 – offering a good GP margin.
ALMONDY AFTER DINNER
Garnish: Chantilly cream
and burnt egg-white
Method: Dry shake then wet shake all ingredients,
apart from the Chantilly foam. Strain, top
with foam and garnish.
40ml Luxardo Amaretto
20ml orange juice
15ml lemon juice
10ml Luxardo Bitter
10ml homemade orgeat
5ml Luxardo Maraschino
homemade Chantilly foam to top
Where: The Cocktail Trading Company, 68 Bethnal Green Rd, London, E1 6GQ
What: Canelépe Booze
‘I wanted to take a cheesy American style of drink and turn it into something that looks like a fancy French dessert. I’m basically creating something that looks like a soufflé,’ said Andy Mil. His imaginative, fun drink was essentially a cross between a Ramos Gin Fizz and a Coke Float, showing off the cinnamon notes of American cream liqueur RumChata.
Never one for understated presentation, Mil even made his drink look like a dessert, serving it in a ramekin dish, on a board dusted with icing sugar, alongside a canelé – the classic French pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla.
‘I love the fact that this drink actually looks like pudding!’ praised Sheppard. ‘Although the flavour is sugary sweet, you can still taste the RumChata,’ she added. ‘It’s a great showcase for the product and its cinnamon flavours,’ agreed Cawood.
‘This drinks fits into the venue’s drinks offer perfectly,’ said Isabella Sullivan. ‘It’s crazy, creative and over-the-top.’
Estimating a cost price of £2.90 per drink, Mil was putting the Canelépe Booze on his cocktail menu for £9, which made for a good GP but still brought it in under the £10 price point. ‘I’m going to put it into soda siphons, though, so we’ll be able to serve it quickly and won’t have to stand around shaking for hours!’ he added.
Glass: Ramekin dish
Garnish: Icing sugar and a canelé
Method: Shake ingredients over ice
for a very long time. Strain into a chilled ramekin
and top with Coca-Cola. Serve
on a wooden board with a canelé on the side,
dusted with icing sugar.
50ml egg white
40ml maple syrup mix (maple syrup, honey,
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Coca-Cola to top
Where: Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HU
What: Slings & Arrows
‘Rhubarb offers that classic combination of bitter and sweet in desserts, so I’ve played on those two elements because, for me, they’re key in after-dinner drinks,’ explained Nick Jackson.
Describing his base of Slingsby Rhubarb Gin as ‘convincingly rhubarby’ he’d created his drink by looking for flavours that worked with rhubarb. ‘I immediately thought “ginger” and went for The King’s Ginger. Then Kamm & Sons tames the sweetness and adds complexity, while Lillet Blanc adds body,’ he said. Stirring with lemon twists (rather than adding lemon juice) to break through the syrupy ingredients, his resulting Martini-style drink was strong and fruity.
It was an instant hit with the tasters, though it didn’t exactly fit the brief of a classic dessert cocktail. ‘Straightforward and appealing flavours, beautifully balanced, with great length, mid-palate sweetness and just enough bitterness – and it looks great too,’ noted Cawood. ‘Simple and elegant, this makes a perfect after-dinner digestif. It wouldn’t replace dessert, but would be ideal for customers who usually avoid pudding because they don’t have a sweet tooth,’ added Sheppard. ‘It’s actually a very versatile drink and stands alone as a cocktail, with or without dessert,’ said Sullivan.
‘We put cocktails on our dessert menu, which is given out to guests at the end of a meal,’ explained Jackson. ‘Desserts are priced at £7 and this would be listed at £9.50, so we’d make more profit selling this instead of dessert – though ideally I’d like to sell both!’
SLINGS & ARROWS
Glass: Nick and Nora
Garnish: Lemon twist
Method: Stir and strain into chilled glass. Garnish with a further lemon twist.
30ml Slingsby Rhubarb Gin
20ml The King’s Ginger
20ml Kamm & Sons
10ml Lillet Blanc
1 lemon twist