The holidays and after-dinner spirits are decadent to begin with, so why not go big? Here are a six ideas for something different to serve after the big meal. With certain liqueurs and eaux de vie, a good way to limit the splurge is to go with a half-size 375-milliliter bottle, when available.
Kirsch or kirschwasser. A dry, unaged cherry brandy popular in the German-speaking world. Lots of people have some (cheap) kirsch on hand, perhaps purchased for a fondue. But for after-dinner sipping, splurge on high-quality domestic kirsch from Clear Creek (Oregon, $26 for 375 ml), Aqua Perfecta (California, $42 for 375 ml), Trimbach (Alsace, France, around $25 for 375 ml) or – for a very special one – Schladerer Schwarzwalder Kirschwasser (Germany, $35 for 750 ml).
Armagnac. Though cognac gets all the attention, its country cousin can be bolder, richer and full of character. You can buy a nice VSOP for around $40, but for $60 to $80, an XO from Chateau de Laubade, Tariquet, Casterede or Darroze makes an excellent splurge.
Anejo tequila. Sure, you’re mixing with 100 percent agave blanco or reposado, and you call yourself a tequila fan. But have you ever sipped an anejo neat? Well, now’s the time. Look for El Tesoro ($53) or 7 Leguas ($48).
Green Chartreuse. Good in cocktails, Green Chartreuse is amazing by itself as a digestif, intense and herbaceous. It’s like the Old World in a glass. Expect to pay $48 for a 750-milliliter bottle or $33 for 375 ml.
Poire Williams. This is an unaged brandy made from Williams pears. Some versions even have a whole pear in the bottle. Pear brandy is a true crowd-pleaser: Spirits people are surprised at how dry it is and newbies enjoy the soft pear aromas. Clear Creek, Aqua Perfecta, Trimbach, Schladerer and Purkhart (from Austria) are widely available brands. A 375 ml bottle will cost $25-$40.
Calvados. I’ve been beating the drum for Normandy’s famed apple brandy for years. You can bet that I will be sipping an Hors d’Age from a producer such as Dupont, Roger Groult or Christian Drouin once I push away from my holiday table. A good bottle will cost about $80.