Friday Happy Hour: The Widow’s Kiss

Something that Europeans do very well (that Americans don’t really do at all) is the digestif.  In a lot of places, any decent meal takes a long time and ends with a digestif, a drink designed to aid digestion.  Given the number and range of digestifs, you’d think that Europeans have lots of trouble with indigestion: brandy and whiskey; aromatic wines like port, sherry, and vermouth; French herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse and Benedictine; and all those wonderful Italian bitters like Cynar, Campari, and Zucca (not to mention the deliciously sweet, lemony Limoncello).  Digestifs are traditionally consumed neat or straight, but they also make for some amazing cocktails.  Here’s one you should try after your next big meal: The Widow’s Kiss.

Read below for the full recipe!

The Widow’s Kiss

1 1/2 oz Apple Brandy or Calvados
3/4 oz Yellow Chartruese
3/4 oz Benedictine
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters


Combine the ingredients and stir well with ice (or shake – which you normally shouldn’t do with an all-spirits drink – to give it a nice texture), then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.  You can garnish with a lemon twist or a cherry, but this drink doesn’t really need one.

Here’s what you get: a deeply herbal drink with a warm apple finish from the brandy.  It’s rich and sweet, so save this one for sipping during a long, lingering conversation after dinner.  The Widow’s Kiss can be too sweet for some people, though I find its herbal complexity balances its sweetness.  If you prefer a dryer drink, try reducing both liqueurs to 1/2 oz or adding a few more dashes of bitters.


The Widow’s Kiss is the creation of George Kappeler, head bartender at the Holland House hotel on Fifth Avenue back in the 1890s.  This was right around the time that bartenders were starting to expand their ingredients to include liqueurs beyond the traditional maraschino and orange.  As David Wondrich notes: we don’t know if Kappeler had a particular widow in mind when he made this drink, but if he did, she must have been quite a lady.

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper