Kirschwasser

May 19th, 2007

Kirsch, short for the German Kirschwasser (cherry water), is an eau de vie (French for water of life, enough languages for you yet?) – a clear brandy made from fermented fruit, in this case cherries. Kirsch is a strong alcohol (typically over 80 proof), and unlike the sweet, strongly flavoured cherry liqueurs has a very subtle flavour.

A few months ago I picked a small bottle of Kirsch, and for the last few months it was been languishing in my drinks cupboard forgotten and unused. Somewhat like the ingredient itself has become these days – it rarely features in modern cocktail books. I came across the bottle again today and decided to try and find a few cocktails to test it out. A quick search at CocktailDB turned up a slew of recipes, two of which I chose to give a try: the Acacia and the Eider Duck.

A search around the internet for further information on either of these cocktails turned up absolutely nothing. Even a search on the man CocktailDB lists as the creator of the Eider Duck, C. A. Gadina, returned nothing. As a result, and not wanting to waste a lot of alcohol on drinks I may not like, I used half the amount I usually use for “a shot” (20ml/¾oz instead of 40ml/1½oz). This resulted in a smaller drink that was much closer in size to a traditional cocktail, rather than the larger modern variant.

Acacia cocktail with Benedictine, Gin and Kirsch bottles in background

Acacia

The herbal Bénédictine flavour features strongly in this drink, with the subtle cherry from the Kirsch only coming through towards the end. While I enjoyed it, I felt the sweet Bénédictine was a bit too prominent, making the drink somewhat one-dimensional. The idea of cherries, Bénédictine and gin is far better executed in a Singapore Sling – something for a future post. The Acacia needs something to take back the Bénédictine – a bit of citrus, lemon perhaps, might do the trick.

Eider Duck cocktail with Courvoisier VSOP, Grand Marnier and Kirsch bottles in background

Eider Duck

The Eider Duck has a very complex flavour, so much so that at first I didn’t really know what to make of it. The brandy taste comes through first, followed closely by the orange of the Grand Marnier. The lemon helps lift the drink giving it a tart, refreshing edge. The Kirsch comes out last as an after-taste which leaves cherry and a slight burn lingering for quite some time.

The initial taste reminded me a lot of the Sidecar, and it was only then it occurred to me that the recipe is very similar to an equal-parts Sidecar with Kirsch added. The extra brandy-based spirits in the Eider Duck gives it a warmer taste compared to the Sidecar, but overall I think the Sidecar is a more balanced drink.


My search for a decent Kirsch based cocktail has left me slightly disappointed. Both the drinks I tried sounded nice on paper, but the Acacia was far too sweet and the Eider Duck while nice was just a bit too on the warm side. Anyone else have any good Kirsch based cocktails?

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Posted in Bénédictine, Cognac, Gin, Grand Marnier, Kirsch, Lemon, Recipes

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7 responses to “Kirschwasser”

  1. Paul Paul says:

    Despite the number of listings on CocktailDB for drinks containing kirsch, I’ve found relatively few drinks in which it (or any other eau de vie, for that matter) works well as an ingredient.

    A notable among these is a variation of the Rose, an unusual vermouth-based cocktail that uses kirsch for funkiness and strength, and raspberry syrup or liqueur for brightness. It’s worth checking out.

    2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth (be sure you’re using a relatively fresh bottle, kept refrigerated)
    1 oz kirschwasser
    1 tsp raspberry syrup or Chambourd

    Stir with ice & strain into chilled cocktail glass.

    Also, I can’t tell from the photo what brand of kirsch you’re using, but the quality varies widely between brands, with below-par kirsch being execrebly bad. Best ones I’ve found are Clear Creek, from Oregon, and Trimbach, from France. I’m sure there are other good ones out there, but these two are both fine products.

  2. Jay Jay says:

    Thanks for the input Paul. I might give the Rose a try, I like the idea of cherry and raspberry together. The kirsch I was using is Original Willisauer, a Swiss kirch that has been in production since 1918 and is “always distilled in the traditional way in copper stills”. Unfortunately I can’t find any reviews to tell whether that is marketing nonsense or not!

    If I decide to get some more kirsch I’ll keep an eye out for those two brands, though a quick search at the website I usually source anything not easily available here in the UK doesn’t list them, so I’ve a feeling they might not be distributed here unfortunately.

  3. Beverly Graham Beverly Graham says:

    This is not a drink, but I just thought I would mention–a very simple dessert is fresh sliced pineapple with kirsch poured on it. Of course, it helps if you start with flavorful pineapple–not the stuff we normally get in grocery stores.

  4. Jay Jay says:

    Interesting Beverly. I am planning to pick up some pineapples soon for some cocktail recipes I want to sample – I will have to remember to give that a try too.

  5. Andreas Groth Andreas Groth says:

    Another famous recipe would be the `Dr. Sack´ which uses equal parts (1-1,5 shots each) of Gin (sth strong, like Tanqueray or Old Raj), Peter Heering and of course Kirschwasser.
    Dr. Sack, a, in his time, famous German Barkeeper (Achim Eberhardt) told me, was a regular at the Bar of the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, who always ask for this special mixture.
    Have fun with it but be carefull, with the quality of your Kirsch…

  6. Susan Bossert Susan Bossert says:

    in response to “Kirshwasser” writer
    Jay on July 19th, 2007 at 10:48 am
    You are some lucky guy to find the
    REAL DEAL with Original Willisauer
    Kirsch from Switzerland. Everybody
    from Switzerland would say this is
    very best in the World ! Tough to
    find this in the USA !

  7. Ben C Ben C says:

    Kafi Luz (Luzerner Kaffee)

    Had this during carnival in Lucerne.
    1 dl Warm water
    1 dl Light coffee.
    2-3 Cubes of sugar (depending on taste)
    1 Glass of Träsch (Swiss Liquour also called Bätzi, which is made on a pears and apples basis and has at most 78% Vol Alcohol)

    Put the sugar cubes in a hight glass coffee cup. Add the warm coffee, spill it, then slowly add the Träsch. Afterwards, put the hot water till the drink looks like a half strong tea (You should be able to read the newspaper through the drink). You can use the common Träsch which contains apples and peas; however, the one with only peas tastes better. You can seve it without a saucer and you should leave spoon inside.

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