You don’t need an unfeasibly large knuckle of pork, an industrial amount of sauerkraut and an Alp of mashed peas to appreciate schnapps.
Or be picnicking mainly on ham in the middle of the Black Forest. Or planning an ascent of the Jungfrau. Nor, for that matter, do you need to get married or attend a funeral in Lagos to appreciate the celebrated four-time distilled, two hundred year old Dutch JH Henkes schnapps. For some reason, it’s huge in Nigeria.
But you will need some good peach schnapps to make yourself a Fuzzy Navel cocktail. It doesn’t have to always be Archer’s.
Schnapps is a diverse and historical world. There are some wonderful schnapps about waiting to be snapped back. Schnapps is just not something high proof to chuck in your après-ski cocoa. Or some super-potent supermarket “Krauterlikor” to neck Verdauung-style (neat) to get the evening kicking, post raclette. Schnapps is far more than a herby, medicinal Jagermeister blackout bomb delivered from Wolfenbuttel or similar hangover recipe like Killepitsch to give you some Düsseldorf courage to overcome your fondue phobia.
There are stylish schnapps such as Schladerer Brandy Kitchenasser (cherry) which has been “making poor men sing” since the fifteenth century. Their Williams Pears is a front row tipple. After distillation, the spirit is placed in large glass vessels called “Carboy” in English, “Dame Jeanne” in French and GlasBallon in German.
There is also Schlenkerla Barrel Aged Smoky Malt made by the sixth generation German brewing family Trum from Bamberg. Austria’s Puchheimer (1857) range includes “Hazelnuss” curated by fruit sommelier Franz Strobl. “Freihof” is another high quality schnapps maker. Try its pear schnapps. Over ice or in Prosecco. Schnapps makes a good Spritz. Master of Malt offer a good selection.
The two most famous schnapps-meisters are probably Spain’s “Teichenné” which producers everything from kiwi to butterscotch and Germany’s “Berentzen” which began in 1758 and is well known for its “Apfelkorn” and its plum schnapps.
In German, “Schnappen” means to “snap”. A shot glass a “Schnapper”. German fruit brandy is “Obstler”. Obstwassr is fruit water made from both apples and pears. Himbeergeist is a raspberry infusion. Marillenschnaps is apricot brandy traditionally made in Austria. Schlehengeist is distilled from fermented sloes (blackthorns).
Kräuterlikör is a herbal liqueur of medieval origin. “Jagermeister” goes back to 1935 and was previously favoured by hunters and known as “Goring schnapps”.
There is a certain amount of schnapps etiquette. Swirling your glass should avoided so not to release alcohol vapour. Schnapps should stay only a moment on the tongue. It can burn the taste buds. So, it’s best enjoyed swallowed quickly. Thanks to retro-olfaction, the finish can linger for a while through the nasal passageway. While you try to remember where you put your glass for a refill. It’s usually still in your hand.
Rumple Minze Peppermint Schnapps is made at the Scharlachberg Distillery in Wiesbaden in the state of Hesse. Produced primarily in Baden-Württemberg (southwest Germany) and the Allgäu.
Swiss “Goldschlager” (Goldbeater) contains gold flakes. 13mg of gold goes into every one litre, which means your bottle is worth about 52p ($0.70).
Perhaps the schnapps with the most acquired taste and offensive bouquet (even the locals say the smell takes some getting used to) is Austria’s “Wildschonauer” white beet or turnip schnapps.
Flävar is a new clear vodka-based schnapps from Sweden. Made with some of the freshest water in the world and crafted on the shores of Lake Boren, it comes in salted caramel, strawberry and lime, raspberry and liquorice and, similarly inspired by dessert-style flavours, the new blueberry and lemon (“A muffin in a shot glass”) and costs £19.99.
Try a Kiss Under the Mistletoe cocktail which is a mix of 50ml cold Raspberry and Liquorice Flävar, 20ml Orgeat, 25ml fresh Lime Juice gently stirred over ice.
Add some Flävar to those cold and warm, summer as well as winter schnapps and festivities.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Master of Malt