Kirsch, or Kirschwasser, is a specific type of cherry brandy originally from Germany. I’ve wanted to try it since I first heard “Babylon Sisters” by Steely Dan. But whenever I’ve remembered to look, the liquor stores around me would not have it. I’ve been going to a store lately, though, that stocks a lot of items that were hard to find elsewhere. Across the aisle from the dozen flavors of Skyy vodka, sure enough, I found a bottle of Kirsch.
The bottle I found is produced by Maraska from Croatia. It was around $35 for 750ml. I was really hoping to make a snifter of this a Christmas tradition.Kirsch is unusual for brandies because it is double distilled. From what I understand, there is a mash that gets distilled, then this distillation is added to cherry wine–this is where regular brandies stop. But then this brandy partially distilled again. It results in a brandy that is 80–100 proof. Brandies usually live in the 40–75 range.
It also means that the flavor of cherry is very subtle. Too subtle for me, unfortunately. I can smell cherry and floral scents underneath the odor of rubbing alcohol. (This bottle is 90 proof.) All I can taste is alcohol. I can’t leave it on my tongue long enough to get anything else out of it.
I’ve read that Kirsch is often served chilled, which would reduce some of the alcohol vapor, but I think this would also reduce all of the underlying flavors–might as well take a shot of cold vodka. A traditional serving would be room-temperature in a snifter, allowing the warmth from the hand to further vaporize the alcohol and other volatiles. This may be the way to go, but I don’t know if I can ever acclimate to slowly sipping a strong brandy.
There are some cocktails that call for Kirsch, but it’s also used in traditional Swiss cheese fondue. So I’ve got that going for me. I don’t think a snifter-full of Kirsch is going to make it into my Christmas traditions any time soon.