Kirsch is like an actor that decides he wants to sing, and then tops the music charts; then decides he wants to start his own fashion line, and rules the runways; and then decides to run for mayor and wins! Kirsch is the most kick-ass liqueur you’ve never heard of, until now. A triple or quadruple threat in the world of alcoholic beverages, Kirsch can do it all. You can drink it, cook with it, bake with it, and more importantly, it’s delicious.
Also called Kirschwasser (German for “cherry water”), Kirsch is a colorless, dry, brandy distilled from the fermented juice of sweet or sour cherries, and part of the “Eau-de-vie” family of liqueurs. It has a clean cherry fragrance and bitter almond taste. Kirsch is made in the Black Forest of Germany, the Rhine River in Alsace (France), and in the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. The way it’s produced and its methods remain traditional depending on the location.
However, the basic principle in the process of making Kirsch is that the “complete” cherry, pits and all, is used. The fully ripened cherries are mashed in a large wooden tub or vat then allowed to ferment freely. Once this is done, the entire mass – liquid, pulp, and cherry stones – is distilled in a pot. During the mashing some of the cherry stones, or pits, are crushed, releasing some of their oils and acids. These include small amounts of hydrocyanic acid, which impart a distinctive bitter almond undertone to the beverage. Kirsch is not aged and is marketed at 90 to 100 proof. Kirsch is consumed neat, as brandy, and in cocktails and is also used in cooking as a flavoring.
A solid 750 ml bottle of Kirsch runs about $40 here in the good ol’ USA, but it’s worth it, and there are smaller and less expensive bottles that are sold as well. Now, you’re probably thinking that’s a very expensive tag for this liqueur, but not even taking into consideration the fact that you can use it for everything, it makes sense why it’s so expensive. On average it takes about 25-30 lbs of cherry fruit to make one bottle. Which if you take into consideration the price of a pound of cherries nowadays and a bottle of Kirsch is a bargain.
If you’re baking with Kirsch then give yourself a pat on the back for making the best baked treats around. All you really need is about half a teaspoon of Kirsch to be mixed in with whatever you’re baking – only half a teaspoon and then your taste buds are in heaven. Because Kirsch has a high-test alcohol scent it is very powerful when cooking; however, if use just the right small amount even though it is cooked off, it increases the way people perceive flavor.
The traditional way to drink Kirsch is neat and in a small glass. It is often served cold and many individuals either drink a small amount before dinner (apéritif) or after (digestif). Although if you think of Kirsch like a brandy it is totally acceptable to serve it at room temperature and warm it up with your hands. Bu if you’re not about the traditional neat way of drinking, no worries cause you can also make cocktails with Kirsch. I mean, of course you can, this is Kirsch we’re talking about here . The most popular cocktails featuring the versatile liqueur are the Lady Finger, the Florida Cocktail, and Black Forest.
As mentioned, Kirsch can be used when baking but also when cooking. In fact, it is a required ingredient in the Swiss cheese fondue dish. The mixture of cheese with the fruity and intricate taste creates something close to nirvana for all you cheese connoisseur, or fans of melted cheese in general don’t just stop at Fondue. The Swiss cheese dish Raclette is paired with Kirsch and it’s glorious.
In short, Kirsch is the most kick-ass, versatile, drink you’re not drinking… yet.