Germany is obviously well known for its beers but also its wines, especially white wines. However, there's another beverage that Germany is internationally famous for, schnapps. In a German restaurant or gasthaus it's not uncommon for the proprietor to offer you a complimentary shot of schnapps after your meal. But, what the heck is a schnapps? What makes schnapps, schnapps? (In Germany it's spelled with only one P, schnaps, and means swallow.) We've been into a small schnapps shop near us a couple times and recently we went in and got a little lesson on schnapps.
Schnapps is a distilled drink containing 32% to 45% alcohol by volume. It's normally distilled using fruits and berries but it can also be made from vegetables, grains, nuts, roots, flowers and even beer. Schnapps is not a liqueur. Schnapps is pure, clear, non-sweet with no additives. Liqueurs, such as cordials and crèmes, are sweet alcoholic beverages made from highly refined spirits, like grain spirits, brandy and gin, to which is added sugar, fruit, peels, seeds, herbs and flowers. Liqueurs normally have an alcohol by volume of 15% to 30%.
In Germany, fruit Schnapps are often referred to as Wässer (water) because of its clear appearance, such as Kirschwasser, made from cherries and Zwetschgenwasser, which uses blue plums. Apples and pears are the two other most common fruit Schnapps. Some of the most familiar German Schnapps are Korn, normally made from rye, Kümel, which uses caraway seeds and cumin and the famous Jägermeister, which uses various herbs and spices.
Of course, Schapps are produced all over the world. Just across the border in the Alsace region of France, Schanpps type drinks are called eau de vie, in Italy, grappa and in eastern Europe, rakia. So, even though Schnapps is an acquired taste, lots of folks are making it and a lot more are drinking it.
We like the little Schnapps shop that we've gone to a few times because there you can sample all types of Schnapps, and liqueurs, and purchase what you like in very small bottles that they fill right there in front of you. Above you can see some of the oblong glass containers in which they store their Schnapps. The sales lady is pouring a small sample for us from the rubber tube at the bottom of the container.
Huge selection of Schnapps and liqueurs. At the bottom are the various types of bottles you can choose from to be filled there in the store if you make a purshcase.
Mango Jalapeno Limes sounds interesting but there on the right is the infamous Absinthe. Absinthe was called the "Green Fairy" because it was claimed to have hallucenagenic powers. The culprit was a chemical ingrediant called thujone which caused the alleged mind altering affects. In the late 1800's and early 1900's it was the rage among the artistic crowd; Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and many more. By 1915 it was banned in the US and most of Europe. Recently, it's become available again; the European version still contains traces of thujone, the US version does not. We tried it few months ago. Let's just say it didn't give us wings.
This is what we came away with on this visit. 200ml bottles, they cork and heat shrink-wrap the top to seal it up. On the left is a Alter Williams-Birne (Old Willaims Pear) and the right, Haselnuss (Hazel nut).
There you have it, Schnapps, the drink you love to hate. Sometimes you almost cringe when in a gasthaus, at the end of your meal, and suddenly, there's a tray of schnapps placed on your table, one for each of you. Of course, it would be rude to turn down your hosts gesture of generousity but you never know what you're going to get. Usually, it's an ice cold, very smooth Apfelkorn, apple Schnapps, but other times, a biting, heavy licorice flavored firewater. Either way, it's part of the fun and experience of living in Germany. Cheers!!