Cherry Water (brandy) – Kirschwasser
Don’t let the name mislead you. This brandy, made from fermented cherry mash, is anything but weak. It’s made from either sweet (Eau-de-vie de Cerises), or sour cherries (Eau-de-vie de Griottes).
The word “Kirschwasser” is German for “cherry water” and is the name of a clear brandy popular in Germany and Switzerland. These two countries are the most famous producers of the cherry brandy Kirschwasser. German Kirschwasser is believed to originate in South Germany, in the region of the Black Forest. In fact, the region of the Black Forest is linked with Kirschwasser history even today.
It’s a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from double distillation of morello cherries, a dark-colored cultivar of the sour cherry. However, it is now also made from other kinds of cherries. The cherries are fermented complete (that is, including their stones). Unlike cherry liqueurs and so-called “cherry brandies,” Kirschwasser is not sweet. The best Kirschwassers have a refined taste with subtle flavors of cherry and a slight bitter-almond taste that derives from the stones.
Kirschwasser is often simply called Kirsch in both German- and English-speaking countries.
Because morellos were originally grown in the Black Forest region of southern Germany, Kirschwasser is believed to have originated there. The Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald)is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south.
Kirschwasser is produced through a double distillation process of black cherry juice. Distillation involves boiling water to remove impurities. The process is somewhat tedious and requires much effort, but double distillation produces incredibly pure water.vOriginally, only the sour black cherries were used, though today both sour and sweet cherries, along with their pits, are used to make the cherry brandy Kirschwasser. The black cherries are mashed, fermented and mixed with the pure double distilled water to produce this cherry brandy drink. Kirschwasser is colourless because it is either not aged in wood or is aged in barrels made of ash. It may have been aged in paraffin-lined wood barrels or in earthenware vessels.
Clear fruit brandies made from distilled, fermented fruit are very popular in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France. In France and in English-speaking countries, these beverages are known as eaux de vie. The European Union sets a minimum of 37.5% ABV (75 proof) for products of this kind; Kirschwasser typically has an alcohol content of 40%–50% ABV (80–100 proof). About 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cherries go into the making of a 750 ml bottle of Kirschwasser.
Kirschwasser has traditionally been served cold in small glasses as an appetizer before societal dinners as well as family gatherings. In Germany, it is normally served after dinner and at room temperature, as most with most types of brandy. In this environment, it is served in a snifter. Kirschwasser is also enjoyed by many when added to coffee and espresso drinks.
You may be wondering “what is Kirschwasser: schnapps or brandy?” It is a brandy, though schnapps is a generic German term for fruit brandy. In most instances, Kirschwasser is treated and drank as if it were a brandy.
Those who drink Kirschwasser prefer it because it does not have an overly sweet taste. It has, instead, a refined taste with a subtle flavor of cherry that is not overpowering. Many prefer it as an alternative to cognac and serve it in the same manner.