Kirsch Sour & Cherry Syrup
Kirsch, a strong cherry brandy, is Switzerland’s most famous spirit.
Cherry trees were brought back to Switzerland from the Middle East by crusaders, and today they blossom throughout the country. Kirsch is made in most regions, most famously in cantons Basel and Zug (more on cherries in Zug here).
In central Switzerland alone, there are over three hundred varieties of cherry, and over eight hundred in the whole country. Dettling, a distilley in Brunnen, makes kirsch exclusively, and last weekend we did a tour there to get some insight into how kirsch is made.
As well as having blends, Dettling also distil according to the kind of cherry, whether Langstieler, Weichsel, Wildkirsche or Lauerzer. For one litre of kirsch, upwards of 3000 regular cherries are needed (though for the wild cherry variant, it's more like 8000). The cherries are fermented with their stones, and in some cases this gives the kirsch a light almond taste.
Of course the best kirsch should be drunk alone, however there are a wealth of drinks, like this Kirsch Sour, that could be made with less exclusive varieties (I know everyone who has ever made cheese fondue has a bottle in their liquor cabinet).
The recipe is super simple, all you need is a cocktail shaker and some ice. If you don't have cherry syrup you can make your own (see recipe below) or use another red fruit variety.
3 parts kirsch
2 parts lemon juice
1 part cherry syrup (see below for recipe)
1 egg white
Shake with ice.
Serve over ice.
- For two cocktails, I used the larger part of the cocktail jigger to equal one part (60 ml / 2 oz)
- If you're squeamish about egg whites, just leave them out (though the drink won't be quite as creamy).
- If you don't have cherry syrup, another red syrup will do.
I used the cherry syrup recipe in Rosa Graf's Goldene Kochfibel, an excellent resource for Swiss cooking and household management, first published in 1947.
The syrup is easier than it seems, just cook the fruit a bit, strain it, then cook the juice with some sugar. The incredible magenta colour of the liquid, plus the real cherry taste, make it worthwhile.
200 g cherries
100 ml water
100 g sugar
Pit the cherries and add them to a pot with the water.
Cook this over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the cherries start to break down and you can squash them easily with a spoon.
Using a fine mesh sieve (and some cheesecloth if you have it), strain the cherry juice into a measuring cup. You should have around 150 ml juice.
Add the sugar to this and bring to a boil. Watch carefully, as it tends to boil over.
Cook for about 10 minutes, or until it starts to get a bit syrupy, then pour it into a bottle. This should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
- When straining the cherries, press gently and try not to smush them too much through the sieve or the syrup will be really cloudy.
- The makes just a little bit of syrup, enough for about 4 cocktails. If you have a cherry windfall, just double (or triple) the recipe—this syrup would also be great in other drinks, over ice cream, etc.