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Learn the difference between the diverse varieties of Schaps and how you can use this buzz-inducing
ingredient to take your next drink to a whole new level, no matter where you’re entertaining.
T E X T BY R O NY M O
S imilar spellings aside, American Schnapps and
European Schnaps couldn’t be more divergent spirits.
The domestic version is characterized as alcoholized
and artificially flavored syrup used to sweeten and color
cocktails. Ones baring passports from Austria, Germany or
Switzerland fall into two categories; crystal-clear artisan
brandies and neutrally flavored grain alcohol infused
with tart fruits, blended herbs or tree nuts. The universal
popularity of Schnaps in German-speaking countries and
Scandinavia is due largely to their cold abating properties.
As the warming shot circulates through your body, you’ll feel
as cozy as spooning panda cubs. There are 3 broad varieties
from which to choose:
Obstbrand (fruit brandy) is Bavarian-style liquor distilled
from fermented fruit; traditionally Apfel (apple), Kirsch
(Morello cherry), Marillen (apricot), Williams Birnen (pear)
and Zwetschgen (plum). They start life at a cringe-worthy
130 proof, but are then diluted with spring water until they
settle between 80 and 100 proof. Schladerer Schwarzwälder
Distillery, with their regal red wax seal bottles, produce all
the obligatory flavors, many of which have jammy aromas
that make them as playful as puppies...but will deliver a bite
like a police dog.
Obstgeist (fruit spirits) are made from sour fruits or nuts
with low sugar content which would make them unsuitable
152 for natural fermentation. Himbeergeist by Hausschnaps Bauer
is one example of an infusion of ripe raspberries macerated
in grain alcohol and aged before processing and bottling
to extract a heady aroma. The same process applied to
walnuts creates Nubschnaps (nut schnaps) and Pircher Nussler’s
version follows a recipe hundreds of years in the making.
Meanwhile, Sporer Feiner gets creative by adding cacao nibs
to their formula.
Kräuterlikör (blended herb liqueur) was used by medieval
physicians to treat ailments as diverse as gastritis to labor
pains, making it difficult to discern the very ill from the very
drunk. Jägermeister is a familiar example, though Alpenwolfe
is a less viscous and therefore more palatable style that’s
comparable to dissolving Ricola drops in vodka. A former
rival of Absinthe, Escorial Grün packs a mean juniper and
peppermint punch and is so potent it remains flammable
even when served on the rocks.
In the end, Schnaps are incredibly versatile and often used
as appetite-stimulating aperitifs, propellants in flambés,
ingredients in desserts, post-dinner digestifs or celebratory
shots served in delicate stemmed glassware. Locally, scour
liquor retailers for bottles with muted labels and higher
pricepoints, and if you’re in need of a Deutsche-English
dictionary to make sense of it all, don’t worry: You won’t be
able to pronounce much of anything after a few sips.