Five Fab Fruit Brandy Cocktails
Who says you can't mix with eaux de vie and schnapps?
I’ve never understood why unaged fruit brandies aren’t used more in the cocktail scene. Some prized schnapps or eaux de vie are certainly much too expensive to mix with. But there are plenty available under $30, such as from Clear Creek in Oregon, that work well in cocktails. Below are five of my favorites that call for cherry, plum, and pear brandies.
A Farewell to Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway wasn't all about rum. He especially loved kirsch (or kirschwasser), when he skiing in the Alps. Kirsch is rarely the primary spirit in a cocktail, but this noteworthy exception — essentially a “kirsch Collins” — was created by Hemingway in 1937 and published in his friend Charles Baker's The Gentlemen's Companion. The original recipe calls for cherry syrup, but I like to use raspberry syrup. Note the odd ratio and measure carefully for best results: 2 1/4 ounces kirsch to 1 ounce lime juice. From To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, by Philip Greene
2 1/4 ounces kirsch
1 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce raspberry or cherry syrup
Twist of lime peel, cut into a long spiral, for garnish
2 ounces chilled club soda
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the kirsch, lime juice, and raspberry syrup. Shake well, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes and the spiral lime peel. Top with club soda.
Ostend Fizz Royale
It's hard to say why this early-20th-century cocktail is named after a city in Belgium, considering it calls for an Alpine cherry brandy (kirsch) and a black currant liqueur from Dijon, France. In any case, this is far superior to the well-known kir royale, made with creme de cassis alone. The original Ostend Fizz calls for club soda, but this “Royale” version calls for sparkling wine, preferably something methode traditionelle. Though it's tempting to simply pour the spirits directly into the glass and stir, shaking before adding the wine creates a more appealing and less cloying drink.
1 ounce kirschwasser
1 ounce creme de cassis
Chilled sparkling wine
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the kirschwasser and creme de cassis; shake well, then strain into an ice-filled highball or Collins glass. Top with about 3 ounces of sparkling wine.
This one is a variation of a recipe that comes from the Zwack family in Hungary, and was in Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book. I use raspberry instead of the honey syrup called for in the original.
1.5 ounces plum brandy
3/4 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce Zwack (Hungarian liqueur)
1/2 ounce sparkling wine
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the plum brandy, lime juice, and Zwack; shake well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Top with sparkling wine.
Hans Punch Up
This punch, by bartender Adam Bernbach, is named for a guy he got into a fight with one New Year's Eve. Pretty much any sparkling wine will work, but something made methode traditionelle is best. I realize this goes without saying, but be sure to use pear eau de vie or Poire Williams, not pear liqueur, which will render this cloyingly sweet.
16 ounces clear pear brandy
16 ounces honey syrup (make this like simple syrup but with honey)
8 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 ounces sparkling wine
8 mint sprigs, for garnish
Combine the pear brandy, honey syrup, lemon juice, and bitters in a large glass pitcher. Add about a cup of ice and and stir vigorously.
To serve, fill 8 glasses with ice; divide the punch among them and top each one with a splash of sparkling wine. Stir gently, and garnish each with a mint sprig
This cocktail gives a sense of how a little of bit eau de vie can be used as an accent. Benedictine liqueur replaces vermouth in what is essentially a martini variation, with a bit of kirschwasser instead of bitters. According to mid-century drink lore, this drink took the first prize at a cocktail championship in Biarritz in 1928.
2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Benedictine
1/4 ounce kirsch
Lemon peel twist
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir vigorously, then strain into a cocktail glass. Express lemon peel over the top, then add as garnish.