There is no more elegant way to integrate the flavors of fruit into a cocktail than with eaux-de-vie. But watch out! It is not enough to simply replace the base spirit such as whiskey, gin, vodka or rum with a high-quality fruit distillate in cocktail classics.
Fruit distillates are at the same time far too delicate as well as too aromatic to be able to unfold perfectly in the usual highballs or variations modified from sours. Cocktails with Kirsch, Williams, Damassine, Abricotine and Co. need rather to be rethought completely. When used more as an accent than as a base, these fruit bombs unfold their full potential.
Even just a spray bottle or pipette filled with the distillate from pome or stone fruit can be a powerful tool behind the bar. And with these quantities, you don't significantly drive up the cost of a cocktail.
Should a fruit brandy actually cost more than a cocktail bitter extrapolated to the standard bottle, this can be explained solely by the fact that you have already reached the floor with the rarities on the bottle shelf.
But it can also be a little more. Replacing the brandy in the Vieux Carré with a plum brandy, for example, or the gin in the Negroni with a Kirsch, does not turn the entire drink upside down, but merely gives it a fruity touch.
But not only. For example, with distillates from stone fruit, it is also important to consider the marzipan notes. These go well with sherry or aperitifs and distillates with herbs.
Especially with Negroni, where twists with mezcal, bourbon or rye have long been common in the bar world, the raison d'être of gin is rightly doubted from time to time.
Without wanting to step on anyone's toes - because the classic deserves respect - one might note that in a creation of Vermouth (wine + spirit + botanicals + sugar), Campari (spirit + botanicals + sugar) and Gin (spirit + botanicals) the latter may be replaced by something else from time to time.
Old Eau-de-Vie in new Wineskins
Now, drinks mixed with fruit spirits are by no means a novelty behind the bar. Jerry Thomas already mentioned Kirsch as an ingredient (admittedly primarily as a punch or as a pousse café).
Later cocktail book authors also included Kirsch cocktails in their canon, such as Jean Lupoiu (Rose Cocktail N°2 with a coffee spoon of raspberry syrup, 2/3 Dry Vermouth and 1/3 Kirsch). In "1000 Misture" Elvezio Grassi, working in Switzerland (sympathizing with the fascists), named for example the Acacias cocktail with ¾ Dry Gin, ¼ Benedictine and a "Spruzzo" (Dash) Kirsch or the Brillat-Savarin cocktail made with equal parts Kirsch and Dry Vermouth, complemented with a Spruzzo Angostura.
From the 1930s onward, numerous media reports also appeared in Swiss newspapers presenting cocktail recipes with fruit spirits. For example, the "Journal et feuille d'avis du Valais" of August 30, 1930, printed the Rubis Cocktail with equal parts of Grenadine liqueur, Vermouth and Kirsch.
In "der Bund" of May 31, 1937, the "Blaue Band" cocktail of "Vollkommene Liebe" (Parfait Amour liqueur, related to Crème de Violette), Kirsch and Gin is presented. And in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of March 20, 1938, four Kirsch drinks are listed among the seven cocktails from Zurich bars.
Even though fruit spirits, especially Kirsch, have been mixed in the past, no Kirsch creation has made it to classic status. However, since signature cocktails have displaced the classics from the bar menu in many places, fruit brandies currently have the chance to land in the mixing glasses and shakers of today's active bartenders.
Modern fruit brandy cocktails
Schnapps like Zwätschge, Träsch or Bätzi are often associated with "Kafi Luz" - or as the hot drink is called in Lucerne: "Kafi". To put it casually, it is the Japanese oyuwari service, supplemented with a touch of coffee for color and a little sugar.
Riccarda Bini from Silo Bar, Kemptthal has taken on the Central Swiss classic. Disassembled and reassembled as a modern highball, she presented her "Zulifak" - the palindrome of Kafi Luz - at this year's SWISS COCKTAIL OPEN.
She mixed rum and quince brandy with a little sugar syrup and Tonic Water. As a topping on the crystal clear drink floated an Espuma from Cold Brew Coffee. A real eye-catcher.
Final Drink SWISS COCKTAIL OPEN 2022
by Riccarda Bini, Ruby Hotel, Zurich
|3 cl||Plantation 3 Stars|
|1.5 cl||Quince brandy Landtwing|
|0.5 cl||Sugar syrup (Monin)|
|10 cl||Gents Tonic Water|
|Top off||Cold Brew Espuma (Homemade)|
Decoration: lemon zest
Espuma: 60 cl Cold Brew coffee, 15 cl coffee liqueur and two egg whites in a cream blender to chill for two hours.
The fact that rum and fruit brandies harmonize is also proven by the creation currently encountered at the Atelier Classic Bar in Thun.
The "Zwätschgelisi" created by Kevin Abbühl combines Rhum Agricole with Vieille Prune and some Supasawa as an acid source. The senses are confused by the fact that the nose does not perceive the plum in the drink, but notes of pear and absinthe. Responsible for this are the sprays of the corresponding ingredients that are added to the cocktail at the end.
Creation by Kevin Abbühl
Atelier Classic Bar, Thun
|4 cl||Rhum Agricole blanc|
|3 cl||Vieille Prune|
|1.5 cl||Mint syrup|
Decoration: plum, mint, lavender
Preparation: Stir and strain into coupette
A particularly popular ingredient for Barkeeper is Raspberry Geist. Unlike fresh raspberries or syrups, this distillate has the advantage that you get the full raspberry aroma, but the taste lacks the sweetness and acidity of fresh raspberries. The gustatory confusion is enhanced by an optical illusion, because fruit distillates are naturally transparent.
The final drink "Red Riot" by Anthony Kunz at last year's SWISS COCKTAIL OPEN provided just such a deception. The drink's aroma comes from raspberries, while its color (and bitter notes) come from Campari. Acidity and effervescence are added by the Barkeeper, from the Kronenhalle Bar in the form of lemon juice and cider.
Final Drink SWISS COCKTAIL OPEN 2021
by Anthony Kunz | Kronenhalle Bar, Zurich
|3 cl||Raspberry Spirit Orator|
|2 cl||Sugar syrup|
|2 cl||Lemon juice|
|4 cl||Möhl Grapefruit Apple Cider|
Decoration: apple fan , mint branch
Victor Topart, Barkeeper of the year 2021, also mixed with fruit spirits at the last final. The Barkeeper from the Crapule Club was assigned the ingredients Maker's Mark and Williamine from Morand.
But instead of creating a whiskey drink with a pear twist, he put the Williams pear at the center of his "Cura Helvetica. A full four centiliters of the fruit brandy, in which he had first macerated cucumber and Timut pepper, was mixed with 2 cl of bourbon, 1 cl of white vermouth, and Ginger Beer.
Cocktail Final SWISS BAR AWARDS 2021
by Victor Topart | Crapule Club, Fribourg
|2 cl||Maker's Mark|
|4 cl||Williamine Cucumber Timut Pepper Infusion|
|1.5 cl||Monin sugar syrup|
|1 cl||Belshazzar Bianco|
|2 cl||Lemon juice|
|12 cl||Swiss Roots Ginger Beer|
Decoration: Isomalt, mint leaf, "Cura Helvetica" espuma
Preparation: Shake all ingredients except Ginger Beer , fill up with Ginger Beer
Infusion: Williamine, 2/3 cucumber, 4 g Timut pepper.