Berlin/Bodolz (dpa/tmn) – Hazelnut brandy for roast venison, thyme distillate sprinkled on veal fillet and crème brulée scented with rose brandy: Noble brandies or high-quality brandies can enhance the aromas of the food or unveil the unusual when cooking or as an accompaniment to meals.
Often, however, only Williams, fruit brandy, or raspberry liqueur are known as digestifs. “However, the possible uses of spirits have become infinitely more diverse thanks to new creations,” says Tim Müller of DSM Deutsche Spirituosen Manufaktur in Berlin.
Experience unusual flavor worlds
In addition to classic brandies and liqueurs like Williams pears, raspberries and cherries, the innovative private still distills a host of unusual products including autumn leaves, lemon, rose, thyme and cardamom. Spirits are in great demand among chefs and bartenders who like to experiment. These are not only suitable for pure enjoyment, but also for cooking or as a spray distilled to refine beverages and foods.
Robert Gierer is a brandy distiller and sommelier. At his distillery in Bodolz on Lake Constance, he tries to get the most out of the fruit. He also gives tips to chefs on how to pair menus with fine spirits. He is concerned about the complexity of the aromas. When it comes to matching, you need to “bring a spirit of invention, like trying things out and being open to exploring different facets of enjoyment,” he says.
What makes Edelbrand special
An alcoholic beverage made from fruits or other raw materials is bottled as a brandy, liqueur, or liqueur. In the event of fires, the fruit is usually crushed, fermented, and then distilled. The alcohol comes 100 percent from the sugar in the raw materials. Even low-sugar berries like raspberries, blackberries or wild berries flow into the glass like noble brandy. However, fruit or other ingredients such as herbs or spices are often “spiritual”.
This means that the raw materials are mixed with neutral alcohol, then distilled and sold as raspberry, hazelnut or cardamom liqueurs. Anything that doesn’t meet the specifications for real spirits or spirits should be labeled “spirits.” Almost everything is allowed here, such as artificial colors, sugar and flavors.
A brandy must not be flavored and must not contain any other type of alcohol. It must have at least 37.5 percent alcohol content. Up to 18 grams of sugar per liter of alcohol can be added to fruit liqueurs. This method of rounding out the flavor of spirits is frowned upon by fine distillers like Gierer or DSM. The smoothness of the drink is achieved solely through the raw material and skilful distillation.
Principle: Less is more
Finishing the meal with fire or spirit is the most well-known variant of use of high-proof drops. However, cooking with it opens up new culinary worlds. In this way, asparagus brandy can intensify a fine asparagus cream. Tim Müller pickles salmon with tangerine or dill liqueur.
Robert Gierer recommends stone fruit brandies like Williams or Quince with fish dishes. Dark meat sauces can be refined with wild cherries, sloes or sour cherries, i.e. stone fruit spirits. Hazelnut brandy is ideal for hunting. The basic rule for greedy people is: “Less is more, don’t add too much”.
The use of high percentage sprays or syringes of distillate is ingenious. Tim Müller, for example, drizzles a little boletus brandy over his boletus risotto. If you don’t have a spray, you can rub a tablespoon on it.
“A dessert needs powerful aromas like hazelnuts or wild raspberries,” explains Edelbrand’s sommelier Gierer. Tim Müller praises the crème brulée, which is perfumed with a little rose brandy before being flambéed. The blood orange spirit makes a special dessert with vanilla ice cream and the cocoa spirit with chocolate ice cream. And after that, the espresso is sprinkled with cardamom liqueur.
Strong aromas: distillates as food companions
Not only wine, but also noble distillates can accompany a meal for guests. But don’t be afraid of strong flavors, says Gierer. He recommends not offering too many highly aromatic liqueurs, for example only hazelnuts or only wild raspberries. For connoisseurs, sour cherries, sloes, mirabelle plums or wild plums go well with veal fillet. For desserts, he recommends stone or berry brandies.
When pairing, Tim Müller relies on the cornucopia of numerous brandies and liqueurs in his factory. “You just have to see what goes with what,” he says, recommending spirits based on jasmine, quince, strawberries, tangerines or red sorrel with light fish. When it comes to a poultry dish, it’s all about the sauce. He can choose between, for example, elderflower, fruity hops or lemongrass.
“Today spirits are moments of indulgence”, emphasizes Robert Gierer. He also recommends when pairing: “Just a few drops are enough. Always a little nipple.” Tim Müller also warns against excess alcohol: “Pour a maximum of 1.5 cl. It’s about sipping the distillate, then eating it, and then sipping it again.” To avoid masking the aroma, serve at room temperature, not iced.
Cocktail instead of straight distillate
Berlin’s Coda restaurant is known for skilfully combining dishes with fire and spirit. “Our drink pairing is cocktail pairing,” explains star chef René Frank. His cooking is based on pastry techniques. The award-winning chef wants to show “that today’s patisserie goes far beyond the last dish on the menu.” Each course on the seven-course Coda menu is completed by a perfectly matched cocktail.
“Serving straight spirits with a dish is absolutely impossible for me because of the high alcohol content. We make a drink out of it, so a small dose is enough,” says Frank. “For example, we serve sherry with oolong tea and liqueur cardamom At the table, the guest receives a little cardamom liqueur drizzled into the glass.” Or a drink made with wild plum brandy, grapefruit liqueur and muscatel verjuice goes with a plate of carrots, ginger and lime.
One set of menus includes a yogurt-filled cornmeal waffle with baked raclette sprinkled with dry, powdered kimchi. “A drink made from Berliner Weisse with aquavit, thickened pear juice, and dill schnapps goes well with this,” says Frank. Lactic acid fermented kimchi corresponds to the lactic acid bacteria in wheat beer and goes well with dill.
Professionals are required for this pairing. A glass of red wine sprinkled with thyme spirit with beef steak or an apricot brandy with exotic lamb can be a good start.
Recipe: Marinated Salmon With Tangerine Liqueur
Serving your own marinated salmon as a starter is a treat for the palate. Tim Müller of Deutsche Spirituosen Manufaktur in Berlin sprinkles the fish with mandarin liqueur. The professional recipe is as follows:
Ingredients for four people (as a starter)
300 g fresh salmon (sushi quality),
3 tablespoons of coarse salt,
3 spoonfuls of sugar,
1 bunch of dill,
3 tablespoons of mandarin brandy,
1-2 tablespoons of pink berries,
1 organic lemon
1. Rinse salmon carefully under cold running water, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Place half of the salt and sugar mixture in a reasonable sized bowl and place the fish skin side down. Rub the top with the remaining salt and sugar mixture.
2. Wash the dill with the stems, chop finely and press the whole fillet. Close the container well with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 36 hours. Pour the liquid that accumulates in the shell over the salmon every 12 hours.
3. Remove the well-done salmon from the shell, rinse the spice mixture under cold water, and pat the salmon dry with kitchen paper. Drizzle top of salmon with 1 tablespoon mandarin liqueur and sprinkle with crushed pink berries and organic lemon zest. Drizzle remaining mandarin liqueur over spice layer.
4. Now vacuum the fish or alternatively wrap it tightly in cling film. After another two days of maturing in the fridge, the salmon is ready. To serve, cut diagonally into thin slices with a long, sharp knife.
5. Serve as a starter with horseradish cream on whole rye bread or hash browns, for example. Citrus or cucumber liqueurs or a raspberry brandy go well with this as a drink.
Information on fruit brandy
Information on fruit brandy
Offprint 2021 Spirits Association, pdf
EU Spirits Regulation
CODA Berlin website