I’m not usually a huge fan of eaux de vie; after a couple experiences with Hungarian fruit brandies while living in Budapest, the estery-fusely taste of any unaged fruit spirit – be it pisco, framboise, mirabelle, or poire-Williams – makes me cringe a little.  Even the very nice bottle of slivovitz from Clear Creek my parents bought me has sat mostly unused, except for a trou gascon at Thanksgiving.  But, possibly out of a “nobody else likes it” snobbery, I keep wanting to like eaux de vie.  In pursuit of this particular windmill, The Girlfriend and I decided we’d get a bottle of kirsch, as I mentioned a while ago, as there are several classic cocktails that call for it.  We ended up ordering a bottle of the Clear Creek stuff, partly because of availability and partly because of their excellent reputation.

Their kirsch, I have to admit, is a bit of a revelation.  I haven’t had any kirsch in a very long time, so perhaps this is nothing extraordinary, but it’s rich, complex, and smooth, with only a hint of that fusel taste that usually drives me away (also common to white rums, interestingly).  We tried it mixed up into a Rose (gin, kirsch, dry vermouth, dash of grenadine), which turned out really well: the kirsch really changed the profile of what is otherwise a basic Martini variation.

Today, though, I’ve been trying to come up with something that uses kirsch as the main ingredient, which might be a fool’s errand.  But I think this one works pretty well.  It’s a variation of the Orchard Keeper, which I talked about (and drank a lot of) a couple months ago.  Since the kirsch lacks the wood-aged complexity of the apple brandy the Orchard Keeper is built on, I added just a bit of a gentle scotch, which gives subtle background and a lovely grain flavor (scotch is also held to pair well with cherry).   Because of the cherry and the orchard bit, I’ve decided to call it the Chekhov Special.

Chekhov Special

  • 1 1/2 oz kirsch (Clear Creek)
  • 3/4 oz white vermouth (I’m using Dolin)
  • 1/2 oz gentle scotch (I’m using Famous Grouse)
  • 1/4 oz honey syrup (equal parts honey/warm water)
    Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.  Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon peel and a brandied cherry.

So this works nicely – despite the sweet white vermouth and the honey syrup, I wouldn’t call it more than off-dry.  It’s incredibly smooth, but not boring.  Make sure not to leave out the lemon peel – the bitter citrus oil really brings out the best in the drink.