Without doubt one of my favourite traditions in Germany is the welcoming of guests with schnapps and, as we were guests with family during our time there, we were welcomed with open arms…and bottles.
Schnapps, as we know it in North America, doesn’t hold a candle to the real deal. Here it is syrupy and sweet – more like a liqueur and definitely not my style. But German schnapps is all smooth and flavorful; more like what a flavored vodka is today only more flavorful; packing a punch but convincing you it’s your friend all the same.
It is brought out immediately and often, with great fanfare and pride for it is often homemade and has a story behind it. This, really, is the best part; who made it and how…where the recipe came from…how the ingredients were procured.
Cousin Frank and his wife, Heike shared a Hagebutten (Rosehip) schnapps that their good friends had made, alongside commercial peach and raspberry options and one that I remember tasting somewhat like Jaggermeister. All were delicious and sampled more than once!
Cousin Hanno told a grand tale of travelling to Italy on his motorbike and returning with jugs of 200 proof alcohol on the back of his bike; smuggling the goods across the border to have the best ingredients possible available for his homemade schnapps. I love this story and imagine him on some vintage motorcycle wearing goggles and a leather jacket with his scarf flapping in the breeze as he meanders across country with jugs of alcohol strapped on like paniers…of course it wasn’t like this at all…but a few schnapps in and you’ll believe me!
Enjoying schnapps is a large part of my memories of visiting Germany in 1986 with my family. Again lucky enough to be visiting friends, we were welcomed into their Kleingartensparte (allotment garden) complete with the cutest garden house ever, and toasted the evening away with peach schnapps. Hearing the ‘pop’ of the cork and the rousing ‘Prost’ cheer is a warm memory for me.
We don’t seem to have the same affinity for this type of drinking here in North America. Bringing out a bottle of this sort of liquor brings to mind doing ‘shots’ as a young drinker and seems much more vulgar than the civilized notion of schnapps.
I think I’m going to start a one woman campaign to change this. So, if you find yourself invited to my home in the future, you can expect a warm welcome and an offer of shnapps – hopefully complete with the story of how I made it myself.