Monday, December 11, 2017

Isherwood's Berlin Stories with Kümmel

Until Meg pointed me in a different Direction I had associated Kümmel with Silver Bullet and Silver Streak Cocktails along with a sort of pre war glamour not unlinked with the classic Mercedes Silver Arrow racing cars (it's all the Silver that does it). Those cocktails don't seem right for the coldest night in years though, when I'm writing this hunched over a candle and next to a heater, trying not to melt my iPad, like some latter day Bob Cratchit (muffler in place, fingerless gloves about to be fetched).

Kümmel is a sweet and sticky colourless liqueur flavoured with caraway, cumin, and fennel which gives it an aniseed edge, but nowhere near as pronounced as the aniseed notes of Pastis. I find the the flavour of Pastis overpowering, but the gentler caraway of Kümmel appeals to me (not to my mother or partner who both declared it the most disgusting thing they'd ever tried - either a gross exaggeration or they've been lucky) and it's sweetness is a definite benefit in cocktail making.

Still there's that line about kümmel on the handle of the door, and it so beautifully sums up the morning after the night before feeling of seedy excess. Kümmel seems to have originated in Holland before making a hit in Germany and Russia, its Germany that is now the principle producer and consumer of it. The cold certainly makes consuming it in shots, schnapps style, attractive (having to get up for work in the morning does not, common sense prevails).

It's also making me think of Christopher Isherwood, or more specifically, Sally Bowles, along with sticky nightclub floors, hangovers, and regrets. It's a shame Kümmel is relatively tricky to find (though apparently it's popular in golf clubs - can anybody confirm that?) because it is quite a particular flavour, the sort you should try before you buy. If you do find you like it though, it's well worth having around. I'll certainly have a glass of it to hand next time I watch Cabaret.


  1. I like the taste of aniseed and liquorice so I might enjoy that. What would one mix with it?

    1. Gin! In equal parts for a silver streak, or add lemon juice (same ratio) as well and you have a silver bullet. Or drink on its own like a schnapps. I'm not sure how well it would work as a long drink, but you could always experiment.