Australians boast a proud tradition of being among the world’s most prodigious drinkers, and they will tell you that themselves if you ever raise a pint or twenty with them. These claims do have a basis in fact as a recent international survey has indeed named Australians as the heaviest drinkers in the world, spending more time under the influence in 2020 than any other nation, making the pub keepers and bartenders down under a very happy bunch!
Whilst Beer stands as the nation’s most popular tipple, there is a growing interest in wine, mixed drinks, and liquors like Schnapps, which has become a favourite of many celebrants. Schnapps is thought to have originated in another country that is known for its great fondness of alcohol, Germany, but it is made and enjoyed all throughout Europe, with many countries claiming it as their own invention! They even drink and produce it in America, although the classic version remains the styles made on the east side of the Atlantic.
So, what exactly is Schnapps? It is a distilled spirit, although the name now refers to two totally different types of liquor. The original version consists of fermenting fruit juices and the base liquor, almost a kind of fruit brandy, or eau de vie, the process resulting in a strong, often clear, distilled spirit, kind of like a subtly flavoured vodka.
On the other hand, the North American version is a category of sweetened liqueurs ranging in flavour from fruits like apples, to butterscotch, peppermint, and even root beer! Both types come in a variety of flavours, with European style usually consumed straight, while North American style generally serves as an ingredient in mixed drinks, not usually sipped on its own, an exception being little old ladies who hide their bottles behind the molasses in their cupboards when the grandchildren visit.
Back in Europe, Schnapps is most popular in Germany, where it was originally used for medicinal purposes, although some might argue that it still is. The German word “schnapps” originates from a loose translation of the term “snap,” referring to spirits with a strong potency. It is also commonly enjoyed in various countries such as Austria, Denmark, and Sweden, each with their own time-honoured traditional versions.
Fruit flavoured Schnapps like apricot (marillenschnaps), cherry (kirschwasser, or kirsh), and plum (zwetschgenwasser) are among the most well-known and popular flavours. Obstwasser is made from both apples and pears, and apfelkorn is a sweetened apple schnapps. Herbal spirits like Underberg and Jägermeister are also classified as schnapps. European styles offer an authentic fruit taste coupled with a quite potent 80-proof alcohol background, and tend to be dry with a clean finish.
In Australia, Schnapps is consumed in a variety of ways. It has become a favourite holiday tradition, there is just something about the drink that lends itself to the festivities. It can be enjoyed straight up with a bit of ice, or mixed in a cocktail, it’s good any way you pour it!