I am on a bit of a bartender’s handshake kick. Like so many other things in life that I found myself unable to properly appreciate, I am suddenly and inexplicably enamored with bitter liqueurs. Perhaps it is as the bard said, “doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.” Perhaps it started with that bottle of Cynar or the Branca Menta I felt in love with, whatever the cause, I am drawn toward the darker, more herbal side of drinking. Since, I was making friends with more bitter drinks, I decided to revisit one I did not care for at all the first time I experimented with it. So grab your Underberg and join me as we stand and make, the Kräuter Sauer.
I was first introduced to Underberg by a bartender in Munich, several years ago. It has a unique flavor, very herbal. Of course, all I could taste was the licorice. I hate licorice. I choked it down, said “Danke” and moved on to something more my speed. At the duty free shop on the way home, I bought the obligatory gift pack of 12 individually wrapped bottles and rained them down on friends, but I did not sample them again. A few weeks ago, Laura and I were at the liquor store stocking up and I saw that beautiful, paper-wrapped, wee little, baby bottle, false nostalgia got the best of me and I bought it. I finally decided to see if there was an interesting cocktail to use it in and I stumbled across this curious little drink that is essentially an Underberg Vermouth Sour.
Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of Dry Vermouth, I went with Dolin Blanc, because that’s what I had; a full bottle of Underberg, all 20ml of it; 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice and 3/4 an ounce of simple syrup. Add ice and shake to the beat of the guitar riff in “Du Hast”. I know that seems a little harsh, but as long as you do it with love and respect, the drink will thank you. Now that “you have” shaken your beverage, double strain into a chilled Nick and Nora Glass, garnish with an expressed lemon twist and serve.
I am shocked at how good this drink is and, more than that, how much it changes as it warms. This drink went through three distinct flavor profiles starting herbal and bitter, passing through a floral citrus mode and into an almost chocolatey finish. Seriously, Laura and I kept looking at each other, doubting what was going on. So very good, at every stage. We made another and it happened again. I cannot wait to experiment with this one some more. I just want to see if it was a fluke, maybe brought on by our vermouth being on the outside of its shelf life. Whatever is going on in this glass is truly amazing. This one is definitely worth making and they are low-test so you can drink a bunch of them. Technically, this drink is actually a shim, that’s just a fancy word for a low alcohol cocktail. I am not going to hold that against it, though. This drink is really wonderful. I am going to go make another, for science. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.