Berentzen Apple and Pear Liqueurs

Today I’m looking at apple and pear liqueurs from Berentzen, a German distiller founded in 1758 in Haselünne. In 1976 they started blending their wheat distillate with various fruit juices to create liqueurs. Both the apple and pear liqueurs are a blend of wheat-based neutral grains spirits and fresh apple and pear juice, respectively.  Neither the apple nor the pear is an infusion, where the fruit soaks in high-proof alcohol to absorb the flavor before dilution to the final proof. Some sources refer to the apple and pear liqueurs as schnapps, but schnapps has different meanings in different contexts (some of those not so positive, if you’ve ever been a freshman in college), so liqueur is the better term here.

You may have seen the apple liqueur referred to as Apfelkorn, korn meaning “grain” in German. I’m told that Apfelkorn and apple liqueur are the same product, however. In addition to the apple and pear liqueurs, Berentzen produces other spirits including a cherry liqueur, a bourbon/apple liqueur hybrid, and a high-proof mint schnapps – yes, actual schnapps in this case.
I have to confess, when I first heard about the apple and pear liqueurs, my thought was they might be overly sweet and syrupy thick. However, upon receiving bottles of each from Berentzen, I was pleasantly surprised to find they were very reasonably balanced – not tart at all, and just sweet enough to make them pleasing to sip straight.
The apple liqueur, which retails for around $20, is clear and medium brown in hue. Taste-wise it’s akin to a clear, sweet cider. The taste seems reasonably authentic and the twenty percent alcohol is barely noticeable. Consistency-wise, it’s equivalent to apple juice, as you’d expect given its ingredients. There is a touch of caramel coloring added for consistency.
The pear liqueur, which retails for around $24, is very slightly cloudy — I noticed a few, very tiny particles, presumably pear, floating in the bottle. The taste seems reasonably true to my perception of pear juice. At fifteen percent alcohol, it has less punch than the apple, but the alcohol content is a hair more noticeable, although nothing close to a burn. The consistency is the same as the apple liqueur, i.e., not particularly thick.
Depending on your tastes and availability of other ingredients, you could easily chill a bit of either and sip them straight. Conceptually they’re not terribly different than adding a bit of high-proof vodka to your favorite juice (hopefully natural and organic) to give it a bit of a kick. You could also add a bit to a glass of sparkling wine to add a nice additional flavor element.
More interesting to a wonk like me is how these liqueurs can be used in cocktails. Berentzen’s website offers a variety of recipes which are somewhat predictable, e.g. the Kentucky Apple; I wanted to use these products in a less-obvious fashion.
When I first started experimenting with recipes, I thought 0.5 to 1 oz of the Berentzen liqueurs in conjunction with 1.5 or 2 ounces of 80 proof base spirit would be a good starting point. However, I found that while the fruit liqueurs have a good flavor intensity on their own, the flavor gets lost when mixed with significantly more base spirit. At roughly equal amounts of base spirit and fruit liqueur, I found a good balance; this also corresponds with what I had seen in Berentzen’s suggested recipes.
With the apple liqueur, I targeted a match-up of the apple with complex herbal flavors. Berentzen is German, and Germany’s nearby eastern European countries specialize in just the type of herbal bitter spirits fitting that flavor profile. Two that worked well are the Czechoslovakian Becherovka and Hungarian Zwack. For the Zwack, I started with 1:1 ratios, but found that upping the Zwack yielded more interesting results.
Appleovka

  • 1 oz Becherovka
  • 1 oz Berentzen Apple liqueur

Stir over ice, strain into chilled coupe. Cut a spiral lemon twist over the glass, then add twist as garnish.

Applezwack

  • 1.25 oz Zwack
  • 0.75 oz Berentzen Apple liqueur
Stir over ice, strain into chilled coupe. Cut a spiral lemon twist over the glass, then add twist as garnish.
Pear on Fire
I’m a big fan of the smokiness of mezcal combined with pear. For the pear liqueur I found this to sour-pattern variation works well:

  • 1.5 oz mezcal (I used Wahaka Joven Espadin)
  • 1.5 oz Berentzen Pear liqueur
  • 0.25 oz lemon juice
Shake over ice, strain into chilled coupe.

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