Kirschwasser is a very delicate and refined tasting cherry brandy. It is German for cherry water and is derived from morello cherries. There are many uses for this alcohol including filling chocolates, in Swiss cheese fondue, and of course for drinking.
Kirschwasser is commonly referred to as just Kirsch both in Germany and throughout the English-speaking world. It is a clear brandy that comes from double distilling morello cherries complete with the pit (or stone). There is a slight bitter-almond taste in the brandy that comes as a result of distilling these sour cherries with the stone still inside.
Morellos were grown in the Black Forest of Southern Germany, which is where Kirschwasser is believed to have originated from. The color of the brandy is completely void of color because it is not aged in wooden barrels like other brandy. Instead, it is aged in a barrel that is lined with a paraffin wax or in earthenware pottery.
It is also estimated that 22 pounds of cherries will go into making a single bottle of Kirschwasser. Throughout Germany, Austria and bordering countries, the art of making brandy is revered as very important. Kirsch is not always made with morellos as sometimes other cherries are substituted. The process will always be the same, however, in regards to the stones being left in and how the brandy is aged so as not to give it any color.
Kirsch can be enjoyed in many different ways. Since it is a very pure drink that isn't sweet, it won't always get paired with the same items that a regular brandy would. The two most commonly enjoyed cocktails that contain Kirschwasser.
The Lady Finger is made using 1 ounce of cherry brandy, 1 ounce of gin and half of an ounce of Kirsch. These are all shaken in a cocktail mixer together with ice and then strained.
The Florida Cocktail is made with Gin, Kirsch, lemon juice, orange juice and a shot of Triple Sec. The ingredients are combined in the same fashion and strained into a glass so it is served ice cold.
Depending upon where you go, you may see Kirschwasser served as an aperitif or a digestif. It will be served ice cold in a small glass. If you are in English-speaking countries, it will be an aperitif. If you are in a German area, however, it will be a digestif.
There is a difference between cherry brandy and Kirshwasser, despite what some people may tell you. The difference is that Kirsch is not sweet like these other brandies. That said, you will likely find it near all of the brandies in your local liquor store. If they don't have Kirsch, then you may need to look online for it. Whether you are buying it for your home or for your establishment, you will find that many people will love the taste of Kirsch once you finish explaining what it is and why it's so much different than other brandies.