What is Kirsch?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Short for kirschwasser, which is literally translated as cherry water, kirsch is a cherry brandy that is made by using a method of double distillation. The black cherry is the fruit of choice for the fermentation and distillation process, producing a brandy that has a robust flavor without a hint of sweetness. This characteristic helps to set kirsch apart from cherry liqueur, which is usually very sweet.

Kirsch is traditionally aged in wooden barrels.
Kirsch is traditionally aged in wooden barrels.

Traditionally, kirsch is aged in barrels that are made of ash wood. The combination of the distillation process and the type of container used in the aging of the fermented juice help to provide a finished product that is almost colorless. While both sweet and sour cherries are used today, the original formula involved the morello cherry, which is known for its tart and sour taste. Because the morello cherry originally was grown in the are surrounding the Black Forest in the southern portion of Germany, it is believed that kirsch originated in that area.

Morello cherries are dark and tart.
Morello cherries are dark and tart.

Kirsch is sometimes served on its own, as an aperitif. The cherry brand is also often used as an element in a number of different mixed drinks, such as the Black Forest, the Lady Finger, and the Florida Cocktail. Like the sweeter cherry liqueur, kirsch can also be used to add a touch of flavor to coffee.

Among the other applications of kirsch is in recipes that involve mixing the sweet with the sour. Often, kirsch will be paired with chocolate, as a means of not only enhancing the taste of the sweet, but also toning down the sugary taste. Many chocolate manufacturers employ a liquid center to chocolate creations that is made with kirsch. Many types of Swiss fondue dishes also make use of kirsch as a way of adding some zest to any sauce brewed in a fondue pot. The German favorite, Black Forest gateau, also includes kirsch among the essential ingredients.

Kirsch is used in a variety of mixed drinks.
Kirsch is used in a variety of mixed drinks.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I've actually had a Lady Finger once before, so I guess maybe I've had kirsch? I'm not sure. I know I've never seen kirsch at any liquor stores in my area, but then again, I've never looked for it either.

Either way, I liked the Lady Finger, and I would definitely have it again. So I would probably like kirsch on its own too.

And I have to say, I would love to have this stuff with chocolate. Chocolate and cherry taste delicious together, and the fact that it's alcohol is just an added bonus!


@ceilingcat - My family is German, so I've tried kirsch several times before. It really is good, and definitely way better than any cherry liqueur. You have to be careful you don't drink too much of if though. It's pretty strong!

I know a lot of people get in trouble with drinks that are tasty and strong, because you want to keep drinking them. Then, before you know it, you're more intoxicated than you intended. So definitely take it slow whenever you decide to try kirsch.


Kirsch sounds delicious! I really like cherry, but I can't stand the sugary sweetness of most cherry liqueurs. I think kirsch would be a nice alternative to cherry liqueur. You would get the cherry flavor, but not all the sugar.

I think this stuff sounds like it would be great with chocolate, but I could probably drink it on its own also. I'm definitely going to look for this stuff next time I go to the liquor store. I like to try new things, so I definitely can't pass this up.


@FernValley, I have had the same problem with some chocolates, not so much kirsch as the kinds that are made with rum added. As someone who doesn't actually drink alcohol, I have almost no tolerance.

For that reason, I prefer to use things like kirsch in baked goods like cakes or even cookies, where you can taste the delicious cherry, but most of the alcohol evaporates in the cooking process.


I really enjoy chocolates with kirsch in them, but some can be a little bit too strongly concentrated, especially chocolates from Europe. You wouldn't think it would be possible to get "drunk" from chocolates, but sometimes it actually seems possible!

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