Why: Don’t just take it from me, take it from the Berentzen website when translated from the German by Google: “You like crunchy fun in glass? You feierst in circles like nice people? And you love fruity, fresh pleasure? Then come into the world of Berentzen!” I do like crunchy fun in glass, I do feierst in circles like nice people, and I definitely love fruity, fresh pleasure. Berentzen’s apfelkorn whiskey provides that in spades. Remember how your grandparents tried to con you into believing that wine was “grown-up grape juice”? It isn’t, of course; wine is so much more complex than that. But apfelkorn really is grown-up apple juice, in that it eliminates the juice’s harsh bite and replaces it with a smooth whiskey glide. You can drink more of it than you can drink hard cider, and even more of it than you can drink apple juice, but watch out: It’s 20% stone-cold alcohol, and will knock you flat before you can blink.
Impact: Minimal. Apfelkorn is nominally a “Schnapps,” that evil category of bottled disasters such as Jägermeister and Goldschläger. But unlike most Schnapps, which are in the 32-40% alcohol range and thus have a razor edge, apfelkorn is just soft enough to feel more like a drink and less like a slap in the face. Thus, the primary Schnapps customer base, broke college kids, never bought into apfelkorn, so it remains a regional delicacy in Germany and the Low Countries.
Personal Connection: On the aforementioned 1990 trip to Europe, Lisa and I arrived in Marburg before my dad got off work at the university. So we hit a pub and asked for the local brew. Though I have consumed an oil tanker of alcohol, I have only been drunk three times in my life: once on Scrumpy Jack cider in Edinburgh, once on flaming zombies in Evansville, and once when we met my dad that day. Never saw it coming. That’s what apfelkorn is all about.
Other Contenders: Lindeman’s Framboise, a silky raspberry lambic that is my beverage of choice in most contexts; Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, a rich infused beer that blends well with Guinness to make a Chocolate-Covered Cherry; pretty much any ice wine, but I’m partial to the Chateau San Michelle Eroica Reisling Ice; the powerfully full-bodied Rodney Strong merlot; a simple Absolut screwdriver … and look, I told you I loved fruity, fresh pleasure.