What is it about light, crisp libations that make them so perfect for summer. Many classics are notorious for how well they can stand up to the heat: the Pimm's Cup, the Sherry Cobbler, the Americano, or almost any aperitif on the rocks. Whether based on fortified wine or smoothed out in a long drink, these drinks offer flavor without all of the booziness of stronger cocktails. They are true session beverages, if we may borrow the lingo of brewers, like a wonderful punch. Lower in strength, they are perfect all day beverages, if only hypothetically. I know few things as thirst-quenching as a nice sangria or Rose when the temperatures soar. Even an ice cold Peroni or Asahi will do--bubbly and dry with just a hint of bitterness. The Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup easily falls into this category, as it is a sort of riff on sangria with its wine, brandy, and fruit. Even Charles Baker notes that it would be "doubly nice on a hot summer's day." Perhaps his mention of "doubly" is linked with the size of this drink; though Baker drinks tend to come in large proportions, this one is the largest calling for half a bottle of Rhine wine.
Unfortunately for me, I came upon the BB Cup, as I have taken to calling it, when the temperature outside was barely clearing 50 degrees and clouds lined the sky. I think it even rained. Cold, damp, dark was not what this drink was meant for. Alas, the downside of traveling through Jigger, Beaker, and Flask in a linear fashion is that certain drinks will be unseasonable. In the dead of August, I will probably be constructing hot punches. C'est la vie.
Muddle strawberries with sugar and chill. Fill large chilled goblet one-third full of cracked ice. Add Riesling and kirschwasser. Stir lightly. Carefully spoon in strawberries, about 1 1/2 tablespoons total.
The aroma was full of the characteristic nutty, flavors of the kirsch. On the first taste, though, it was the tartness of the wine that was most prevalent. The cherry notes of the kirsch became more apparent near the end of each sip. While each sip was dry and refreshing, the Riesling's acidity accumulated as I progressed. This fact made the first half much more interesting than the second. As the drink warmed up, more of the woody notes came across. The kirsch went extremely well with the dry wine though, which gave me hope that this drink could be improved. The strawberries added a nice touch once they were in range; they had sunk to the bottom of the glass. I am not completely sure if Baker meant for the muddled strawberry component to be a floating garnish, but mine refused to linger on the surface. Perhaps if they had, the strawberries would have contributed more of a presence throughout. As it was, I simply spooned them out after about two-thirds of the way through the drink
I was very interested in this libation, though curious is probably a better word. It was a new experience because I had never tasted Riesling before. Picking one out wasn't all that hard, but I did choose a dry Riesling to ensure that the drink would be appropriate for a hot day. The kirsch-Riesling combination didn't seem all that weird considering that they are produced in the same part of the world. All in all, the shortcomings of the Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup were few. The wine's acidity was too strong, and the strawberries were not used to good effect. In order to tame some of the acidity, I decided to use strawberry liqueur in place of the actual fruit. I thought the increased sugar content might help soften the tannins. Also, by lengthening the drink with club soda into a sort of spritzer, I hoped to mellow out the some of the Riesling's boldness while still staying true to the original ingredients.
Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup (adapted)
3 ounces Dry Riesling
3/4 ounce kirschwasser
3/4 ounce creme de fraise
1 1/2 ounces club soda
Stir first three ingredients with ice in a mixing glass for about 15-20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a slice of strawberry.
The strawberry garnish mingled with the nuttiness of the kirsch combined to greet my nose. The drink was still quite tart and had that customary woody, cherry note at the end of each sip. By adding the club soda, the drink gained a pleasant effervescence that further highlighted the intersection of the Riesling and the kirsch. The creme de fraise contributed a nice berry note that was provided more of a balance to the dryness of the wine. The tannins were still present on the swallow, but they seemed more subdued. The strawberry flavors of the creme de fraise were most apparent on the after taste. I found this drink more refreshing as the new elements helped balance out the strong wine flavors and contributed to an even better summer spritzer.