What is Kirsch

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Kirsch may not be the most common alcohol at your local bar, but it is beloved in certain parts of the world.

What is Kirsch?

Kirsch is a clear liquor whose name means ‘cherry’ in German. It is also called ‘Kirschwasser’, which means ‘cherry water’. Due to this connection to cherry, many people wonder whether cherry brandy is the same as this alcohol, but there are distinct differences between kirsch and cherry brandy, and they are not interchangeable. To make kirschwasser, morello cherries are mashed with their stones and allowed to ferment, then distilled into a clear liquor that has the flavor of cherries, but is not sweet.

Cherry brandy, on the other hand, can contain artificial colors or sweeteners. This variety of brandy may be an amber liquor with a great flavor, or it could look (and taste) like cough syrup.

Kirsch Substitutes

There are a number of kirsch substitutes available if you don’t have this liquor on hand, although including this alcohol in a recipe doesn’t come up particularly often.

  • Fruit brandies or cognac: Use equal portions of these liquors for a similar result.
  • Vodka: Try a cherry-flavored vodka, but reduce any added sugar.
  • Cherry juice or apple juice: You’ll get the moisture and flavor, but should reduce any additional sugar in your recipe.
  • White wine: This is best used when making fondue. A dry white wine that is high in acid will help keep your fondue smooth and creamy.
  • Cherry syrup or cherry preserves: These are great in baking, particularly for treats like a black forest cake or a cherry tart.

Kirsch Uses

This alcohol is used in baking and enjoyed in a number of cocktails. It can be substituted in our daily diet with other alcohols when a chemical reaction or flambe is required, or with juices and syrups for cherry or fruit flavors.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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