Every once in a while it's nice to sip on a digestif (or digestivo, if you're Italian) after a hearty meal. Digestifs are traditionally slightly higher in alcohol content than aperitifs, and are meant to aid digestion. One of my favorites is Kümmel, an often overlooked liqueur infused with savory herbs. Had it and liked it? Try this recipe out--it's easy to make, and far less expensive than even the cheapest Kümmels on the market. Never had it? Try something new!
First, a brief history of the drink. It is said to have originated in 1575 at the Lucas Bols distillery in Amsterdam (still in operation today). It began to gain in popularity when Peter the Great took it back to Russia in 1696, and it eventually spread to other eastern European countries. Russia is now the primary producer and consumer of Kümmel, although there are very good products coming out of both France and Germany. It is apparently very popular at golf clubs throughout the UK, taken before a round of golf. There are several different variations on the recipe, but historically the herbs used were caraway seed, cumin and fennel.
For my recipe I use:
- 2 Tablespoons caraway seed
- 1 Tablespoon cumin seed
- 1 Tablespoon fennel seed
- ~650 ml 80 proof vodka (I like to use Hope Organic Vodka)
- 1/3 Cup (about 85ml) honey
Add the seeds to the vodka (you can mash them up a bit first, but it's not essential), cover and let it infuse for anywhere between 3-6 weeks depending on how strong you want the final product. Make sure to shake the bottle every few days in order to extract all the flavor. Once the mixture has infused long enough, strain out the seeds, add the honey and shake vigorously until all the honey is incorporated.
That's it, you're done! While it's quick and easy to prepare, the hard part is having to wait to taste your Kümmel while it's infusing. Feel free to try your own variations on the ingredients. Some common additions/substitutions are star anise, lemon peel or orange peel (dried). I made a batch using caraway, cumin, fennel, dill seed and half of a vanilla pod--it was delicious! I don't like mine too sweet, so for me the above ratio of alcohol to honey is perfect. If you want it more/less sweet, just vary the amount of honey. This recipe is also a little heavier on caraway flavor, which I feel makes it that much more unique; but it can be an acquired taste.
Kümmel is most often used as an ingredient in a cocktail but it is quite good served neat, or straight up (shaken with ice and strained) if you prefer it cold. Experiment and have fun!
Thank you to Jessica for letting me share one of my favorite recipes! I can definitely imagine the people of Devya from Chasing Ravens drinking something like this...