Dan Angelo, Vine & Table Spirits Specialist – The first cocktail book that I ever purchased was Ted Haig’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, one of the bibles of the cocktail revolution and a guidebook for the resurrection of pre-prohibition bar culture. In it, he makes no qualms about using hard to get, and often at that time, non-existent, ingredients, and his descriptions of the cocktails using them did much to reintroduce many products to the American market.
The recipe for the Vowel Cocktail captivated my interest. One of the ingredients, Kümmel, was not available in the U.S., but that did not stop me from asking Denis about it every few months. My repeated requests elicited the look that the stuff wasn’t available. This, of course, did nothing to dampen my resolve, and Kümmel became an obsession.
Fast forward a few years; French maker Combier reintroduced Kümmel to the western market, and because one of our specialties at Vine & Table is stocking hard to find spirits, we now have it!
Kümmel, originally of Dutch origin, is a liquor flavored with caraway, cumin, and fennel. Variations of spiced and herbed liquors are common throughout western and central Europe where they are valued for their “medicinal” powers. Typically drunk ice cold and straight, Kümmel spread northward and eastward, and now the largest consumer is Russia. For our purposes, however, the availability of this historically important spirit means that we have another ingredient in our cocktail quiver. The flavor is at once unusual and familiar. The spice is not overwhelming, and it is much more balanced than Amari and some of the other liquors that have become the darlings of the hipster crowd (I’m looking at you Fernet & Malort…).
In short, this is a bottle that not only deserves a place on your bar, it deserves a spot near the front.