Drinking the German Summer
Perhaps because Summer is such a short-lived, hard-earned novelty over here, the Germans go bananas when it comes and celebrate it in all manner of ways. They crack out their sandals, dust off their mini-portable grills and grill turkey breast and pork steaks like maniacs. They flock to parks and cafes with outdoor seating – indeed cafes you hitherto had no idea could actually have outdoor seating, manage to cram their portion of the pathway full of chairs (topped with the obligatory blanket in case the weather turns) and stay there until the sun starts to dip. Spring-time Spargel madness gives way to summer-time strawberry madness. People eat ice cream all the time.
But perhaps my favourite thing about summer here (sun, warmth, and general summer aspects aside) is the verve with which Germans create summer drinks. They’re prone to mixing drinks anyway, always up for a new, suspect combination – fruit beer, Spezi, anything kräuter ‘flavoured’ – and come summer, all bets are off. Particularly because a certain flower blooms at around this time, one that can be, and indeed is, popped into any beverage; the Elderflower, or Holünderblüte.
It is stinking hot here at the moment, down in our neck of the woods. Days are over 30, the nights are warm and stuffy. It’s the kind of weather that leads to eating nothing but watermelon all day and drinking litres and litres of liquid, any liquid. The weather, my general over consumption of all things Elderflower flavoured and the recent discovery of Fassbrause, which takes the edge of a 32 degree day like nothing else, has led me to contemplate and partake in, repeatedly, the staples of a German summer drinks menu. Here are my favourites:
What a drink. How I have not been drinking this for a longer time and in larger quantities, I don’t know. All I know is that after a brief, unknowing fling with it last year, I stumbled upon it essentially afresh this year – the summers that have occurred since my arriving in Germany were spent in Greece and then Sydney, so I am to be forgiven for my seemingly late discovery – and have made as good a friends with it, as I have my winter staple, Glühwein. Hugo is a heavenly mix of sekt, Elderflower cordial, soda and lime and mint. You can buy it at Aldi for 2€ or go gourmet and snap up a Käfer bottle for 3.50€.
I found this baby courtesy of a little drink envy. I had gone the old route of an apfelschorle while SG ordered this strange, dark, fizzy brew. I sampled some and immediately took it under my wing as a summer drink staple. Fassbrause is a sweet, spicy and refreshing drink traditionally made of malt extract, fruit and some spices and stored in a keg (for a dash of oaky flavour.) It’s sort of like lemonade meets beer meets apple meets a touch of spice meets refreshment.
The other day I happened upon a Veltins version flavoured with apple and kräuter (herbs), a paler brew but no less refreshing. Particularly if you add a splash of Elderflower cordial (a bottle of which is a summer pantry staple) and some fresh mint. Rendering it, as SG pointed out, essentially a Hugo.
I had a bit of a run-in with the old Aperol Spritz, a German summer stape, when I attended a (rather odd) party back in the Spring and the woman behind the makeshift bar was absolutely plastered and served me a glass of Aperol, a splash of prosecco and a cap full of soda water. I powered through the first few sips but soon returned to the bar and asked for a little more prosecco and upon doing so was told, conspiratorially that she, too, doesn’t like it so strong. It wasn’t strong, lady, it was pure Aperol, which is like licking the soil from which a citrus tree is sprouting.
Anyway, since then I haven’t quite been able to return to the Aperol Spritz, but am sure I one day will. Traditionally an Italian thing, the Germans have embraced the Aperol Spritz with serious vigour. It is a summer drink du jour and an extremely simple one at that. A glass of prosecco, a splash of Aperol and a topping of soda water. Dry, crisp and a little bit bitter.
The Classic Weißweinschorle
Although usually a wine purist and one who absolutely draws the line at Rotweinschorle because at no point in time, in no place, was red wine ever, ever supposed to be mixed with sparkling red wine, a Weißweinschorle I won’t say no to. This is particularly the case if the white wine is a cheap-ish pale-ish drop, say, for example, your classic 1.49€ Soave. On a hot, sticky summer’s day, when one cannot handle the full impact of an oaky chardonnay or tart sav blanc (there are such people around) half a glass of cheap-ish, pale-ish white wine topped up with half a glass of ice cold sparkling mineral water does quite nicely.
Radler//Alsterwasser//Becks & Lime
Beer purists, of which I am not one, will argue there are few beverages more refreshing on a scorching summer’s day than a beer. Sure. But for the less beery, or those who have an issue with a dry, beery mouth after a glass or two, there is always mixed beer. A Radler (Alsterwasser for the northerners) is just your classic shandy and Becks do great things with lime and lemon and, I believe, mint. Other options are, of course, cola beer and beer with various fruits, like prickly pear, but there’s no need to get too wild. Citrus generally suffices.
And my own concoction on this baking Sunday …
Strawberry, Elderflower, Watermelon & Mint Water
Take a jug, fill it with water and a healthy splash of Elderflower syrup. Chop up a solid couple of handfuls of strawberries. Juice half a watermelon and add. Pluck some mint leaves, tear up and pop in. Leave it in the fridge overnight to steep and get nice and cold. (You can, of course, keep topping up the mint and strawberries with water for a few rounds.)