High-end German spirits? (moved from International board)
I know, I know, Germany is all about beer, but there must be a whole class of distilled beverages as well.
Asbach I've heard of, but what else counts as an authentic German classic alcohol? Even more to the point, what are the best labels?
Go for locally produced Apple and Pear brandies. I've bought some in Lindau and in Dresden that were really great.
Yup! Primarily it's eaux-de-vie -- clear brandies distilled from the fruit itself, rather than "fruit flavored" brandies. Kirsch or Kirshwasser (cherry) is the best known German eau-de-vie, but there are of course many others -- blackberry, plum, apricot, strawberry, raspberry, and on and on and on . . .
I've always enjoyed Doornkat Schnaps and, for the really adventurous (if we count Austria in here), Stroh 80 rum (i.e.160 proof) is amusing as long as you can handle it and don't use it near open flames. No joke! It is lethal.
Liquor is very regional in the German speaking world, and often the local liquor is referred to as Schnaps, whatever it may be. In the south that could mean an Obstbrand or Obstgeist (the former being brandy distilled from fermented fruit, the latter being brandy that had fruit macerated in it then redistilled). Or even Bierschnaps, which is distilled beer (interesting, rarely good but sometimes amazing). One of my favorites is Haselnussschnaps, often found in Bavaria as Tresterbrand (essentially grappa) that had hazelnuts soaked in it, then redistilled. Dry, highly aromatic from all the hazelnut oil and the grappa flavors from the base spirit.
Magenbitter (aka Kräuterbitter aka Kräuterlikör) is the German variant of those bitter, herbal liquors found throughout Central Europe. At their best they're as good as the best Italian amari ... at their worst, well, that would be Jägermeister.
But the best answer is, try the local Schnaps and see if you like it. The locals will generally try to steer you towards the best their region has to offer.