Caution: Flames are involved.
Located smack in the middle of Riesling country — that precise region along the banks of the Rhine where Riesling grapes grow in abundance — you’ll find Rüdesheim, Germany. And, while the Riesling produced here is the best in the world, the one drink you definitely should not miss is the one drink you’ve probably never even heard of: Rüdesheim Coffee.
To be honest, until my ship docked here, I’d never heard of it either. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Louisa’s careful briefing during our ship talk the day before, I might have missed it entirely.
So, what is Rüdesheim Coffee exactly and how did it become so famous?
In 1892, Hugo Asbach began making brandy here, a brandy that he promised would rival the best French cognac. And, over the years, the business had its ups and downs. That tends to happen when two world wars are fought back to back… in your front yard, in your backyard and in your neighbor’s yard. But, while Europe was patching itself together during the 1950s, a chef by the name of Hans Karl Adam came up with the remarkable idea to combine the brandy with the coffee and then to sweeten it with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, thereby creating this delightful drink!
To me, though, what makes the coffee so flavorful and such a fun part of your visit to Rüdesheim is watching the coffee-making process itself. After a short ride into town from my ship, I immediately set off to find two things: Chimney Cake, which will be discussed in a subsequent post, and Rüdesheim Coffee. And I’m thrilled to report that I was highly-successful on both fronts!
After a short stroll along this crazy, winding alleyway called the Drosselgasse, which is arguably the best-known street in all of Germany, I found the most charming little cafe, which proved to be the perfect setting for my culinary adventure!
After seating me at a corner table, my waiter approached with a tray of cups and saucers that are unique to Rüdesheim and are available for purchase in the shop (yes, I purchased!). Beautifully designed, these cups are narrow at the bottom and have no handles. Yay! I love cups with no handles!
Next, he began the coffee-making ceremony by placing three sugar cubes in the bottom of each cup and adding brandy until the cup was about a third of the way full. And then he lit it on fire! Strong coffee is added next, which is then followed by a huge dollop of real whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
Not surprisingly, Asbach brandy has won a slew of awards and is one of Germany’s most famous spirits. While I am neither a big coffee drinker nor a fan of brandy, I must admit that I enjoyed my Rüdesheim Coffee. But I think what I enjoyed the most was the tradition and showmanship my server demonstrated with the coffee-making process. Certainly, it’s a touristy thing to do while visiting Rüdesheim, but I was told by the Germans seated next to me that this is also a drink the locals enjoy in the privacy of their own home, long after the tourists are gone. Bravo, Hans. Bravo.
Ready to book YOUR trip to River Cruise to Rüdesheim? Hit me up because I know Germany! (Fun fact: I was born in the Black Forest.)