Christmas markets fit for a king


©Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board, Photo: Philipp von Saalfeld

©Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board, Photo: Philipp von Saalfeld

If you’re heading to Europe’s Christmas markets this year, our spirits specialist Ronnie Cox has an essential item for your packing list…

As I wandered with some local friends through the Christmas Market in Frankfurt last weekend,marvelling at the delights of the Christmas produce, I recalled that John Knox was once sent here on the instructions of John Calvin to look after persecuted Protestant English. He didn’t stay long. In fact he was asked to leave. From several counties.

Of course, lots has changed in Frankfurt since then but they’ve been careful to retain the medieval towers marking the boundaries of this ancient city. In sub-zero temperatures and in sight of one of these towers I purchased a little Glüwein. We added a judicious slug of The King’s Ginger (from an ever-present King’s Ginger Liqueur miniature) to the steaming polystyrene cup and tried to forget the cold. Before long all four of us were in agreement that the temperature had risen. Ginger seems to do this and in combination with Holland’s best neutral alcohol and in the presence of the uplifting lemon oils and a drop of Glenrothes 1988, the King’s Ginger Liqueur delivers seductive aromas and a deliciously mouth-watering succulence. Could it be that the wine had helped as a carrier? John Knox was a fellow Scot and with the warming ‘assistance’ I could imagine his leather flask carrying the spirit of Scotland for just such an occasion. Surreptitiously, of course. He could have done with some ginger, no doubt.

It is, perhaps, a little known fact that King Edward VII the eldest son of Queen Victoria was an honorary Admiral of the German fleet and, in return he made Kaiser William II an honorary Field Marshall in the British Army. If only he had know what card history was to deal. The King’s love of things German was renowned. He owned eight Daimlers and it was he who popularised the ‘horseless carriage’ at the turn of the 20th century. He seemed to be thrilled by speed, and while the limit was 20mph in the surrounds of St James’s I have a feeling that a gentle umbrella tap on the chauffeur’s bowler might have encouraged him to increase the revs. After all it would then take a Derby-winning mounted policeman to catch him.

It was after one such excursion in winter that his physician came to Berry Bros. & Rudd to request a restorative – a revivifier for the King who, he suggested, might succumb to the consequences of the wind-chill factor. Both were customers and knew that we would provide something suitable. Henry Berry produced the original brandy and ginger cordial known as “Ginger Brandy – Special Liqueur” which in 1934 was renamed The King’s Ginger Liqueur in King Edward’s honour and it became the preserve of only those ‘in the know’.

An early bottling of King's Ginger

An early bottling of King’s Ginger

Understated, with half the sugar of most others and at a strength of 41 percent it today delivers what it says on the bottle. It is the most perfect winter outdoor drink but it is incredibly versatile and is now being used by the most avant-guard of bartenders alongside those of more classic training. Designer cocktail specialists love it; it makes a fabulous Ginger Mac (mix The King’s Ginger with The Glenrothes Select Reserve in 50/50 measures) often used to keep the symptoms of a chill at bay; try a little in the glass before the addition of Champagne. It should warm up any Christmas gathering.

Whilst John Knox might wiggle a cautionary finger, had it not been for the Germans and their Daimler cars we might never had had the opportunity to enjoy this wonderfully uplifting Liqueur, without which the Christmas Market in Frankfurt would have been a distinctly less festive place.