Sunday, February 27, 2005


It’s not often a bottle of liquor will set me to reminiscing, but it can happen.

I spent last weekend in the North Georgia mountains at a religious retreat with a Buncha Guys. Evening activities at these affairs generally involve the consumption of large quantities of Adult Beverages, and Saturday night, once the Sabbath prohibition against kindling fire is over, the campfire gets fired up and the cigars come out.

The variety of said Adult Beverages is enormous, ranging from the sublime (Booker Noe’s bourbon, The Balvenie DoubleWood single malt Scotch) to the ridiculous (Smirnoff Orange Twist Vodka). No matter - it all finds a happy home in someone’s gullet. Things typically don’t get excessively rowdy, but everyone has a good time, in the process jacking up the BAC to the point where there’s little risk of freezing to death.

This year, someone brought an old bottle that must have been lurking in the back of the Old Lacquer Liquor Locker. A bottle of Peter Heering’s fine Danish cherry liqueur.

You can go to any reasonably well-provisioned Booze Shoppe and find Peter Heering, AKA Cherry Heering. It’s in the cordial section, right there amongst the Grand Marnier, the Drambuie, the Cointreau, the Amaretto di Saronno - all of those sweet desserty-type drinks. It’s a fine after-dinner drink, although there are many who find the taste disturbingly reminiscent of cough syrup. Good cough syrup.

This bottle, however, had to be upwards of twenty or thirty years old, which made me think back to the days when it was new...and before. The old men who drank it back then (well, they seemed old to us) used to call the stuff “Cherry Herring.” Whether they were trying to be funny, or whether it was a mispronunciation born out of the similarity between the words “Heering” and “Herring,” it’s the name I grew up hearing.

How nice to see it on an old bottle again, where it could bring back memories of Sunday afternoons visiting the grandparents. Sometimes, on those Sundays, my Dad and his father would enjoy a postprandial schnapps - Cherry Heering, like as not. And sometimes they would let me have a taste, in a thick-walled cordial glass that held a mere thimbleful. It was like being let in on the Great Secret of the Brotherhood of Men.

I’m not sure there really is a secret, aside from “pissing standing up is great, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” But I’ll toast those memories anyway, with a shot of “Cherry Herring.”

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