“You’re supposed to feel the burn,” says Elske bar director Jake Kelly as he pours roasted apple schnapps into a frozen glass. It’s rich and sweet, and, yes, it burns a little, but it’s exactly the kind of bracing liqueur that can fortify you on a cold winter day.
Schnapps isn’t just for getting toasted, though — it pairs well with food, and Kelly suggests doing as the Danes do and ordering a glass ($6) at the beginning of the meal. “You can set it in the corner of the table and revisit it throughout the meal with tiny sips,” he says.
Kelly makes small batches of schnapps by infusing vodka or gin with fruit and herbs, then adding sugar and water to bring the flavors into balance. He often selects ingredients that would normally be tossed, like the cores and skins from the hearth-roasted apples that chef David Posey uses in a pork belly dish, or produce that the chefs can’t use up, which is how Kelly came to make a grassy schnapps from young rhubarb.
Since schnapps keeps well, Kelly not only offers wintry flavors like earthy matsutake mushroom, bright dill, and tart Concord grape at the moment, but has also introduced versions made with fruits that have been out of season for months. “We can preserve summer and bring it into winter,” Kelly says. “It’s nice to taste a strawberry in January.”