Korn, or Breakfast Whisky

Schwarze Frühstückskorn 0,7L 32% vol.Korn is a German distilled alcohol made from grain, between 32-38% alcohol by volume. It’s got sort of a shady reputation as cheap rotgut — it’s not hard to make, and a bottle of average Korn costs well under €10.

It’s the kind of thing you see sold in tiny €1.99 bottles behind the counter of neighborhood shops — the “secret drinker” stash. You sometimes see people sitting on park benches openly drinking from bottles of Korn. These folks, unlike the beer drinkers, are in the very lists of dissolution. If you hang around all day in public drinking 12-15 bottles of 38-cent Oettinger beer, you’re part of the Trinkerszene: the ‘Drinkers’ Scene’, a rowdy but generally harmless addition to any neighborhood.

If you hang around all day in public drinking Korn, you’re slid down several levels from the Drinkers’ Scene, who themselves may shake their heads in disapproval at you. One fine Sunday morning I was on the way to visit a friend and encountered a drunk guy collapsed face-down on the pavement in front of my apartment building. He had just fallen straight down face-first, nearly breaking his nose, and lay there like a beached seal. As we lifted him and and propped him up, waiting for the ambulance, we saw he had collapsed directly onto the bottle of booze he’d been drinking. Which was, of course, Korn.

So it was with some trepidation that I bought a bottle of Korn the other day out of curiosity. I chose a brand manufactured by the Schwarze distillery called Frühstücks-Korn, or “Breakfast Korn“. You can choose to see this either as amusing or horrifyingly cynical. “You’re just trying something new”, I repeated to myself as I poured the first shot. “It’s a traditional German drink going back to the 15th century,” I said to myself as I poured the second shot. “You’re more or less solvent and employed. You are not an alcoholic, or at least you’re not hanging around in parks all day yet,” I said as I poured the third shot.

My verdict? Korn is tasty! It’s incredibly smooth, almost flavorless, with only a touch of appealingly earthy graininess to it, like chewing on a grass stalk. Frankly, it’s so smoothly drinkable it’s a bit dangerous: there are no acids, zippy congeners or high-proof throat-fire to remind you you’re drinking hard stuff.

I’m still a whisky man, first and foremost, but I will certainly try out of a bottle of Korn once in a while, to pay homage to a noble and ancient German distilling tradition. And get pie-eyed for cheap.

3 thoughts on “Korn, or Breakfast Whisky

  1. I don’t have visited a Pub for decades. But when I was young, it was a very custom for some adults, sitting on a stool at the counter, to order a “Herrengedeck”. I’leave the translation to you, the pro. That Herrengedeck was a Beer – and a Korn.

    At the time, the sight of this made me shudder. Even more, when some hardboiled guests poured the Korn straight into the Beer, before drinking it.

    A few years ago, when a bottle of Korn lost its way and made it to my home, I got curious. The taste I liked. While getting sentimental and reminding my youth, I helped myself by doing the trick with the beer. I was shocked. Tasty as hell. If you like “Starkbier”, you won’t be disappointed. This works well also with a straight Wodka. If I ever got marooned in a pub, I’ll order that.

    If you really buy another bottle, you might take a “Doppelkorn” into consideration. 38 rev/min, instead of 32, the breakfast variety. I can recommend the “Nordhäuser” – the only Doppelkorn I ever tried.


  2. Is it always clear? A few years ago in Berlin (work related) I was looking for liquid refreshment and ended up buying a small flask at a produce place (run I think by a Vietnamese gentleman). I remember the word Korn but it was pale brown and not clear. I remember it much as you describe, very smooth and drinkable with a very mild grainy flavor.


  3. Almost always clear. The only colored Korn I ever saw is a “Apfelkorn”. If you are eager to get the perfect hangover, drink half a bottle of that. It is an apple-flavored, sweetened Korn.

    And then there is “Kümmel” or “Köm”, a northern German Korn/Aquavit, spiced with caraway. These are indeed tanned.

    But all this is probably not what you drank. I live in Berlin, but never saw a tanned Korn. But I’m not after small bottles. 🙂


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