Well, maybe a little shame. But it’s been 30 years since the introduction in North America of the hundred-proof shooter Rumple Minze, which rescued schnapps from girly-drink purgatory.
In those days, peach schnapps and the Fuzzy Navel were the fashion. DeKuyper’s Peachtree Schnapps (at a meager 48 proof) was the hot seller, moving over a million cases of its dubious product in the mid-1980s.
Along came Rumple Minze Peppermint Schnapps, at that time imported from West Germany by Paddington Corporation. Billed as “white magic from the Black Forest” and “the taste beyond bold,” it had a far higher ABV than typical schnapps, and sold in slick-looking bottles with black and gold labels featuring a double-headed eagle. Minze also got heavy advertising support in the early days, usually in men’s magazines like Playboy and Field & Stream. The (excellent) artwork always had the same theme: an armored, Teutonic warrior-maiden riding a polar bear. The not-so-subtle message: Here’s a schnapps that serious drinkers can order without shame.
Message received. From 60,000 cases when it debuted, Rumple Minze doubled its output the next year and only went up from there. A sign of its success is that drinks-titan Diageo bought it out in the 1990s, and still owns the label today. Sadly, they don’t advertise it any more (although the bottles at least remain unchanged). It also may no longer come from Germany. Where once the labels touted its Germanic origins, they now say only, “crafted with imported flavor,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
It tastes like a handful of candy canes shoved in your mouth, so it’s appropriate to the season. It’s very sweet, which masks the alcohol, and it’ll probably give you a headache in the morning. It’s not cheap. But if schnapps it must be, you could do far worse than old friend Rumple Minze.