Kirsch 8025092-10556582-thumbnail

Serve neat and at room temperature.

The heart may be a lonely hunter. But it is not the loneliest hunter. That distinction belongs to the man shivering on a Zurich street corner desperately seeking something to warm his freezing throat. Or rather, belonged.

Let me backtrack. How did I get on that corner in the middle of the coldest December in recent memory?Weather, mostly. Snow grounded me at the Flughafen just outside the city and thus I was left to scramble. Shouldn’t have been a problem. These kinds of things happen all the time. Less frequent, however, is being the victim of a mugging in the streets of Durban. Or at least I hope that is what happened. Regardless, I woke up without my wallet. Thank heavens my passport had been left in the hotel. So I was able to catch my flight. But then I was stuck. Now, one might think that of all places to be stuck in winter, Switzerland would be among the best. And normally it would be. Wonderful playground that Zurich is, it is not much without a single franc in my pocket. And so I stood there, and realized there was only one thing that could salvage this night.

Of course I speak of kirsch. Wonderfully bitter and burning through the throat, it would immediately sting the cold out of me. But still, the issue of how to purchase some remained. Luck must have been in that glacial air, for not ten minutes into my refrigeration, my deus ex machina pulled up. You have undoubtedly heard of the warmth of the Swiss people. And you undoubtedly know of the universal warmth of grandmothers. She drove an old mustard colored Mercedes with screeching brakes. Not that it mattered. Rolling down the window, she said, “Sind Sie kalt?” “Ja, natürlich” was the reply. Then she motioned with her hand and barked the most welcome words: “Dann kommen Sie mit.” And so I climbed into the car and was transported to exactly where I needed to be. She bought me dinner and all the requisite kirsch and for that I was eternally grateful. But by the end, a nagging question remained. I asked her, in my best Schweizerdeutsch, why she would do all this for a stranger like myself. Without missing a beat and in perfect English she replied, “Because you looked cold.”

Benjamin Riley