This series will highlight the spirits of golf – the history, brands, players and drinks that have contributed to the enjoyment of the game
It’s been said that there is more Kummel (Kümmel, Kimmel) consumed among the golf clubs of Scotland than the rest of the world combined – and of that three places – Prestwick, Muirfield and the clubs of St Andrews – consume most of that.
We have a beer here in the States called St. Pauli Girl and for years their clever, slightly cheeky slogan was – “You’ll never forget your first girl.”
I feel the same way about my first kummel, which appropriately enough was at Muirfield. It was also about 20 years ago that meant that I couldn’t enjoy it within the confines of the dining room after a lovely roast lunch, but rather by my host member bringing it to me on the front lawn. Didn’t matter, from my first sip of the ice-cold, thick syrupy, silver liquid I was hooked.
I really learned to enjoy the benefits of Kummel and perhaps why it became so popular at golf clubs throughout GB&I and gentleman’s clubs in London, after many long and hearty lunches with my great friend, the late Charles Philip at Panmure GC.
Perhaps it has never really caught on here in the US where the preferred after round meal is a club sandwich and chips with beer versus your proper three course affair, followed by another 18 in the elements.
The mixture, depending on the manufacturer is an herbal mix of primarily caraway (Kummel means caraway), anise, cumin, fennel and orange and lemon peel. It is said to possess medicinal properties that not only settle one’s stomach but also calm nerves. Hence its nickname – “The Putting Mixture.”
Thought to have been invented in the late 16th century and was primarily prominent and produced in the Baltic States, Denmark and Holland, Kummel is now mainly produced in Germany, France and England.
It gained favour in golf clubs throughout the UK in the 1930s and really took hold across Scottish clubs, especially Prestwick and Muirfield.
There are four major brands Mentzendorff, Wolfschmidt, Bols and Gilka.
Why is Kummel so popular?
Prestwick members consume more kummel than any other single outlet and their preferred brand is Mentzendorff with slightly more cumin notes than rival brand Wolfschmidt – Muirfield’s preferred tibble.
Ken Goodwin, Prestwick’s secretary, relayed that on a busy member day the club can go through up to 10 bottles. They serve it at room temperature in a liqueur glass filled to the brim, or at room temperature over ice in a cocktail glass, referred to as a “cloudy.”
For those that prefer it to start chilled they also keep bottles in the fridge from which shots are again served filled to the rim of a liqueur glass.
The members also maintain that on cold days rubbing a little on your hands before afternoon foursomes will improve your grip.
In the annual cross country tournament between Prestwick and Troon (the courses actually border each other) it is advantageous if you are competitive to start at Prestwick and lunch at Troon before returning as those beginning at Troon and then lunching at Prestwick sometimes have a hard time finding the route home after too many kummels.
I like my kummel ice-cold and so clubs such as Muirfield that keep their bottles in the freezer have my vote. You also may find entire bottles encased in ice brought to tables of thirsty golfers to settle their stomachs, calm their nerves and fortify them for the afternoon round.
Kummel is not confined to clubs in Scotland; the English clubs all have their own traditions. Chris Boardman, a great friend, kummel aficionado and member of Royal St George’s, Walton Heath and Jupiter Hills tells me that kummel consumption at RSTG and Walton Heath are different based on the time of year.
RSTG sees kummel as a winter warming libation when the matches are on and societies are in. Whereas Walton Heath serves most of their kummel during the summer when they host many society days.
Both clubs prefer the brand Wolfschmidt feeling it slightly less cumin forward than the Mentzendorff.
Chris, himself is a self-confessed, equal opportunity kummel drinker and can easily adapt to whatever club’s tradition he is visiting. While Jupiter Hills in Florida has no kummel tradition when I’m in Florida over the winter there is usually an emergency bottle or two of Wolfschmidt in Club Boardman’s freezer.
The younger generation is embracing kummel even away from the 19th hole and there are more bars in London that are combining kummel into cocktails and mixing with scotch, gin, rum and even champagne.
One favourite concoction of mixologists is the aptly named Silver Bullet.
The Silver Bullet
- 50 ml gin
- 25 ml kummel
- 25 ml lemon juice
- 15 ml egg white
- Lemon twist for garnish
- Celery bitters (optional)
Shake hard over plenty of ice. Fine strain into a spare glass. Discard the ice and shake again to forth up the egg white. Pour into an ice-cold cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
So whether you prefer your kummel at room temperature, over ice or encased in ice, straight up or in a cocktail – I hope the golfer’s liqueur adds to your enjoyment of the game.
Dove Jones is an American whose heart lives on the links of GB & I. She has been involved in international golf for over two decades and is a member of National Club Golfer’s Top 100 Rating panels.
Now have your say
Have you enjoyed a Kummel before, after, or even during, golf? What do you think of it? Let us know by leaving a comment on X.
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