Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lüttje Lage - drink of the Niedersachsische Hauptstadt

See above the preparation of a round of Lüttje Lage, the traditional drink of the German city Hannover. Hannover is the capital of the state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) and where I spent my last summer. Note the lesson on proper drinking etiquette occurring in the background, as is common to see where this drink is served.

According to my extensive research on the subject, Lüttje Lage (pronounced loot-cha lahg-a) traces its roots back to the 16th century, to the Broyhan brewery, which established a tradition of drinking spirits with beer. German efficiency being what it is, the Hannoverians decided to do it at once. But it can't just be as simple as mixing them together. Oh, no. What followed was the formation of an amusing and bizarre way to drink beer.

Despite the oddness of it, the drink has persisted to present day, and every summer young and old take advantage of this traditional drink to celebrate their hometown pride. There's a lot of tradition surrounding the drink, and costumes. There's even a local men's club that among other things, preserves the culture of the drink. The local tourism authority offers Lüttje Lage tours a couple times each year, which are of course topped off by a sample.

So what is the drink itself? Well, the big glasses you see are 5 cL glasses full of beer, typically a variety specific to the purpose. The small glasses are 1 cL of corn schnapps. It tastes about as good as that sounds. However, people don't consume the drink for it's taste.

Lüttje Lage is mostly seen at local fairs, most notably the Hannover Schützenfest and Maschseefest. Purists would grit their teeth to hear this, but the drink is pretty much a novelty, specific to Hannover, or more specifically, Hannover's festivals. You'll find few who drink it on a regular basis, or at home. People travelling to Hannover from other parts of Germany will most likely have never heard of the drink. That being the case, when in Hannover one must have one, or you did not truly experience the city. Berlin has the Berliner Weiße, Cologne (Köln) has Kölsch, and Munich has, among other things, the Radler, but those are much better known and widespread. Lüttje Lage is strictly unique to Hannover, and no where else.

The best thing about the drink is the method in which it must be done. Typically, it requires practice, and a lack of prior impairment. One must hold the two glasses in one hand, and tip them properly so that the schnapps flow into the big shot as it then goes down. Things can get messy at the best of times. Step-by-step picture instructions are here.

Should one like to try for yourself, and just can't wait until you find yourself in this fair city, the site offers to sell you everything you need. Not that I would recommend it, you may as well just make your own.

One can see it all properly done here, which appears to be at Schützenfest. Of course, this style of drinking is not unique to Hannover, but the class and prestige at least pretended to be associated with it is. Also, keep in mind there's nothing that restricts one to a single schnapps glass........

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