When Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, and Audrey Hepburn are among the devotees of a delectable Swiss cake you are tasting, you are in illustrious company indeed.
Zuger Kirschtorte, featuring layers of almond meringue, butter cream, and sponge cake soaked in kirsch, has long attracted dessert lovers from all walks of life to the Treichler bakery in Zug, Switzerland. The century-old recipe is made daily in its most traditional form at this beautifully lit, centrally located coffee shop.
Treichler abounds with black-and-white glamour shots of Hepburn, whose passion for Kirschtorte blossomed while she was in town for cosmetic dental work. “Breakfast at Treichler’s” signs riff on the actress’s Oscar-nominated turn in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A silk dress of hers adorns an on-site museum documenting the cake’s tasty history.
As with any regional specialty, debates rage about whose version of Kirschtorte is the best. Some advocate for the moister, boozier style at nearby Confiserie Speck, where you can savour each bite in a cozy second-floor café with red-leather banquettes.
Kirschtorte is just one delightful manifestation of the 600-year-old cherry culture that permeates the capital of the canton of Zug.
This lakeside city of 30,000 in central Switzerland sits between Zurich and Lucerne, which each lie a half-hour train ride away. Various distinctions have put Zug on the map. In business circles, Zug is known as Switzerland’s Crypto Valley and a tax haven. Hockey fans think of EV Zug, the pro team that has iced NHL veterans from Paul DiPietro to Henrik Zetterberg, and of Chloe Primerano’s MVP performance with Canada at the 2024 U18 women’s world hockey championships.
However, to celebrate a corporate, sporting, or personal victory, arguably nothing captures Zug’s unique spirit better than a bottle of kirsch from a legendary distillery. Founded in 1870, Etter Soehne is a fourth-generation Swiss family-operated business. Wild cherry trees, which blossom magnificently in April and yield their red, succulent fruit in June, prosper in Zug’s mild climate. They are integral to Etter Soehne’s world-renowned tradition.
CEO Gabriel Galliker-Etter and his family are hands-on and passionate about everything from cherry-picking and fermenting to distilling and bottling. Upwards of 10 kilograms of cherries go into each bottle of kirsch, with alcohol content ranging between 40 and 44 percent.
On a guided tour of Etter Soehne’s headquarters, impeccable attention to quality is apparent as soon as you enter the gleaming showroom. One standout product is the retro-kirsch, which combines a variety of well-matured kirsch vintages in a limited 2023 edition of 3,783 bottles. A single sip reveals its aromatic, rich, and warming character. Plum, quince, and raspberry brandies offer further variety.
From the spotless copper pot stills to the reverentially lit cellar with American and French oak barrels, the distillery’s entire vibe encourages you to relax and soak up a harmonious Swiss style of living.
You can also stock up on cherry chutney and cherry BBQ sauce at the Zug Tourismus shop at the railway station before heading to your next Swiss destination.
For more Zug cherry-themed highlights, plan to return in June. You can shop at the open-air cherry market at the Landsgemeindeplatz or compete in the Chriesisturm, a race through Zug’s Old Town that involves carrying ladders and baskets. Cherry superstardom beckons.
Whether or not you grew up on rock songs like the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” or Warrant’s “Cherry Pie,” Zug is sure to have you humming a merry cherry-inspired tune of your own.