ABOARD THE VIKING KARA – He’s handing out bottles of water as we depart for shore excursions. He’s waiting to greet us back with glasses of warming liquor. He clears dinner plates from our dining tables. He even dresses in lederhosen for our German dinner.
And on this afternoon, he is teaching us how to make Rüdesheim Coffee in the Viking Kara lounge. Our maître d’ Mirko Kusan seems to be everywhere. I don’t think he ever sleeps.
All the crew of the Viking Kara – from the top to the bottom – seem to be intent on making our cruise as wonderful as possible. And it is working.
“It’s something that is important to Viking, making sure our guests have the best cruise possible,” said hotel manager Peter Burkhard.
“If everyone in the world got along as well as the people do on the Viking Kara, we would have peace on earth,” said program director Rene Van Loon.
He might be onto something.
On this sunny winter afternoon, we settle into the Kara Lounge to watch Mirko demonstrate how to create traditional Rüdesheim Coffee. From Croatia, Mirko said he began as a server with Viking River Cruises and quickly became the maître d’. Working six weeks on and two weeks off, Mirko said his family is proud of what he does.
“A great thing about Viking is that they encourage crew members to work their way up,” the 26-year-old Mirko said. “They will help you if you want to move up and do something else on the ship.”
Fire and liquor presentation
Back to the drink demonstration, Mirko said that Rüdesheim Coffee is a popular drink in many German coffeehouses. The strong hot coffee is mixed with flambéed brandy and sugar, then topped with whipped cream, vanilla sugar and chocolate flakes.
The key ingredient, Mirko said, is Asbach brandy. The award-winning liquor was created in 1892 by Hugo Asbach. But it wasn’t until 1957 that Germany TV chef Hans Karl Adam whipped up the intoxicating coffee drink.
Flames are involved as is a special handle less cup decorated with scenes of Rüdesheim. Preparation is done with great ceremony as Mirko demonstrates with the help of a volunteer passenger.
Of course, watching all the to-do meant we could hardly wait to taste the finished product. Servers quickly appeared with trays of the special drink. I am not a coffee drinker but must admit it was delicious.
Mirko headed down to the dining room to get ready for dinner. I, on the other hand, went straight to my stateroom to watch the sun set from my veranda. I took a short video of the glorious sight to share with you.
3 sugar cubes
3 tablespoons Asbach Uralt brandy, very warm
5 ounces hot coffee
Sweetened whipped cream
Dark chocolate shavings
Place sugar cubes in a coffee cup. Pour brandy over the cubes and light with a long match. Stir with coffee spoon until all the sugar has melted. Allow to burn for 1 minute. Pour hot coffee into cup. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
The coffee cups and Asbach Uralt brandy can be bought online.
Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch