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Korn (from German, "grain") is a German colorless distilled beverage that is usually made from fermented rye but may also be made from barley or wheat. Korn differs from vodka in that it is distilled to lower alcoholic proofs and less rigorously filtered, which leaves more of the cereal taste in the finished spirit.
Korn is the cheapest kind of liquor available in northern Germany. It is very popular there and is regarded as the liquor of the working class. In parts of southern Germany, inexpensive fruit brandies (Obstler made from apples, pears, or plums) are more popular.
Traditional Korn contains at least 32% ABV (64 proof). Kornbrand (also called Doppelkorn or Edelkorn) must contain at least 37.5% ABV (75 proof). A weaker variety of Korn that has less than 30% ABV can be a mixture of fruit flavoring and Korn.
The term Klarer (“clear one”) refers to the fact that Korn is a clear liquid. Klarer may refer to either Korn or Doppelkorn; the term is sometimes used to market cheap spirits that are weaker (28–30% ABV) than the minimum permitted for Korn.
Korn is usually drunk neat. In some places, a beer is often ordered together with a Kurzen (“short one”), i.e., with a shot of Korn. This combination is called a “Herrengedeck” (“gentlemen’s cover”) in most of Germany.
Some popular brands of Korn in Germany are Berentzen, Doornkaat, Fürst Bismarck, Mackenstedter, Nordhäuser, Oldesloer, and Strothmann.
Korn (or Branntwein) was first mentioned in the early 16th century, when its distillation became a competition among local producers in the Free imperial city of Nordhausen. Nordhausen decreed the first purity law for Korn, and it is still produced there.