Nothing says "Drink Me" like seeing the tagline "The Taste of Old Düsseldorf."
Bitters are an acquired taste. Killepitsch is a bitter. Employing syllogistic logic, therefore we can conclude that Killepitsch is an acquired taste. We all know Jägermeister, the most famous bitter in the States, as a fart-boy party drink and the drink that turns the members of Metallica into assholes... well, bigger assholes. But Jägermeister is a sugar-coated version of a bitter. Drink Fernet Branca, then you'll know what a true bitter is. Or drink Unicum. Or, for the faint of heart, drink Killepitsch.
The bitter is, historically, a drink in which a large number or herbs and spices have been "soaked" in quaffable alcohol in order to draw out the medicinal qualities of said herbs and spices. Consequently, the bitter is thought to have a lot of medicinal qualities to it. However they are best when consumed after dinner, as a digestif - to calm the stomach after a heavy meal.
I read this article in the NY Times this morning about digestifs and thought, throughout the day, about drinking some Killepitsch (since it is the bitter I have on hand). While the article focuses mostly on brandies, there is something about the bitter that I love after a big meal. While my dinner of leftovers wasn't necessarily a "big meal", it was spicy and acidic enough to require the aid of a bitter.
I generally associate "bitter" with "basic" - or a high pH. Since I had an acidic dinner (basically a lot of tomatoes), I figured following it with a bitter would prevent a "sour stomach." While I'm not sure what the pH level of bitters are, I employ syllogistic logic here again - since basic things are bitter, and bitters are, well, bitter then it is pretty safe to assume the bitters have a high pH.
Killepitsch is marketed as "The Taste of Old Düsseldorf," so while I'm not sure what "New Düsseldorf" tastes like I can tell you that "Old Düsseldorf" is pretty bitter. As with all bitters you have to get past the initial reaction, specifically the revulsion, in order to truly enjoy it.
Why go beyond "revulsion"? Isn't "revulsion" enough?
Humans have evolved to hate bitter tasting things - most poisonous compounds taste bitter so we naturally avoid bitter things. But we do drink coffee, and beer, so bitter isn't all bad. We generally have no problem when we consume something else that is mostly salty, or sweet, or acidic (or 'umami-mi?) but we avoid bitter. I say embrace bitter and let it become a part of your tasting experience. If we know this isn't poisonous, then get past it and see what else there is to enjoy. Yes, alcohol is "poisonous" to the body but this isn't the type of poison that will cause immediate neurological dysfunction or liquidate your organs as the previously mentioned bitter-tasting toxins your body has evolved to avoid.
Killepitsch, like the most popular bitters, is sweetened slightly with sugar. Jägermeister is probably the sweetest of the group, which is probably why it is the most popular - it's hard to market something that tastes like poison. Nevertheless, you'll get a hint of sweetness at the end of Killepitsch - but it is mostly bitter. Of the three noticeably "sweetened" bitters I've had (Jägermeister, Killepitsch, and Zwack), Killepitsch is my favorite. While Jägermeister has a strong licorice flavor, and Zwack a noticeably stronger orange-peel flavor, Killepitsch has a "red berry" flavor to it... along with the cola and mint flavors one generally finds in these types of bitters.
While not as truly bitter in taste as Fernet Branca or Unicum (which I will elaborate on in the future), Killepitsch is a good start to get away from the Jägermeister crowd into the darker and crueler world of bitters.