Warming up with Spirits in the Czech Republic: A Top Five Countdown

31 Dec

Many European cities require more from the common traveler to get the whole Experience with the requisite visiting of street vendors, participating in cafe ‘culture’, or spending a night’s stay in a hostel on a ‘good’ meal, but it’s different in Prague. Prague is for the drinkers.

Below is a countdown of my MUST try drinks for any visitor that wants to get to know Bohemia.  Fuck coffee.

prague 9115.  Svarek (hot wine)- This delightful drink is available during the cold months by many vendors for take-away.  It is especially omnipresent at the Christmas markets during December.  Do yourself a favor and grab a to-go cup of hot wine and sit down in the Old Town Square to people watch while you enjoy your wine.

4.  Pivo (beer)- DUH.  The Czech Republic is known for beer like Kentucky is known for Bourbon.  The first known brewery dates to the year 1118 and the hops grown there to make the beer have been exported since the 12th century.  The most famous beers are Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar, but one interesting beer to try is in the Castle District at Saint Norbert’s Brewery in operation since the 17th Century (look for signs that say Strahovský klášter, or in English Strahov Monastery).

The monastery is the only place that you can try Saint Norbert’s beer and with no Pilsner option, it is different than other breweries you find get in Prague.  The beer is seasonal so in winter time they have a strong dark beer that actually feels like Christmas.  During the summer months they offer a lighter, refreshing beer.

3.  Becherovka One thing you will notice is that Czech people often talk of ‘herbs’ and when they buy you a drink they will most often give you Becherovka.  The recipe is the best kept secret in Central Europe and since no one has a damn clue what is in it, they swear it’s good for your health even though it’s strong enough to knock down a door.  I happen to LOVE it, so even though you will have no choice, try it!

prague 5952.  Slivovice- If you’ve ever had moonshine, this is pretty close to that.  A liquor that is made from plums, it is certainly a Czech national treasure.  They also have less ‘offensive’ versions with pear and apricot.

Pro-Tip: In the last few months the government placed a temporary prohibition on production of alcohol over 20% due to a rash of fatal methanol poisonings.  The prohibition is over, but the Czech Republic still does not require a license to brew these liquors.  If you are going to buy any of the liquors (beer and wine are ok) make sure that you buy them from a grocery store or other reputable place and DOUBLE CHECK to ensure the seal has not already been broken.  If the seal has been broken, do not purchase the alcohol. 

And now for my number one choice of best booze in Czech Republic…

1. Citrus Fernet– If you are a drinker, and I imagine you are if you’re still with me, I bet you have had Fernet: Jagermeister’s classier sister that doesn’t make you throw things.  This classic Czech drink unbeknownst to me also comes in a citrus flavor that is fantastic.  Buy one for all of your new friends and cheers to enjoying life in Prague.

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