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#1
Old 03-28-2010, 11:23 AM
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Why is Plum Brandy (Slivovitz) So Nasty?

I was given a bottle of this stuff by my Czech BIL-opened it last night. The stuff is awful-burns and has a nasty taste to it.
Which is strange, because a good brandy or armagnac is usually smooth and has a nice flavor.
What is it about brandy made from plums-is it poor distillation?
Or is it a reduced ageing period (ageing tends to smoothen raw spirits)?
If you want some, I'll leave it on the curb for you!
#2
Old 03-28-2010, 11:30 AM
Isaiah 1:15 Screw the NRA.
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Aging, unless your BiL gave you a cheap bottle. I like slivovitz personally. I also like grappa, which can also be rather raw.
#3
Old 03-28-2010, 11:48 AM
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Both of these products utilize not just the fruit but the stems, pits, vine and other parts that normally get thrown away.

Both were created by people of frugality, and, over many years, became part of the culture such that, it's not really entirely about the flavour so much.
#4
Old 03-28-2010, 12:07 PM
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Yes, this isn't cigars-and-fireplaces brandy as enjoyed by the gentry. This is the country people's white lightnin'. Compare to Italian grappa, French pastis, Turkish raki.

A slightly classed-up, more flavored but still clear and unsweet, version is eau-de-vie, such as German Kirschwasser or French eau-de-poire.

Last edited by Beware of Doug; 03-28-2010 at 12:11 PM.
#5
Old 03-28-2010, 02:26 PM
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I have, unfortunately, partaken in rakia far, far, far more times than I would have liked. (Slivovetz is the plum version of rakia; grozdovetz is the grape version.) I hates it, my pretties. Traditional rakia is made by people in their cellars and then forced upon unsuspecting Americans who are just trying to be polite. It's not made with any kind of finesse or particular skill.

Factory-produced rakia is not something with which I have as much experience, but I suspect it imitates the domashna (homemade) as much as possible, and is aimed at people who've moved to the city and no longer have a cellar in which to make their own rakia.

Incidentally, it is illegal for individuals to make their own rakia (and other hard liquors too, I expect) within the European Union. This is probably the least obeyed law in the EU.
#6
Old 03-28-2010, 04:14 PM
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Elbows is almost entirely right. Slivovitz is made using the entire plum, including the pits. Plum pits, like apricot kernels, contains amygdalin - a cyanide precursor. This is a significant part of the harsh bite that a true slivovitz has. The other factors are components of the plum skin, and - of course - the high proof. Twigs and leaves do end up in the must, but only because they aren't cleaned prior to fermentation.

The reason that homemade slivo tends to have a greater 'pit bite' is due to the practice of delaying distillation long past the end of fermentation. This allows more amygdalin to leach out of the pits.

I went to a slivovitz tasting a couple of years ago here in Minnesota. The people there are fanatical about collecting it. Some of the stuff is very smooth, but it tends to be expensive.

Doug
#7
Old 03-28-2010, 07:23 PM
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#8
Old 04-30-2011, 11:06 AM
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RE: Why is Plum Brandy (Slivovitz) So Nasty?

For me being of a Czech bloodline on both sides of my family .
Father a immigrant of and my mothers mother and father also are from the old country I was brought up to love slivo .
Personally I do understand why the original poster didn't like the taste .
Most likely he's not of the heritage .
My father when I was very young and he being in his prime back in the 1970s used to make it on our stove in a still he learned how to make when he was young in Europe . It was fun to watch the process of how it is distilled .
You must re distill it a few times to get the best quality . The 1st time over it does'nt have any alcohol content . He called it dirty water . It looked like a foggy water . One time he made a batch that was way to strong . It was 199 proof . 1 point under pure alcohol . Couldnt be consumed but he did pour into out 1976 Oldsmobile and believe it or not that car ran fine on it !! I have had many great times taking shots of slivo most of it was brought back from Czech made by friends of his . Those damn Northern Europeans sure know how to drink and have a grand ole time ..

Last edited by MATTY B; 04-30-2011 at 11:08 AM. Reason: reword it
#9
Old 04-30-2011, 12:07 PM
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I remember the first time I tried kirsch, thinking it was going to taste like cherries. Really poor assumption on my part. Also, German schnapps is not even remotely similar to what Americans think schnapps tastes like.
#10
Old 04-30-2011, 03:29 PM
Isaiah 1:15 Screw the NRA.
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Oh, yeah. Schnapps over here is thick, sweet pepperminty swill. Real schnapps is completely different. Ditto akvavit.
#11
Old 04-30-2011, 04:24 PM
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(I know this is a slightly zombie post.)

I LOVE slivovitz and have drunk more than my fair share of it. I volunteered for a spell near the Croatian-Bosnian border and there was a lot of home distilling going on. During market days, one could go and sample all the different homemade slivovitz for free, before deciding on your purchase.

There's good slivovitz (which tastes like the essence of plums) and bad slivovitz (which tastes like plum-flavored dirt mixed with cheap rubbing alcohol.) It is an acquired taste. Good slivovitz starts with cleaned plums with no leaves or stems. Pits can be left in or removed depending on if you like the taste (the pitless ones taste smoother.) Good slivovitz is 100% fruit brandy. It is distilled from the fermented fruit must and not cut with neutral spirits. Bad slivovitz has aromas, flavorings, and neutral spirits added to it. One test for determining the general quality of fruit brandies (which slivovitz is) is to rub some of it on your wrist, wait a few seconds to let it evaporate, and smell it. It should smell like the pure essence of plums.

But, like I said, it may just not be for you. Fruit brandies tend to be love-it or hate-it.
#12
Old 04-30-2011, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Oh, yeah. Schnapps over here is thick, sweet pepperminty swill. Real schnapps is completely different. Ditto akvavit.
We used to do shots of an evil drink in Prague called Becherovka (or something very similar). It smelled like cloves and anise and packed a big punch.

Cripes, Wiki has everything, doesn't it?
#13
Old 04-30-2011, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
We used to do shots of an evil drink in Prague called Becherovka (or something very similar). It smelled like cloves and anise and packed a big punch.

Cripes, Wiki has everything, doesn't it?
You can find Becherovka around the US, too--at least I've never had problems finding it here in Chicago. (Supposedly, there was a period of time where they were in between distributors, and its importation was tied up with the ATF, but I've never noticed it being off the shelves.) It runs a bit syruppy sweet for my tastes, but it's a nice winter drink. Reminds me of Christmas with the clove, cinnamon, ginger and sweetness. It's actually slightly less alcoholic than your standard hard liquor, weighing in at 76 proof. Also goes well with apple juice.

Last edited by pulykamell; 04-30-2011 at 07:22 PM.
#14
Old 04-30-2011, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
You can find Becherovka around the US, too--at least I've never had problems finding it here in Chicago. (Supposedly, there was a period of time where they were in between distributors, and its importation was tied up with the ATF, but I've never noticed it being off the shelves.) It runs a bit syruppy sweet for my tastes, but it's a nice winter drink. Reminds me of Christmas with the clove, cinnamon, ginger and sweetness. It's actually slightly less alcoholic than your standard hard liquor, weighing in at 76 proof. Also goes well with apple juice.
I have always brought back a couple of fifths of Becherovka with me, as I have never seen it for sale anywhere in the USA, although I haven't ever been too serious about looking for it.

A couple of years ago I was flying back from Prague on CZA (the national Czech Airline) and they were selling bottles of it right on the plane, duty-free, for around 5 bucks.

It's probably my favorite shooting liquor, and I have been shot many times over the years.
#15
Old 04-30-2011, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by MPB in Salt Lake View Post
I have always brought back a couple of fifths of Becherovka with me, as I have never seen it for sale anywhere in the USA, although I haven't ever been too serious about looking for it.
Interesting. They have it all around here. You can even find it in some bars, but Chicago is chock full of people from that part of the world, so it may depend on your locality. Looking online, they sell it at BevMo out in California and Arizona, so it's not just the Midwest that stocks it or anything.
#16
Old 04-30-2011, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Interesting. They have it all around here. You can even find it in some bars, but Chicago is chock full of people from that part of the world, so it may depend on your locality. Looking online, they sell it at BevMo out in California and Arizona, so it's not just the Midwest that stocks it or anything.
Here in Utah, liquor stores are all state-owned and operated, and they all have identical stock, so it's not like some would carry it but others would not.

That said, I am flying down to New Orleans next week, so I will be sure to keep an eye out for it.

I really, REALLY enjoy the stuff, and if I can find it, I will certainly bring a couple of bottles home with me....
#17
Old 04-30-2011, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by MPB in Salt Lake View Post
Here in Utah, liquor stores are all state-owned and operated, and they all have identical stock, so it's not like some would carry it but others would not.

That said, I am flying down to New Orleans next week, so I will be sure to keep an eye out for it.

I really, REALLY enjoy the stuff, and if I can find it, I will certainly bring a couple of bottles home with me....
I would say you can get it mail-order, but I assume Utah is one of those states that doesn't allow it.
#18
Old 04-30-2011, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I would say you can get it mail-order, but I assume Utah is one of those states that doesn't allow it.
I will actually be breaking a state law (Class B misdemeanor, which in theory could get you locked up for a year) by bringing alcohol home with me---No alcohol is legally allowed in Utah that was not purchased here, even if you have been traveling abroad.

This is a law that I delight in breaking every mollyfocking chance I get, on principle.
#19
Old 04-30-2011, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
You can find Becherovka around the US, too--at least I've never had problems finding it here in Chicago. (Supposedly, there was a period of time where they were in between distributors, and its importation was tied up with the ATF, but I've never noticed it being off the shelves.) It runs a bit syruppy sweet for my tastes, but it's a nice winter drink. Reminds me of Christmas with the clove, cinnamon, ginger and sweetness. It's actually slightly less alcoholic than your standard hard liquor, weighing in at 76 proof. Also goes well with apple juice.
Sweet? Really? Maybe that's the stuff they export, as my recollection of it was more bitter.
#20
Old 04-30-2011, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Sweet? Really? Maybe that's the stuff they export, as my recollection of it was more bitter.
The Becherovka I've had here tastes the same as the Becherovka I've had there. There is a bitter component to it, yes, but it's fairly sweet to my tastes--there's definitely a good deal of simple syrup or possibly honey in it. It's not at the level of something like SoCo, but it's positively sugary compared to something like slivovitz. When you smack your lips after drinking it, you can feel the sugar stickiness.

This description here is exactly how I would describe it:

Quote:
On the palate, Becherovka is sweet at first sip, with hints of dark honey, followed by the spice of cinnamon, clove and ginger, gently unfolding into a slightly bitter and pleasant finish with hints of orange peel.
ETA: Interestingly, that article notes that it's "return[ing] to the US" in April 2011, so I guess this is a timely discussion. As I said before, I realize that there was apparently some distribution problem, but I didn't realize it was this recent.

Last edited by pulykamell; 04-30-2011 at 10:20 PM.
#21
Old 04-01-2014, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Sweet? Really? Maybe that's the stuff they export, as my recollection of it was more bitter.
I might be wrong but Bechrovka is a digestive drink like Fernet or Bitter.
#22
Old 04-01-2014, 09:58 PM
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Is akavit sold at all in the US? It's a Danish liquor as I understand. My cousin's husband, who is of Danish descent likes it but can't find it anymore, and you probably can't airmail booze.
#23
Old 04-01-2014, 10:32 PM
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Akvavit* is Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, etc. (slight spelling variations) might be found in more specialty liquor stores. I'd imagine it's a lot easier to find in Minnesota and other Scandinavian influenced places. Where are you? BevMo might ship. Airmail from Europe? I don't know if you can, but I assume it'd be possible, but too expensive.

Slivovitz - if you're expecting a plum taste, be disappointed. I don't know if it's worse than vodka or anything, and it depends on if it's professionally bottled or not. I found it at BevMo. They had Maraska - Croatian brand at least.



*note the two "v"s. I think that's the Swedish name?
#24
Old 04-01-2014, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by kardell View Post
I might be wrong but Bechrovka is a digestive drink like Fernet or Bitter.
It is, indeed, regarded as a digestif.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baker View Post
Is akavit sold at all in the US? It's a Danish liquor as I understand. My cousin's husband, who is of Danish descent likes it but can't find it anymore, and you probably can't airmail booze.
Aquavit/akvavit is a Scandinavian liquor and you can find it in the US. My local liquor superstore has four different kinds, a three domestic (one distilled in Chicago, one distilled in Minnesota, one from Washington) and one from Norway (Linie.) I'm pretty sure I've seen Swedish aquavit in the US, as well, but I can't remember ever seeing anything from Denmark.
#25
Old 04-01-2014, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
Slivovitz - if you're expecting a plum taste, be disappointed.
To me, it does taste like plums, but just the essence of plums, with all the sweetness removed. Much like kirschwasser (which is the same idea as slivovitz, except with sour cherries), has the smell and taste of sour cherries, but with no sweetness. There's all sorts of clear fruit brandies out in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe like this. (Pretty much any fruit that grows there has been made into clear brandy. I've tried: apricot, pear, plum, cherry, white mulberry, quince, apple, sloe, mixed, etc. As you might guess, I love clear fruit brandies. You'll also occasionally come across aged versions of these, where they take on a bit of a whiskey-ish color from the barrel aging.)
#26
Old 04-01-2014, 11:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baker View Post
Is akavit sold at all in the US? It's a Danish liquor as I understand. My cousin's husband, who is of Danish descent likes it but can't find it anymore, and you probably can't airmail booze.
try Ikea. not sure if the US Ikea carries it but the Shanghai Ikea did
#27
Old 04-01-2014, 11:13 PM
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My mom used to make plum liqueur out of canned plums and vodka. All sugar and alcohol; thick as syrup. It took a couple months to take the edge off, but a pleasant thimble-full after that. Always wanted to make some, but I kept drinking the vodka.
#28
Old 04-01-2014, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
To me, it does taste like plums, but just the essence of plums, with all the sweetness removed. Much like kirschwasser (which is the same idea as slivovitz, except with sour cherries), has the smell and taste of sour cherries, but with no sweetness. There's all sorts of clear fruit brandies out in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe like this. (Pretty much any fruit that grows there has been made into clear brandy. I've tried: apricot, pear, plum, cherry, white mulberry, quince, apple, sloe, mixed, etc. As you might guess, I love clear fruit brandies. You'll also occasionally come across aged versions of these, where they take on a bit of a whiskey-ish color from the barrel aging.)
Yeah, sorry, meant no sweet plum taste like a liqueur. It isn't as neutral as vodka.
I've never had kirschwasser, but I impulse bought a bottle the other day because it was small and I'm not buying a big one. A cheap brand; I have no idea how authentic. Let me pour some... for science!

Yeah it's in there, but not sweet per se. Although still would be unexpected if I didn't know better because sour isn't the first association with cherries.
#29
Old 04-01-2014, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
My mom used to make plum liqueur out of canned plums and vodka. All sugar and alcohol; thick as syrup. It took a couple months to take the edge off, but a pleasant thimble-full after that. Always wanted to make some, but I kept drinking the vodka.
Is she Polish by any chance? It seems like pretty much any old school Polish household will have a collection of homemade nalewkas, and plum is one of the common ones, called "śliwówka", which is distinct from the Polish version of distilled plum brandy, which is śliwowica.
#30
Old 04-01-2014, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Is she Polish by any chance?
No. Bohunk.

Last edited by dropzone; 04-01-2014 at 11:30 PM. Reason: I was thinking about my Polak wife.
#31
Old 04-01-2014, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
Yeah it's in there, but not sweet per se. Although still would be unexpected if I didn't know better because sour isn't the first association with cherries.
In case there's confusion, by "sour cherry," I mean something like Morello or Montmorency cherries. They're pretty popular up here in the Midwest, especially since Michigan and Wisconsin produce tons of them (the Montmorency kind.) They are especially good for pies and have more of what I would call the stereotypical "cherry" flavor than your sweet varieties.
#32
Old 04-01-2014, 11:32 PM
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
No. Bohunk.
Similar traditions there, too, so makes sense.
#33
Old 04-01-2014, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
In case there's confusion, by "sour cherry," I mean something like Morello or Montmorency cherries. They're pretty popular up here in the Midwest, especially since Michigan and Wisconsin produce tons of them (the Montmorency kind.) They are especially good for pies and have more of what I would call the stereotypical "cherry" flavor than your sweet varieties.
No, I know. In the west, the vast majority you can buy at regular supermarkets are Bing, followed by Rainier. The latter are rarer but still easy enough to find in season, and more expensive.
#34
Old 04-02-2014, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
No, I know. In the west, the vast majority you can buy at regular supermarkets are Bing, followed by Rainier. The latter are rarer but still easy enough to find in season, and more expensive.
Sweet cherries are definitely more popular at the groceries, here, too. (Although sour cherries are quite popular because, like I mentioned, they're grown a whole lot around here.) But when I think "cherry flavor" (like, say, in cherry cola or cough syrup or whatnot), I think that sour cherries are closer to that stereotypical flavor vs. sweet cherries.
#35
Old 04-02-2014, 09:13 AM
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My wife is Jewish. The slivovitz lives in the freezer and comes out for shots on occasions of either celebration or commiseration. Ice cold is the only way it's tolerable. The harsh almond-y flavor comes from the pits of the plums. Side note: slivovitz is not made from the kind of plums you would eat out of your hand; it's made from damsons.
#36
Old 04-02-2014, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
; it's made from damsons.
I was racking my brain trying to remember the usual type of plum used (although there's various kinds used, depending on where it's from. And, as mentioned above, some are made with pits, some without.) Damsons--that's the one. They also make the best plum jam I've ever had.

Last edited by pulykamell; 04-02-2014 at 09:33 AM.
#37
Old 04-02-2014, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Similar traditions there, too, so makes sense.
No, Bohunks are frugal. Polaks are cheap. She and I have discussed this.
#38
Old 04-02-2014, 09:37 PM
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No, Bohunks are frugal. Polaks are cheap. She and I have discussed this.
#39
Old 11-03-2015, 10:27 PM
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"That's the stuff to feed the troops!"

Years ago, Daniel offered me a shot glass of Maraska Slivovitz. This was the first time I had sat down with him and Mom always said to "Be Polite." I found it stunning. He downed his shot and said, classically, "Ahh! That's the stuff to feed the troops!" Over the next five years or so, I developed a taste for it and bought a bottle or two, or three to bring to his table, and several for my own. Oddly enough, identical bottles tasted better at his table than mine.

Years later, another friend was moving to his new neighborhood and I thought I would give him an intro to Slivovitz. He had previously experienced it and referred to it as battery acid. I ignored the comment and went on to prep him for an intro to my friend Daniel and explain the importance of "... the stuff to feed the troops...", he jumped past that and referred to it, again, as battery acid!

They never met as Daniel had passed on before they met.

Having trouble typing, my eyes are blurring.

Maraska Slivovitz doesn't seem to be available in the Cleveland area, I'm still looking.
#40
Old 11-03-2015, 11:51 PM
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I like Slivovitz, but for a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, mix it 1:1 with Kruskovac (pear liqueur). Now that is tasty stuff.
#41
Old 11-04-2015, 12:11 AM
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My husband's uncle gave us a bottle of slivovitz on the occassion of our son's bris. It's incredibly awful. I'm sure it's a cheap nasty version of the drink. I keep it as a curiosity piece. The son is now 21.
#42
Old 11-04-2015, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by puzzlegal View Post
My husband's uncle gave us a bottle of slivovitz on the occassion of our son's bris. It's incredibly awful. I'm sure it's a cheap nasty version of the drink. I keep it as a curiosity piece. The son is now 21.
Clearly you needed to pickle the "results" of the bris in slivovitz and he should've had a small sip at his bar mitzvah and drank the entire thing at 21. Ah well, hindsight is 20/20.
#43
Old 11-04-2015, 06:45 AM
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When I was teaching English in Czechoslovakia 20-odd years ago, some of my students plied me with Slivovitz after I had consumed a goodly amount of the local beer.

Holy Christ, I have never been so sick in my life! Taking me back to my accommodations, they had to stop and let me out of the car so I could heave myself dry. (Of course, it didn't help that I had consumed considerable quantities of raw salt pork and cheese during the evening too.)

All I could do when I got home was collapse on my bed and watch Tutti-Frutti while the room spun around me!
#44
Old 11-04-2015, 08:17 AM
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Slivovitz should be sold at hardware stores alongside the other industrial solvents.

Thanks for reminding me to pick up a bottle now that autumn weather is coming in.
#45
Old 11-04-2015, 09:00 AM
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About a year ago, a Serbian neighbor, since moved away, pulled out a bottle and introduced me to slivovitz. I was expecting something harsh and nasty like cheap grappa, but it was surprisingly smooth and tasty, especially given the frightening proof. I'm not even sure if he brought it from home or saw it at BevMo (as others have pointed out, you can find anything at their stores here in California!) and bought it out of nostalgia. We had a lot of fun that night. It was the only time since college that my landlord had to come from down the road to discuss noise issues. Usually I'm a very quiet tenant. But usually I'm not drinking slivovitz!
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