Wine, Absinthe and Becherovka
Czech wine is a distant second to Czech beer. Absinthe is a strong green drink with a alcohol percentage of 70%. It is strong but doesn’t make you hallucinate. Becherovka is a herb bitter and said to be good for the stomach and therefore a perfect excuse to drink it. Wine, absinthe and Becherovka: three good grounds why to come to Prague. Another reason is the beer which the Czech call ‘liquid bread’. They consider it like food, which is not surprising when realizing that the average Czech consumes three hundred pints per year. ‘Liquid bread’ is a perfect excuse to drink beer any time of the day.
Wine in Prague
Drink wine in a vinarna, often more sophisticated and quieter than beer gardens. The best Czech wines come from Moravia, a region North-East of Prague. In addition to Czech wines, many European varieties feature on the wine menu.
From September onward, Burcak, the Czech counterpart of Beaujolais Nouveau, is popular. It is fruity and cloudy in appearance. The alcohol is masked by the fresh flavour of the grapes. Burcak goes down like fresh grape juice in the evening but hits hard like a hammer in the morning.
In the winter months svarene vino, mulled wine, is popular. Svarene vino is warmed with stick cinnamon, cloves, sugar and lemon. The best places to drink mulled wine are at one of the many Christmas Markets in Prague.
Absinthe in Prague
In Prague you can find many places where you can buy or drink green-coloured absinthe. It used to be illegal almost everywhere worldwide until 2007 when the ban on using a small quantities of thujone (one of the ingredients of absinthe) was lifted. This powerful elixir made of fermented wormwood was said to have frightening side effects such as hallucinations, seizures and amnesia but it also supposed to provide eternal life. It was popularly called The Green Fairy and inspired artists from Oscar Wilde to Vincent van Gogh. More likely, they were sitting in a cafe from early morning till late at night drinking absinthe, a liquor with a alcohol content of 70% (by comparison gin is only 40%). Just imagine the state they were in in the evening!
When drinking absinthe the following steps are taken: put a sugar cube in a slotted spoon and place it over a glass of absinthe, then slowly drip ice-cold water on the cube which will dissolve and sweeten the drink. In Prague it is popular to use the following method: a spoonful of sugar soaked in absinthe is lighted, the sugar is allowed to dissolve then it is stirred into the absinthe. This is a much more exciting way to drink absinthe as it gives the feeling of doing something illicit.
Becherovka in Prague
Becherovka is a herbal liqueur flavoured with anise, cinnamon, cloves and 29 other herbs. Spice trader and pharmacist, Jan Becher, experimented with herbs and alcohol which resulted in Becherovka, a stomach-soothing bitter but now a well-loved aperitif found in every bar in Prague. It is a potent drink with an alcohol content of 38%. Becherovka is produced in the Spa city of Karlovy Vary and was first sold in 1807. Part of its essential taste is the Karlovy Vary spring water. The recipe is a well-kept secret: only two persons know the exact ingredients.
Absinthe and Becherovka
Take Absinthe home when you are looking for a liquid souvenir. This green drink contains 70% alcohol. Absinthe is strong but it does not make you hallucinate. The colour of absinthe is green which should come from the chlorophyll of the herbs that are used. However, the green bottles you’ll find in Prague are coloured with additives because hardly any green herbs are used as ingredients. If you still want to buy absinthe go to the any souvenir shop in the Old Town district of Prague and fall into the tourist trap. The best liquid souvenir to take home is a bottle of Becherovka. Avoid the tourist shops in the centre and go to one of the many Albert supermarkets and pay the real price.