Beer may be the national drink of the Czech Republic, but Becherovka is its national spirit. A 200-year-old concoction that’s made according to a closely guarded secret recipe, the potent beverage contains over 20 botanicals and is still widely available today. Try it for yourself in Lounge 62 at Corinthia Hotel Prague, where it’s served in one of the bar’s signature cocktails, the Bohemian.
Becherovka is an aromatic herbal liqueur that’s native to the Czech Republic, and has been produced there since the late 18th century. The Becherovka story began with Josef Vitus Becher, a Czech businessman with a keen interest in spirits who set about creating his own tipple which he sold in his shop in the spa town of Karlovy Vary. In 1839, his son Jan Becher took over the family business and, having been given a recipe for a restorative herbal by the personal doctor of Prince Maximilian Freidrich von Plettenberg, decided to develop his father’s original spirit. Becher perfected the recipe over many years before selling it to customers as an English Bitter that could aid stomach upset.
The drink soon grew in popularity and by the 1830s it was available as far afield as Paris, before expanding into the rest of Europe and eventually America. In the socialist era of Czechoslovakia, Becherovka was one of the most famous exports, with its distinctive, eye-catching bottle design, green colouring and flat silhouette.
In 1941, Hedda Becher became the first female head of the company. Despite having been forced to turn over the original Becherovka recipe to the communist regime during the war, Hedda was able to make an identical version from memory and it’s this version that’s still enjoyed today. Made naturally without any chemical preservatives or artificial ingredients, the secret recipe contains distilled water, sugar and a special mixture of herbs and seasoning.
Delicious drunk neat, Becherovka also makes a great base for cocktails. The easiest of these is the Beton, which was first concocted in 1967 and simply involves adding good quality tonic water to the spirit. Those wishing to experiment can go a step further by adding different combinations of fruit and herbs. Moreover, Becherovka’s distinctive botanical flavour, which includes notes of cinnamon, orange and clove, works well as both an aperitif and digestif, so much so that Prague’s best cocktail bars have come up with their own imaginative ways to use the 200-year-old drink.
At Lounge 62, the deliciously fruity Bohemian cocktail is made with an invigorating mix of Becherovka, mango, pineapple and a squeeze of lemon juice, serving as the perfect aperitif or pick-me-up. At Prague’s famous Hemingway Bar, Becherovka is infused with ghee butter in the Bohemian Puzzle cocktail, which also incorporates an aromatic blend of orange brandy, lemon juice, marmalade and Perrier Jouet Champagne.
What started life as a herbal digestive aid in a Czech spa town in the early 1800s has become one of the country’s most iconic and loved products. A constant in Czech history since the early 19th century, the distinctly flavoured Becherovka has been given a new lease of life by Prague’s top mixologists and, however you choose to drink it, it’s guaranteed to provide visitors with a taste of Czech culture in a glass.
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