(Reuters.com) - If you think your hometown parties hard, you’ve probably never been to Prague.
According to a recent World Health Organisation study, the denizens of the Czech Republic consume more alcohol than any other country in Europe, an average of 16.61 litres per person per year. Although most of that is beer, the country also has a tradition of stiff liqueurs, usually consumed straight up.
Among these is the herbal Becherovka, which is often mixed with tonic water and lemon to create a refreshing drink called the Beton. U.S. tipplers may be familiar with the tall green-glass bottle; Pernod Ricard USA added the spirit to its portfolio last year and subsequently re-launched the product.
Look also for fruit brandies, particularly the high-proof aged plum brandy known as Slivovitz (sometimes spelled as Slivovice), particularly popular for toasting around holidays and other special occasions.
(A word of advice on Slivovitz: Consume with caution. I’ll never forget my first Slivovitz: Despite its enticingly warm plummy aroma, it was 100 proof and went down like paint thinner. Perhaps there’s good reason that many Czechs prefer their excellent beer.)
Wherever you are headed in Prague, expect warm hospitality and the ever-present possibility of raising a glass with new friends. “People are very friendly,” says Czech native Vita Chase, manager of Hospoda, a Czech-owned beer hall and restaurant in New York.
If you encounter Prague locals, she counsels, “Be ready. They may invite you for drinks. If you want to party, if you want to drink, they know how.”
As for where to find the party, Chase advises travellers to look for the Vltava River, which divides Prague into two sections: Old Town (Stare Mesto), the main tourist area, and the Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana). On both sides of the river, “every little street has a special bar or pub,” Chase says.
Beverages are not restricted to Czech products; alongside lots of beer, expect to find cocktails made with vodka or rum.
Her recommendations for business travellers include Café Savoy (<bit.ly/bY2iOF>) and the newly Michelin starred La Degustation (<www.ladegustation.cz/en/>), both sister restaurants to Hospoda. Also of note is Kampa Park (<bit.ly/9iXbS7>) with its expansive river view, and sister restaurant, the Cowboys steakhouse (<bit.ly/pMhqYx>).
For late-night revellers, Chase's pick is Cuban cocktail bar La Bodeguita del Medio (<www.labodeguitadelmedio.cz/>) in the centre of the Old Town, where dancing until the wee hours and Mojitos are on tap. Here's an intriguing way to enjoy two of Prague's traditional spirits in a non-traditional cocktail.
RECIPE: Prague on Manhattan
Courtesy of Mickey Alexander, Hospoda
Beware: Although this drink looks deceptively like a classic whiskey-based Manhattan, one sip tells differently. The plummy notes of Slivovitz hit the palate first, finishing with the herbal notes of Becherovka.
1 1/2 ounces Becherovka
1 1/2 ounces Slivovitz 5-year-old
1 dash Angostura bitters
Splash of cherry juice
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine all liquid ingredients with ice. Shake well, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cherry.
Kara Newman is the author of "The Secret Financial Life of Food", available on <amzn.to/MAijHQ>. Any opinions expressed are her own. Editing by Peter Myers