concrete kiss: a czech classic cocktail with an apricot chaser

I’m excited to participate in Food in Jars‘ Drink Week this year.  It features various preservation bloggers putting their creations to use in brand new drinks, and every single cocktail is worth a try.)

My Drink Week post takes us far, far away from Oregon and all the way to the small spa town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, where they’ve been manufacturing Becherovka herbal liqueur since 1807, served as an apéritif or digestif usually straight up, like this:

At the Joyce symposium in Prague a few years back, we were served complimentary Becherovka shots as we boarded the boat cruise along the Vltava river.  A habit that would be charming imported to the Willamette and the McKenzie, if you ask me.

From Prague, I decided to take the waters in nearby Karlovy Vary, a spa town long known for such activities.  One bathes at spas (as I did, here, hilariously) and lazily strolls along the canals and through lovely nineteenth-century parks, stopping at the many public fountains with mineral waters from various springs.  And once the rather unpalatable water makes your stomach start to rumble, one stops at the Becherovka stand for some healing for the healing.

But one need not just drink Becherovka straight.  The second most popular Becherovka drink is an adaptation of the gin & tonic called “Be-ton,” and it combines, of course, Becherovka with that most British of healing liquids, tonic water. (The Beton is usually a rather herbal mix, but you’re looking for a gentler version of the classic, try this recipe from The Kitchn.)

Beton is a play on words — it means concrete in Czech, so I thought I’d try to soften up the concrete with a little apricot kiss from the remaining jar of brandied apricots I put up last summer.  Don’t have brandied apricots?  Try poaching apricot halves in a simple syrup instead, then use the syrup for the drink.

The syrup and the apricot mellow out the herbs in the bitter tonic, and the apricot garnish smiles up at you like a sunny-side-up egg until you slurp it up and it slides, icily, down your throat.  The perfect summer drink.

Concrete Kiss

  • 1.5 oz. Becherovka
  • 5 oz. tonic water (I used Schwepps but a finer, less harsh tonic would be much better)
  • 1 oz. syrup from brandied apricots, or substitute a sweet apricot brandy (like Hungarian Fütyülos)
  • 1/2 brandied apricot

In a highball glass filled generously with ice cubes, add the Becherovka and tonic, then mix gently.  Pour the apricot syrup on top and garnish with a perfect brandied apricot half.

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culinaria eugenius in transit

Somewhat miraculously, I made it.  I can’t even begin to describe the clusterf@#$ flying internationally this year has turned out to be.  But I made it.  I’m in Prague.  My bag wisely decided to remain in Seattle, though.

Some good moments:

The flight from PDX to SEA was on the really cool new Q400 “greener” planes.  I guess the propeller makes them conserve fuel.  I had a smack dab in the middle view of it, and the whirring was mesmerizing.  Plus, I could get great shots of Seattle.

And by the way, green Horizon, thanks for being the only exemplary leg of the journey.  Props to you not only for the plane but for a free goddamn glass of wine from a local winery and those pretzels-studded-with-ranch-rice-crackers that I like.

And thanks to you, too, Amsterdam.  Your airport does not suck, even with the tiff we had and the long run from one end to the other, dodging obstacles and customs officials.  I couldn’t have been happier when you rerouted me electronically (even on a different airline)! And you gave me a 50-euro voucher for another KLM flight, plus 10 free euros worth of lox roll, goldfish crackers, and a nice glass of chablis at Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar.  Plus, I really had fun browsing the seeds in your tulip shop.  And…

O hai delicious gouda cheese crackers and salty, spicy, black-as-used-up coal licorice bricks called Old Timers Salmiak Klinkers. I agree that having a big delicatessen in the middle of the airport, complete with a giant wall of cheese and sausage and softly smoked and cured fish, is a great idea.  Wish I could have bought more.  The salmiak klinkers DELIVERED.

I’m not nearly as fond of the Your Luggage is Sleepless in Seattle toiletries pack provided by Czech Airlines.  Only in Europe would you find such a thing without shampoo or soap.  And the little bottle with a navy cap is tiny roll on deodorant, made in China as a product of France.  No offense, but two countries not exactly known for their deodorant.  I will be able to take off my makeup (silver pack) and shave (razor and cream) to my heart’s content, though.

Today: shopping!  More adventures to come.  Wish me luck.