What is Becherovka?
Becherovka is an alcoholic liquid made in the Czech Republic. It is flavored with a number of herbs and spices including cinnamon and anise seed. This drink has been commercially produced since 1807. The alcohol content is 35% which means that the drink has a proof of 70.
The exact mixture of herbs used in becherovka is top secret and is closely guarded by the manufacturer. In fact, there are only two people in the world who know the exact mixture of over 30 herbs that are used to make becherovka. These two people are responsible for entering a secured room where the mixture is created. This mixture is made on a weekly basis so that the facility can continue to manufacture the drink.
Very little is known about the herbs that are used to make becherovka, but it is believed that some of them are imported to the Czech Republic from other countries. Other herbs are grown locally. The secrecy surrounding the recipe for this drink is much like the secrecy surrounding the recipes for some top American soft drinks such as Pepsi® and Coca-Cola®.
A competing product was sold from 1998 to 2003. There was a court battle over the right of this second company to produce the drink and, in the end, the original manufacturer won the case. The case was closed in 2007 and Zdeněk Hoffmann, the owner of the second company, was sentenced.
Becherovka is usually consumed cold and is sometimes mixed with other liquids, most commonly tonic water. It is sometimes used for medicinal purposes. Some argue that it is effective at easing pain or relieving nausea.
There is no firm science behind the medicinal properties of becherovka. Despite this fact, it has been used as a home remedy in central European and eastern European countries for many generations. In addition to the Czech Republic, becherovka is most commonly found in Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, and in some parts of Germany. As with most home remedies, the belief in and use of becherovka continues despite increased access to modern medicine and medications. Even without firm knowledge of what the drink is made of, many people in eastern and central Europe swear by the drink and always keep a bottle of it in the house.
With tonic water, Becherovka is as good or better than gin.
The first recipe was developed by an English doctor and a Czech pharmacist. It has about 90 plants in its composition but the recipe is secret (it is transmitted from generation to another). There are three types of Becherovka.
It's first use was for medical purposes (like bitters) and it does a lot of good for stomach problems, nervous system, etc. Nowadays, people use it for cocktails, but it has many more uses than that.
I was introduced to Becherovka in 1988 when we visited our family near Kocise, Slovakia. They called it "Medizine". It was a magic tonic to cure over-fullness and jet-lag restlessness. To which I must say it works very well. I don't find it to be a substitute for ipecac. I drank six shots of this and had a major buzz but I never felt like puking. It is in the category of an herbal stomach bitter like Angostura, Underburg. It settles the stomach, not makes it upset.
I had some Becherovka recently when my stomach was a little uneasy. Within an hour, I was feeling much better. Maybe it was acting like a placebo or perhaps the Becherovka just made me not care about my upset stomach anymore!
Aside from its medicinal purposes, its a really delicious drink.
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