I first discovered Becherovka at a Czech bar in Montreal. It was served simply, with tonic and an orange twist, and called a “Bé-ton” by the local bartender in her charming French-Canadian accent. This was about 10 years ago, when Becherovka was still rather difficult to find in the U.S. Recently, Pernod Ricard USA signed a national distribution agreement with the maker of this bitter herbal liqueur, making the two-centuries-old elixir much more widely available here.
Pronounced “beck-ur-OHV-kuh,” the aperitif/digestif was first created by Joseph Becher, a Czech apothecary, and his physician partner, Christian Frobrig. The pair were on a mission to create a medicinal eau de vie, a “water of life,” to help cure the ailments of the day. Their secret formula contained 20 different herbs, spices and aromatic oils blended with the mineral-rich waters of the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary. The recipe continues to be closely guarded by the Becher family today, as Becherovka has become a popular and beloved tipple, both in the Czech Republic and beyond.
The golden liquid is redolent of cinnamon and clove, and tastes of bittersweet herbs and baking spices, with hints of ginger and orange peel. It’s complex enough to enjoy the way I first had it in Montreal, with tonic and a twist. After dinner, you might even sip it neat to soothe a full belly. Of course, now that it’s so easy to find in America, bartenders have discovered it as a cocktail ingredient. In New York alone, you can find it at such bars as Amor y Amargo, Hospoda, Bohemian Beer Hall, and Maison Premiere. Tad Carducci of the cocktail consultancy Tippling Brothers suggests mixing Becherovka into a crisp, refreshing Smash, with fresh mint leaves, citrus juice and pineapple juice. He shares the recipe for his Prague Smash here.
- 2 parts Becherovka
- 2 parts pineapple juice
- 1 part lemon or lime juice
- 6 mint leaves
- splash of lemon-lime soda
- dash Angostura
In a mixing glass, muddle the mint. Add the Becherovka, pineapple juice and citrus, and shake over ice. Pour into a highball glass and top with soda. Stir and top with two dashes Angostura. Garnish with a mint sprig.