Everything You Need to Know About Becherovka, the Czech Herbal Liqueur | Wine Enthusiast
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Everything You Need to Know About Becherovka, the Czech Herbal Liqueur

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Made from a secret recipe of about 20 herbs and spices, Becherovka is a Czech liqueur with a history that’s just as rich and complex as its flavor.

Pronounced beck-ur-ohv-kuh, the spirit was invented when businessman and pharmacist Josef Vitus Becher began experimenting with liqueurs. The first product was sold in 1807 as “English Bitter,” a remedy for stomach illnesses.

In the U.S., Becherovka’s popularity grew following Prohibition, but in the 1940s, the communist government of then-Czechoslovakia limited exports of the spirit and forced Hedda Becher, a descendant of the founder, to disclose the secret recipe to the regime. She later began making a liqueur identical to Becherovka in West Germany and eventually sold it to the bitter-liqueur brand Underberg.

Becherovka was reprivatized in the late 1990s after nearly 60 years of being state-owned. In 2010, Becherovka, now owned by Pernod Ricard, opened a new distillery in Karlovy Vary, where the spirit was created.

What does Becherovka taste like?

Cloves and anise dominate Becherovka’s flavors, says Tomas Bohm, chef and owner of The Pantry Eateries in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bohm is a Czech Republic native and was born about 15 minutes from Karlovy Vary.

“It has a nice, sweet-forward flavor,” he says, but it finishes with a bit of bitterness from the cloves and thena little bit of the licorice comes through,” from the anise. “I can tell you in my lifetime, I’ve drunk liters and liters of Becherovka.”

With all the herbs and spices, Becherovka offers a “blast of flavor,” says Ebony Austin, owner and head mixologist at Nouveau Bar & Grill in College Park and Jonesboro, Georgia. “Specifically, you’ll get a tingle of cloves and cinnamon.” The anise flavor is subtle, she says, not as intense as Jagermeister.

“It tastes like Christmas—baking spices, like cinnamon, citrus and ginger,” says Ashley Mac, bar manager of Nihao in Baltimore.

Bohm agrees that Becherovka features flavors that Americans associate with the holidays, like clove and cinnamon, but notes that people in the Czech Republic drink it all year.

Here Are Five Ways to Enjoy Becherovka Liquor:

1. Drink it Straight

Since it was originally created for medicinal purposes to treat stomach problems, Becherovka is often consumed neat after a meal as a digestif. But it can be an aperitif, too.

“It really does wonders for the digestive system,” says Bohm.

Becherovka is usually served at room temperature as a two-ounce serving in a cordial glass. Though, many people in the Czech Republic keep a bottle in their freezer and serve it chilled.

Everything You Need to EnjoyBecherovka Straight

2. Mix up a Beton Cocktail

The Beton is a classic cocktail made from two ounces of Becherovka, tonic water and lemon over ice. “All those flavors—the citrus, the spice, a little bit of bitterness from the tonic—it just all kind of macerates really well together,” says Bohm.

It’s best with high-quality tonic water,” says Austin, who likes to add vodka to the drink to “spruce it up.”

There are several Beton variations, such as with cranberry juice, grapefruit or espresso.

Everything You Need to Make a Benton With Becherovka

3. Add it to an Old Fashioned

Mixing a half an ounce or an ounce of Becherovka into a classic Old Fashioned recipe is one of Austin’s favorite ways to use the spirit. “This is an incredibly smooth drink, with a slightly nutty flavor,” she says.

Everything you need to Make an Old Fashioned with Becherovka

4. Have it with Coffee

Add a shot of Becherovka to a cup of black coffee, espresso or black tea, Mac suggests. She’s also seen it used in an espresso martini alongside the classic ingredients and in other dessert cocktails that feature fruits like apple and pear.

“Its cinnamon flavor pairs well with so many different flavor combinations,” she says.

Everything You Need to Have Coffee and Becherovka or Make an Espresso Martini

5. Make a Rain Czech Cocktail

Since opening his restaurants in 2009, Bohm says he’s always featured a Becherovka-based cocktail on the menu. One of his favorites is the Rain Czech, which his team created this year.

To make the Rain Czech Cocktail shake ¾ ounce Becherovka, 1 ½ ounce El Dorado 12 Rum, ½ ounce Velvet Falernum, ¼ ounce orgeat syrup, ¾ ounce fresh lime juice and 1 dash of Angostura bitters and pour over ice in a rocks glass.