4

Handle The Proof: Becherovka

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

This bitter liqueur has been produced in five countries, been purchased by a French enterprise and fought it out in court against its original owners--without the distillery ever leaving the town of Karlovy Vary.

Which means Becherovka is like a cork tossed around by modern European history. A brief history before we get on with the tasting: When Josef Becher first developed the secret recipe in 1807, the town was part of the Austrian Empire. Later came the Austro-Hungarian merger. The end of World War One brought Czechoslovakia into being...until Hitler made it a protectorate of Nazi Germany.

From the moment when Josef passed the business on to his son, Jan, through the end of World War Two, the Becher family had produced the liqueur. But the Czechs were a tiny bit annoyed by, oh, Reinhard Heydrich and his SS. So immediately after the war they forced everyone of German heritage out of the country.

But the Czech government kept Becherovka.

The rest is just a tale of ousted family members producing rival bitters (using the same recipe) in Germany until Pernod Ricard bought out both. No wars, no Nazi bloodbaths, no retribution--big deal.

That Becherovka survived all this has to do with its...well...um, it presents a strong spicy and herbal aroma quite similar to a kitchen at Christmas--only one that's been layered in mud and doused with gasoline. So it can't be for the eye-opening smell.

At least the flavor is complex: very, very bitter though not too sweet, tasting at first of cola and herbs with a strong note of anise and earthy spice before the bitterness erupts. The finish lingers, thanks in part to the straw-colored liqueur's sticky mouth feel, expressing itself in a tincture of minerals and tinfoil.

The Czechs use it to settle stomach problems.

Some 35 herbs and spices go into this product, which lends it to medicinal applications, I guess. You can sip it neat--although more than two will cause your cerebellum to revolt. But perhaps the best reason to keep Becherovka around (and maybe the reason such a potent mix of flavors survived war and political disruption) is for mixing with tonic.

In the Czech Republic, this simple drink is called Beton. The tonic quells some of Becherovka's vicious bitter streak, bringing to the fore many of the grassy, spicy impressions--and adding a touch of sweetness. It tastes almost like a bubbly, alcoholic, ice-cold herbal tea, though with a lot more flavor.

What does Beton mean? Not sure, really. My Czech teacher stopped talking to me after I asked a simple question in our language class one day.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.