Friday Cocktails: Beton
It was love at first sip for me and Becherovka, a spirit I first met during a college semester abroad in Prague. Ringing with notes of sweet spices, pungent herbs, and stomach-soothing bitters, it’s like a little dose of Christmas. And just like my favorite holiday, it makes everything better, no matter the season. Produced since 1807 in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Becherovka is made from a secret mixture of herbs and spices, and my grandmotherly Czech host-mother believed in its curative powers just as much as she believed that the government could tap her phone line and that all savory sandwiches should be made with a base of thickly buttered bread. Traditionally served chilled and neat, as an aperitif or digestif, it blossoms into a light and fizzy refresher when mixed with tonic water and a generous squeeze of lemon, a favorite drink in Prague’s bars and nightclubs. I learned to order it by the name “Beton”: a mashup of the two ingredient names, but also a word that translates to “cement” in Czech. The joke was that after too many of them, you’d land face-down on the street — but in moderation, it’s a perfect winter cocktail.