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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Dining & Drinking

5 Retro-Fab Czech Cocktails

Published on March 14th, 2013 in Dining & Drinking

  • Pravé české míchačky (Real Czech Cocktails)

  • Magické Oko (Magic Eye)

  • Semafor (Traffic Light)

  • Kofila (Czech Tequila or Poor Man’s Tequila)

  • Kofila Chocolate

  • Vitr z Hor (Wind from the Mountains)

  • Alpa Francovka

  • Utopenej Komunista (The Drowned Communist)

  • Author Alexandr Guha

 

It is entirely possible in the newly chic Czech capital to order a martini in a sleek lounge or perhaps encounter the odd whisky bar. But if you are visiting Prague and want to sample a more, shall we say, “authentic” Czech cocktail, I suggest one of the kitschy drinks popular during the Socialist era. 

 

I recently discovered a guide to these homespun concoctions, many of them riffs on drinks from the West using what limited alcohol was available at the time. Published in 2010, Pravé české míchačky (Real Czech Cocktails), a collection of recipes and historical notes, is available at bookstores throughout Prague. Even if you don’t speak Czech, the pictures alone make it a worthy purchase! Author Alexandr Guha was kind enough to share with me some of the book’s more interesting libations. I could not, however, convince him to confess his favorite pub for enjoying them. He recently told me in an e-mail that: “The beauty of these drinks is that they are, in the spirit of the ČSSR, completely DIY. Just order the shots from the bar and mix everything up right at your table.”

 

Magické Oko (Magic Eye)

 

Half-liter glass of Czech beer
1 shot zelená (Czech peppermint liqueur)

 

Carefully and from a minimal height, slide the shot of zelená into the beer so that it gently lands on the bottom of the glass, contents intact. Sip slowly to appreciate the lava-lamp effect of the “green eye” as it dissolves into the beer. Vodka or rum may be substituted for the zelená but the magic will be lost!

 

 

 

 

Semafor (Traffic Light)

 

1 part griotka (Czech cherry brandy)
1 part vaječný koňak (Czech egg-nog cognac)
1 part zelená (Czech peppermint liqueur)

 

This cocktail features the three mixers that most commonly appear in the recipes throughout the book, all in one drink. Making it requires great skill. Fill the bottom of a shot glass with the griotka. Next, using the concave side of a spoon, pour the vaječný over the griotka (it should form a layer over the surface of the griotka). Last, carefully pour the zelená down the rim of the glass so that it settles atop the denser vaječný.

 

 

 

Kofila (Czech Tequila or Poor Man’s Tequila)

 

1 shot tuzemský (Czech “rum”)
pinch coffee
1 tsp sugar

 

Meant to approximate the flavor of the classic coffee-flavored Czech chocolate bar, Kofila, this cocktail is also known as “Czech Tequila” for its three-part consumption ritual which bears a vague resemblance to that of a tequila shooter. Fill the shot glass with the tuzemský. Top with the pinch of coffee. Place the spoonful of sugar in your mouth, remove the spoon, and shoot the rum, holding all the ingredients in your mouth. Swish to mix. Swallow.

 

 

 

Vitr z Hor (Wind from the Mountains)

 

2 parts zelená (Czech peppermint liqueur)
1 part Alpa Francovka
*

 

This shot delivers quite the mentholated blast. Simply pour the zelená and Francovka into a shot glass and down it. Variations include a mixture of Alpy Francovka and cheap boxed white wine (“čůčo”) known as an Alpine Riesling.

 

*Alpa Francovka is an inexpensive tonic of sorts. Found in drugstores and supermarkets everywhere, its used by Czechs for everything from sweaty feet to toothaches. It’s also favored by students and the less fortunate for its alcoholic properties.

 

 

Utopenej Komunista (The Drowned Communist)

 

1 part griotka (Czech cherry liqueur)
1 part vodka (preferably Russian)

 

In the darks days of the Socialist regime, it was believed that for every “Utopenej Komunista” consumed, a member of the party drowned—which meant that the more shots one drank, the more of a heroic freedom fighter one became. Pour the griotka on the bottom of the shot glass and slowly top up with the vodka to create a layered effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All drinks photos courtesy of Martin Légeer.

 

 

 

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