Slivovitz or Slivovitsa is a distilled beverage made from Damson plums, due to which it is frequently called plum brandy. Slivovitz is produced in Central and Eastern Europe, both commercially as well as homemade. Primary producers are in Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria. In the Balkans it is part of the category of drinks called Rakia, while in Hungary it is part Pálinka; in Czech Republic and Slovakia Pálenka, which all are the same concept.
Slivovitz (//) is known by linguistical variants such as Serbian: šljivovica / шљивовица, Bulgarian: сливовица, Czech: slivovice, Finnish: slivovits, German: Sliwowitz, Slibowitz, Bosnian: šljivovica, Croatian: šljivovica, Hungarian: sligovica, Italian: slivovitz, Macedonian: сливова, Polish: śliwowica, Romanian: şliboviţă, Russian: сливовица, Slovak: slivovica, Slovene: slivovka, Yiddish: שליוואָוויץ, Ukrainian: слив'янка)
The word slivovitz is derived from Serbian (Slavic) words for plum or (more specifically) for damson plum: Serbian: šljiva/шљива - damson plum, Czech slíva, Polish śliwka or Slovak slivka and the postfix -vice or -vica /vɪtsa/ to add to the name of the brandy to distinguish what fruit was distilled (e.g. Czech meruňka (apricot) → meruňkovice (apricot brandy), broskev (peach) → broskvovice (peach brandy)).
Production and consumption
Slivovitz is produced in mostly Slavic regions of central and eastern Europe, both commercially as well as homemade.
It is most popularly consumed in those nations, as well as wherever communities of expatriate from these nations exist. Similar plum brandies are also produced in Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, and Canada, but marketed under other names, such as brandy, Pflümli, or eau de vie. Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon is now producing clear slivovitz labelled as such.
In the manufacturing process, the plums and their ground kernels are first crushed and pressed; yeast, starch, and sugar may be added to the juice; and the mixture is then allowed to ferment. There may be one or several distillation stages, depending on the desired final product or region of production, and ageing is common to enhance the distillate's finer flavours.
Some producers have obtained a Hechsher for their slivovitz, certifying that it is kosher for Passover. Among Ashkenazi Jews slivovitz is associated with Passover because it contains no grain products and may therefore be consumed during the festival when grain-based liquors are forbidden.
History, by country
In Bulgaria, the "Troyan plum brandy" (Troyanska Slivova) has been distilled in the Troyan Monastery by the monks ever since the foundation of the monastery in the 14th century. The original recipe included 40 herbs and was passed through the centuries from abbot to abbot. Back in 1894 the plum brandy of the Troyan Monastery was presented at a spirits competition in Antwerp, Belgium, where it won a bronze medal. Some of the secrets of the Troyan plum brandy are the following: Firstly, it is made of a plum variety that only grows in the Troyan region. It is an old variety which the locals call "Madzharkini plums", very juicy and aromatic whose stone, unlike the Teteven plums, is easily removed from the fruit. Secondly, and a very important condition for good brandy is that the fermentation vessel is as big as possible. Thirdly, it is important that the distillation vessel has a capacity of 80 to 120 litres. Experienced distillers noticed that the same source material gives different taste of the end product depending on the distillation vessel. Fourthly, the fruit quality is important; even a small amount of rotten plums deteriorates the brandy. The plum brandy should not be very strong: it is best in the range between 39 and 41 degrees. Then its flavour is most strongly felt and it is best to drink. Some of the most famous people who tasted the Troyan plum brandy are Pope John Paul II and the former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria celebrated his 95th birthday in 2009 in the Sofia Metropolitanate with Troyan plum brandy.
In cooperation with the Bulgarian government, the Czech distillery Rudolf Jelinek protected the brands "Troyanska slivova" and "Tetevenska slivova" in the EU in 2007. The same year, this largest European manufacturer of fruit distillates bought a majority share in the largest Bulgarian slivovitsa vinery "Vinprom-Troyan" having bought half a year earlier the second largest "Destila Teteven". However, the Czechs reduced the alcohol content to pay less duty. The production of "Vinprom-Troyan" is mainly for export. For the past 18 years, Troyan has a special holiday, The Festival of Plum. This holiday is celebrated at the end of September in Troyan and in the village of Oreshak where the Troyan Monastery is located. The cult for the plum in the Troyan region exists for ages. The plum has always been an essential produce in this region. Since the beginning of the 20th century plums have been made into marmalades, pesto, dried prunes, and pulps which were exported in Western Europe. Of course, this fruit is most important as a raw material for the production of Troyanska slivova.
In the Czech Republic slivovice (as well as its variations from other fruits) is primarily produced in the southern and eastern provinces of Moravia and in Vysočina, where the country retains its rural character. The production of slivovice was introduced to Czech lands probably by Wallachian or Croatian migrants from northern Balkan since the 16th century.
Although traditional (illegal) home distilleries still exists, the majority of home production moved to certified local community-owned distilleries to prevent errors during the distillation process (leading to production of toxic methanol). It also allows state authorities to collect their respective taxes based on the proof of the product, however there are tax-reliefs for private and non-commercial production of the drink. The usual proof of private-produced slivovice is over 50% of alcohol in the final product, commercially available mass-produced drinks are mostly lower proof.
Slivovice is usually consumed at room temperature to bring out the flavor of the fruit. It's served in a small shot glass known locally as "panák" (literally: a dummy), "kalíšek" (colloquial for a small cup) or "štamprle" (from German "das Stamperl", little glass) and is almost never served on the rocks. Cooling helps to reduce the effects of high proof, however, to enjoy the aroma and taste of the original fruit it is better to drink slivovice at room temperature.
Slivovice, due its somewhat symbolic status of Moravian "national" drink, is strongly presented in local traditions, culture and popculture like in proverbs, folk songs, TV shows and movies.
Poland has a long tradition for making Slivovitz. Historically it has been distilled in the southern regions of the country by local highlanders and not necessarily given any particular brand names. One of the more recognised of such products is Śliwowica Łącka associated with the region of Łącko. Over the years it was regarded as one of the best Polish Slivovitz. However due to the fact that it is made without any specific control and brand ownership it has declined in quality especial in recent years. 
Slivovitz was also distilled in large quantities by local Jewish communities in Poland mainly before the Second World War. As a popular Passover alcohol Slivovitz had a strong standing among the traditional Orthodox communities in cities of Alexandrów, Stryków, Łódź, Warsaw, Kraków. Since the end of World War II some state-owned distillers tried to reintroduce the Slivovitz based on Jewish traditions. Pejsachówka was a great example of that. The name of this Slivovitz comes directly from the name of Passover holiday which in Polish is called Święto Paschy.
At the end of communism in Poland (1989), Pejsachowka has disappeared from the market. One of the Polish distillers created a brand called Śliwowica Paschalna. It was originally attempted as the relaunch of Pejsachowka however has never managed to reach the standards of its predecessor. Main reason for this was the fact that originally Pejsachowka is made only from Plums, Sugar, Yeast and Water. It is absolutely not allowed to be combined with any other spirit. Sliwowica Paschalna is slivovitz base mixed with grain spirit to achieve desired alcohol level and mostly to cut production cost. This means it cannot be Kosher for Passover and certainly cannot be compared to Pejsachówka in quality.
Another example is Śliwowica Strykowska which is made by a local distiller in cooperation with Łódź Jewish Community. Its brand in English is called Strykover Slivovitz. It holds a Kosher for Passover certificate. Its roots and concept is again tied with the traditions of Pejsachówka and Jewish heritage in past Poland.
Šljivovica is the national drink of Serbia in domestic production for centuries, and plum is the national fruit. The name Slivovitz is derived from Serbian (Šljivovica). Plum and its products are of great importance to Serbs and part of numerous customs. A Serbian meal usually starts or ends with plum products. Šljivovica is served as an appertif. A saying goes that the best place to build a house is where a plum tree grows best. Traditionally, Šljivovica (commonly referred to as "rakija") is connected to Serbian culture as a drink used at all important rites of passage (birth, baptism, military service, marriage, death, etc.). It is used in the Serbian Orthodox patron saint celebration, slava. It is used in numerous folk remedies, and is given certain degree of respect above all other alcoholic drinks. The fertile region of Šumadija in central Serbia is particularly known for its plums and Šljivovica.
Serbian Šljivovica is consumed chilled in a special shot glass called "čokanji-čokanjčići" ("fićok-fićuci" in Vojvodina) of 0.3 to 0.5 dl. It is both part of history and tradition in the country and among Serbs across the world.
Following the claims of several nations to the protected designation of origin, in October 2007 the European Union went for a compromise solution, leaving "slivovitz" as a generic name, and granting individual nations the right to protect the origin with their own adjective. Thus, "Serbian Slivovitz" (Srpska šljivovica/Српска шљивовица) will become Serbia's first certified national brand.
There is also a town in Zlatibor, called Šljivovica.
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