Šljivovica, Slivovitza, Schlivowitz, or Slivovitsa is a fruit brandy made from damson plums, often referred to as plum brandy. Slivovitz is produced in Central and Eastern Europe, both commercially as well as homemade. Primary producers are in Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, 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.
The word slivovica (Šljivovica) is derived from Slavic word for plum or (more specifically) for damson plum: Serbian: šljiva/шљива – damson plum, Czech: slíva, Polish: śliwka or Slovak: slivka + postfix -vice or -vica /vɪtsa/ to indicate the food from which it was distilled. For example, Czech meruňka apricot → meruňkovice apricot brandy; broskev peach → broskvovice peach brandy.
Slivovitz (//) is known by cognates such as Serbian: šljivovica / шљивовица, Bulgarian: сливова, сливовица, Czech: slivovice, Finnish: slivovits, German: Sliwowitz, Slibowitz, Croatian: šljivovica, Hungarian: sligovica, Italian: slivovitz, Macedonian: сливова, Polish: śliwowica, Romanian: şliboviţă, Russian: сливовица, Slovak: slivovica, Slovene: slivovka, Yiddish: שליוואָוויץ, Ukrainian: слив'янка)
Production and consumption
Šljivovica is produced mostly in Southeast Europe, notably the Balkan region, both commercially and homemade. The primary producers are in Serbia, Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary.
It is considered that during the Ottoman wars in Europe to the Balkan in 15th century, Rakı got introduced to the Balkans. Geographically, etymologically and in the sense of production alone Šljivovica originated in Serbia and has a very long tradition and practice. In Serbia there are several places named Šljivovica. Serbia is also top production country of Šljivovica, one of the countries with highest Plum production (512,645t according to the 2015. research) researched by UN Food & Agriculture Organization, closely followed by Romania.
Similar plum brandies are also produced in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, and Canada, but they are marketed under other names, such as brandy, Pflümli, or eau de vie.
During the production process, the plums and their ground kernels are crushed and pressed; yeast, starch, and sugar may be added to the juice. The mixture is then allowed to ferment. There may be one or more distillation stages, depending on the desired final product or region of production, and aging is common to enhance the distillate's finer flavours.
Note that in Serbia, adding too much sugar (or sugar at all) is considered very bad practice and is frowned upon. A way to name a bad Šljivovica is to call it "Šećeruša'' (meaning : sugar brandy or to that effect).
History, by country
In Bulgaria, the "Troyan plum brandy" (Troyanska Slivova) has been distilled in the Troyan Monastery by the monks since the founding of the monastery in the 14th century. The original recipe included 40 herbs, and was passed through the centuries from abbot to abbot. In 1894 the Monastery's brandy was presented at a spirits competition in Antwerp, Belgium, where it won a bronze medal. Some of its distinguishing characteristics include that it is made of a plum variety that only grows in the Troyan region, an old variety the locals call "Madzharkini plums", very juicy and aromatic whose stone, unlike the Teteven plums, is easily removed from the fruit; it is distilled in a vessel with a capacity of 80 to 120 litres; and only the best of the harvest is distilled. It is considered best distilled to an alcohol level between 39 and 41 degrees. Some celebrities who have tasted Troyan plum brandy are Pope John Paul II and former US 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" after buying 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 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.
In the Czech Republic slivovice (as well as its variations from other fruits), 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. It is primarily produced in the southern and eastern provinces of Moravia and in Vysočina, where the country retains its rural character. The production was likely introduced by immigrants from the Balkans since the 16th century. Although traditional, illegal, home distilleries still exist, 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.
Poland has a long tradition of 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, especially in recent years.
Slivovitz was also distilled in large quantities by local Jewish communities in Poland mainly before World War II. 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, but has never reached the standards of its predecessor. This is because originally Pejsachowka was 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 and Šljivovica is served as an apéritif. 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. In 2004, over 400 000 litres of Šljivovica was produced in Serbia; Serbia is the largest exporter of Šljivovica in the world, and second largest plum producer in the world, after China.
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.
Šljivovica is consumed either directly from a leather-wrapped round bottle, or chilled in a shot glass called čokanjčić(i). There is also a town in Zlatibor, called Šljivovica. A popular print in Serbia depicts a moustached peasant wearing the šubara (fur hat), drinking Šljivovica from a leather-wrapped bottle, with the motto: "Fuck the Cola, fuck the Pizza, all we need is Šljivovica".
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