Brandies can come from any fruit, as long as that fruit is part of the distillation process. In southeastern Europe, brandy producers use plums, quite frequently, as the base. Slivovitz, the word modified from the Cyrillic spelling, is the name given to plum brandies. The slivovitz in this feature is from the former Yugoslavia where šljiva means plum and vica means distilled, so when translated to English, slivovitz means distilled from plums. Many people in the region produce their own homemade spirit, but I feature one produced by the Navip distillers.
Navip Slivovitz is one of my first experiences with a vintage spirit. While the Navip distillers still make this Pozegaca plum brandy in Serbia, my bottle was produced when the country was still Yugoslavia, so at a minimum prior to 2003. The spirit is likely much older as it was also aged 8 years in an oak barrel, which imparted the soft gold color on the spirit.
Navip Slivovitz fills the nose with a hints of slightly sour fruit that becomes more tart the longer you linger. In the aroma there are hints of aged plums. The brandy has a delicate presence on the tongue with an initial sweetness and tint of oak. The intensity builds and the flavor develops throughout each sip with a pleasant aftertaste of boozy plums and honey.
You can experiment with Navip Slivovitz in a number of ways. Replace the brandy in any cocktail that calls for it and see the results. I’d also recommend splitting the base of certain gin cocktails, such as a gin and tonic to bring a new dimension. So, if your favorite gin and tonic calls for 1 1/2 oz of gin use 1/4 or 1/2 oz of slivovitz as part of the gin component.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: Sidecar
The base of the classic Sidecar is brandy. With so many types out there it opens up a range of possibilities. I plugged Navip Slivovitz in to give it a rich depth.
For the drink:
-1 1/2 oz Navip Slivovitz
-1 oz triple sec (Cointreau)
-3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
-1/4 oz simple syrup
Combine the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice until three-quarters full and shake for 10 seconds. Pour through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer. Garnish.
Something Original: Serbian Christmas
This drink came from a half-baked idea about flavors I’d want for a Serbian Christmas. With the full ounce of lemon juice, the allspice, and cinnamon, the drink avoided being overly sweet with nice warming notes.
For the drink
-1 1/2 oz Navip Slivovitz
-3 allspice berries
-1/4 long cinnamon stick
-1/2 oz amaretto (Caffo)
-1/4 oz black raspberry liqueur (Chambord)
-1 oz fresh lemon juice
-1 tsp honey
Place your martini glass in the freezer. Pour the Navip Slivovitz into the cocktail shaker, muddle the allspice and cinnamon, and leave for 20 minutes. Combine the remaining drink ingredients and shake for 45 seconds. Fill three-quarters with ice and shake for 10 seconds. Pour through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer into the martini glass and allow it to settle for a minute and a half. Garnish.
Eat Your Spirit: Slivovitz Plum Jam
I made peach jam several years ago and recently I wanted to make another batch. However, when brainstorming how to incorporate slivovitz into food, I decided to incorporate it into a plum jam. The simple combination of plums, sugar, lime juice, and slivovitz worked better than I imagined, so I know what is going on my breakfast toast all week.
This makes about 2 ½ cups of jam. You can double it if necessary, but if you do I’d recommend only using 1/3 cup of slivovitz.
For the jam:
-1 1/2 pounds black plums
-1 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon lime juice
-1/4 cup Navip Slivovitz
-Remove the pits and cut the plums into small bite sized pieces.
-Add the plums, sugar, lime juice, and slivovitz to a Dutch oven.
-Cook over a medium-high heat until the temperature is about 220 degrees. Stir regularly to dissolve the sugar and prevent the jam from scalding. If you don’t have a thermometer, the consistency will become quite thick at this point, 5-10 minutes.
-Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
-If you plan on eating the same right away, simply pour the jam into a mason jar and refrigerate.
-If you plan on storing it, you can use a guide online for how to simmer your mason jars and seal them.
While Yugoslavia is no longer a country, this spirit was produced there, but the guide below is for Serbia. This post, like others about places I have not been, means this section of the post is a little different. However, I got some recommendations from a friend who lived in Serbia.
-For an intense soccer experience, go see a Red Star Belgrade game.
-Check out the Serbian art scene.
Food and Drink:
-For modern Serbian cuisine with a large brandy selection visit Ambar.
-If looking a historical dining experience, Pekara Trpkovića is a bakery over 100 year old.