Category Archives: mardi gras

Czech Spirit

revellers.jpgThank you to Sarah who wrote asking about the Czech spirit that is traditionally served at Masopust (Czech Mardi Gras). This is not absinthe (although there was plenty of absinth around during the festival this year) but zhřívanica — an elixir meant for fortifying the system. Absinthe also began it’s commercial life as an elixir by the way. Before that absinthe was part of the rich herbal tradition of rustic liquor making in Europe. Such recipes were passed down amongst families and within village communities, and the Bohemian lands are a rich source of these kind of drinks. This special masopust spirit that Sarah asks about is a particularly odd one because of what is usually used to serve the drink; ice and a slice? No…not quite, something decidely Czech…read on 🙂

Firstly, zhřívanica is liquor that has been infused with herbs, diluted with water and mixed with caramel. Caramelising spirits is common to both absinthe (when taken using the Czech fire method) and this rustic liquor. The name of the liquor derives from the intended result; to heat up, and the drink is usually served hot.

So what does one serve zhřívanica with? Traditionally pieces of bacon fat are used to garnish the brew – more commonly thesedays it’s butter (or low fat spread!) Not to everyone’s taste and I’ll stick to the absinthe I think!

masopust10.JPGHere is the recipe for zhřívanica

1/2 litru lihoviny, např. režné, 3 dkg másla, lžíce cukru, skořice, hřebíček, nové koření, 3 kuličky pepře, 1 dcl vody.

Cukr pálíme na másle na karamel. Zvlášť povaříme asi 10 minut ve vodě koření. Poté ji vlijeme na karamel. Chvíli povaříme, až se karamel rozpustí a přilijeme alkohol. Ohřejeme, ale nevaříme! Zjemníme kouskem másla. Podáváme teplé.


Our resident language expert will no doubt oblige with a grammatical translation 🙂




Czech Mardi Gras!

masopust2.jpgMasopust is the February festival in the Czech Republic that most resembles Mardi Gras. This is a time of drinking: loads of roast pork (cooked on open spits), washed down with cold beer (“pivo”) and plenty of other drinks like absinthe.

This party — which literally means something like “going without meat” — is marked by the use of masks and outlandish fancy dress. It is a time of indulgence and excess prior to the 40-day fast; it is believed it is pre-christian in origin. The mask-wearing likely represents the spirits of the dead (who apparently walk about at this time of year); there is a suggestion of sun worship, too. Devils, chimney sweeps and a host of animal figures make up the parade including a horse that collects doughnuts and an array of mad creatures from your worst nightmares.

This is one time of the year when you don’t need to drink absinthe to see the green fairy in the Czech Republic.

Czech Phrase: Kdo sa nenají ve fašank, bude hladovět po celý rok” means “If you don’t eat during Masopust you’ll be hungry for the rest of the year”