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Just as with a great cook, it’s often said that a great bartender can make anything taste good. However, in reality, there are several types of liquor that are very difficult to use in cocktails—even for pros like me. It takes some creativity to balance these stubborn spirits with other ingredients while not completely covering them up or having them dominate the drink.

One such spirit is the Eastern European plum brandy called slivovitz. Aged or un-aged, it does not matter. The thing that makes it so hard to use is that it usually overtakes anything else it’s mixed with. It is strong, it is pungent and sometimes it is oaky: Slivovitz just behaves like a bull in a china shop. And when you taste it, you will be carrying it with you for the rest of the day or night, just like when you eat fresh garlic. So what to do with it? Europeans drink it neat and do not bother adding anything. Bartenders have tried combining it with orange Curaçao, bitters, vermouth and egg whites without much success. In all my years behind the stick, I only could make slivovitz taste great in the one thing, The Slivopolitan, which also calls for Cointreau, fresh plum puree and lime juice. And it’s actually a pretty good drink.

  • 1 1/2 oz Stara Sokolova Slivovitz
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz Plum Puree
  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice
  • Garnish: Plum
  1. Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with large, cold ice cubes.

  2. Shake vigorously for 8 to10 seconds and double-strain into a coupe glass.

  3. Garnish with half a fresh plum.


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