Which is the best slivovitz in the land? Slivophiles across America will have to wait until October 13 to find out the official results of the International Slivovitz Drinkers Association, which will hold this year’s U.S. Slivovitz Festival at the Northeastern Hotel on Dunlap Island, Minnesota. But a few enterprising slivofans got the party started early, with simultaneous celebrations on September 8 at a residential home in Queens, New York and at Lambert’s Seafood Restaurant and Sports Bar in Glenn Dale, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Gian Cossa, organizer of the Washington festival, reported that of the slivovitzes sampled the favorites were Clear Creek, from the Clear Creek distillery in Oregon, and the Jelinek 10-year, a classic slivovitz from the Czech Republic. According to Cossa, the festival was one of the liveliest to date with an attendance of approximately 60 to 75 people throughout the day, and visitors coming from as far away as Pittsburgh and South Virginia.
While reporting “If the Slivovitz Hasn’t Killed You Yet, Have Another Shot,” for the Forward’s food and drink section, I talked to a lot of serious slivophiles. Some of them discovered the super-potent plum brandy later in life, but for many the appeal went back to childhood, growing up in families who drank slivovitz in an almost ceremonial fashion.
My experience doesn’t date back that far, but slivovitz and I have crossed paths on a few occasions. My first encounter with the liquor was as a teenager, when my grandmother gave our family a bottle for Passover. I don’t recall the brand, but it was one of the squat green bottles that used to dominate the slivovitz market in North America, and which were usually imported from the former Yugoslavia. Slivovitz reentered my life more recently at The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, an annual Balkan music event in Brooklyn, where it is celebrated as a regional specialty. But after talking to a good many slivovitz aficionados, it became apparent that my knowledge was seriously lacking. For the sake of journalistic inquiry, further research was required.
(Cocktail video below)