Slivovitz comes from sin; the Slavic root word for plum, and refers to variants of 100-to 140-proof brandy that remain immensely popular in Slovakia, Croatia, Poland, Bosnia, the Czech Republic and Serbia, which 3 claims it as a national drink.
Until the late 1800s when commercial production began to spread across Europe, slivovitz was mostly prepared in small batches, by home brewers and village tavern keepers, leading to regional nuances based on the type of plum available and the length and quality of the fermentation and distillation processes, At first.
As such, these Jewish tavern keepers, says Dynner, would have hail an intimate knowledge of slivovitz production, from overseeing the plum harvest to distillation to distribution.
As a grain-free spirit, slivovitz was--and continues to be--saleable during Passover, when Jewish vendors slopped selling their wheat - and rye-based alcohols, "it was a great drink to make over Passover to keep your tavern running," says Dynner.
There was, Dynner suggests, another pragmatic reason for Jews to drink slivovitz in the non-wine-growing regions of (xntral and Eastern Europe.
All of these factors dovetailed with the rise of Hasidism, whose adherents adherents pursued drinking as a religious ritual, Among the few written references to Jews and slivovitz is the introduction to an 1884 commentary called liesed le-.
More than a century later, slivovitz retains that folkloric sensibility--but its widespread reputation remains that of down-market liquor, tantamount to moonshine.
But a sort of New World slivovitz renaissance is afoot.
One possible answer is that "the range and the quality of slivovitz has improved dramatically in the past decade," says Bill Radosevich, who in 1994 founded the U.