Beer and more
Beer is a magic word in Slovakia as much as it is in Czech Republic. Few social gatherings in Slovakia go by without anybody yielding to the fresh-bitter taste of a decent pint of beer. More so than in Czech Republic, the Slovak taste for alcoholic drinks extends into the `stronger` direction. Slovaks are proud of their Borovicka, Hruskovica and Slivovica, only to mention a few. Question of the day: What habits and preferences do Slovaks have when it comes to drinking?
The Slovaks have a beer garden culture that is similar to the Czech, Austrian and Bavarian one. Town squares, inner courts, cellars or even parks ? any piece of open space that can host more than two people is susceptible to being turned into a beer garden. Some beer gardens have loud music, but most keep the music at decent volumes. Slovaks do not visit their beer gardens to listen to music, they typically go there to have a beer and some good discussions with friends.
.. explains the Slovakian way of drinking beer and spirits
Beer is typically served in half-liter pints or from half-liter bottles. Western and Northern Europeans may accept smaller glasses in their home countries, but such miniature glasses will barely enchant a Slovak. The only acceptable alternative to `pint quantities` would be beer from a supermarket, which can be bought in containers of up to two liters. Peter (23) is a big fan of what he calls Gazda beer: `It`s only for sale in supermarkets and it`s the cheapest of the cheapest. I actually like it, especially how it helps you get drunk for barely 6 Crowns (20 eurocent) a bottle.`
More popular beers include the Pilsner Urquell from Czech Republic or Zlaty Bazant from Slovakia. Many Slovaks also consider German beer acceptable, but that`s where the appreciation for foreign beers ends. Belgian beers are suspicious for their sweetness, while beer without foam is equally unlikely to impress a Slovak.
No matter how much Slovaks like beer, they will frequently switch to something stronger. Silvia (20) and Beata (20) enjoy drinking Fernet, which is a type of bitter-sweet liquor with citrus taste and 30% alcohol. Petr (25) is a big fan of Tequila with salt and lemon.
Many people combine drinking strong alcohol with regular beer `breaks`. Robert (25, photo) explains how the `breaking` strategy works: `The normal sequence will be: one beer, one shot, one beer, one shot ? every one of them starting off with the word `Na zdravie` (at the health) or possibly `do dna` which announces that the drink is supposed to be finished in one go. The shots can contain Fernet or even stronger materials: Slivovice which is made of plums, Hruskovica which is made of pears, or Borovicka which is made out of trees.`
Jurai (29) explains that real cocktails are not very popular in Slovakia: `They are too expensive for their size. Maybe the upper class in Bratislava will go to cocktail bars but most others won`t. I personally prefer to drink things pure. Pure beer, pure liquors.`
With the help of Miro (23), I find out that some mixtures of drinks are common. He tells me about Beton consisting of Becherovka herbal gin, mixed with tonic. `We also have Diesel which combines dark beer with our local version of Cola named Kofola. Then there is Resana which mixes Slivovica with beer. Apart from that, some people like drinking a combination of normal and dark beer.`
Miro (29) tells me about a drink called Tuzemski Um, which translates into `domestic um`. `This drink was called `Rum` during communism. Afterwards, it was no longer allowed to be called rum, because it doesn`t use the right type of sugar. The manufacturer then simply decided to call it `Um` instead. It`s actually not very popular, but it does make a nice story.`
Miro explains: `Domestic spirits are usually lots cheaper than imported ones. Beside the typical Slovak drinks, we also have our own vodkas which are named after all sorts of Soviet people or places. Such bottles costs as little as 200 Crowns (7,5 Euro) for a liter. Imported alternatives like Finlandia or Absolut cost 500 Crowns (17,50 Euro) for only 70 centiliters. Guess which ones are most popular here.`
Drinking too much first makes people drunk and then provides them with access to the `window` state. Okno is the state of drunkenness that leaves black holes in the subject`s memory and invariably leads to `having a monkey` the next day: a hangover. Tomas (24) reaches that state about once or twice a year, which he considers a reasonable frequence. `I don`t mind when people get drunk in the evenings, but he doesn`t think being drunk during the day is well-accepted. In small villages however, some old people do drink all day long. Some people close to retirement may even occasionally show up drunk when they go to work, but they would do well covering up their condition.`
`I`m not sure who in Slovakia drinks most: young people and students in public or old people at home. We young people drink a lot of beer, but many old Slovak men drink only stronger stuff. Whenever they drink sometimes do take a beer, it must taste like clear water to them.`
Peter (29) is not a real beer fan and doesn`t drink a lot of wine either. `I prefer Kofola, coffee and spirits. Hruskovica works fine for me.` Jan (27) only drinks dark beer, while Norbert (21) does not like alcoholic beers at all: `I don`t like the taste of alcoholic drinks, nor the feeling it gives you afterwards. Except when they themselves get drunk, my friends usually accept that I pretty much only drink Kofola, which I find suitable for almost any occasion. With Slovakia`s national meal `Halusky`, there is nothing as good as a glass of cmar, sour milk.`
For most people, alcoholic drinks do not make up their main `diet`. Coffee and tea are more suitable during daytime and in formal environments. Kofola is the leading soft drink, followed by CocaCola and PepsiCola. Fruit juices are becoming popular and a lot of people simply drink water. The quality of tap water should be acceptable although the taste may differ per region in Slovakia. Many people prefer to drink water from bottles: small glass ones in pubs ? big plastic ones at home or while traveling.
Martina (29) explains that payments are arranged differently by different groups and in different pubs. `Some pub owners will only make you pay when your about to leave. They will give you a specified bill and then it`s up to everybody to pay his or her share. Usually, the total is divided by the number of people, regardless of who drank how much. Only if one person is drinking different things than everybody else, he or she will probably pay separately. Some pubs just bring bills along with every round of drinks, and they will often propose to take the payment person by person.`
Paying for other people`s drinks does not seem to be very common. `Only guys who want to impress girls should prepare to pay for drinks that are not their own,` says Pavel (25). `Fortunately, the girls get drunk a lot quicker while they usually drink a lot slower. The downside is that they have a more expensive taste than men, even though most of them will drink beer with just as much pleasure as we do.`
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