Drinking in Slovenia

Slovene dram

Weeell... it wouldn't be a Slavic country without a drop of the hard stuff now would it?

Slovenia has spirit... and some

Where Slovenia shares a 'rich cultural heritage' with its Balkan neighbours is in the (illicit) production of various schnapps, brandies and eaux de vie. The 'illicit' is in brackets, as although strictly speaking the production of alcoholic beverages without a license is illegal, there must be hundreds of stills across the country, drippy-dripping the water of life. This will be bottled and kept for celebrations, and often handed to family members and friends - as much a link to 'home' as anything.

Of course, much of this liquor can be of so-so quality, but then again, sometimes - especially when it has been allowed to mature for a few years - can be of exceptional quality. As a tourist, you probably won't be regarded as 'friends and family', but if a restaurant offers a little something at the end of the meal, always ask if they have anything local.

Šteka spirits

There are, of course, a number of legitimate makers of strong alcolholic drinks - and you don't have to be a strong alcoholic to appreciate them! Probably the most legitimate of all is the Carthusian Pleterje monastery, snuggling in the verdant hills of Dolenjska. Being Carthusian, they keep themselves to themselves - but that's fine, as they make some excellent stuff. Here is their online shop.

Some to try
Borovničevec Pron. Borownichevets. Flavoured with blueberries ' often that have been sweetend with sugar while resting in the sun. Can be anything from 30% - 50%
Brinjavec Pron. Brinyavets. Juniper-flavoured eaux de vie - not to be confused with gin or genever. This stuff is very strongly flavoured with juniper berries, to piont where you feel your cheeks are being sucked into the dryness of your mouth. Having said that, once acquired, this is lovely stuff. Strongish.
Orehovec Pron. Orehovets. Nut-flavoured digestive. Very yummy indeed to the point of being dangerous. Anything from 25% - 50%.
Viljamovka Pron. Vilyamowka. A pear brandy - often with a whole pear grown in the bottle. Very popular either as an aperative or digestive and quality ranges from stripper to true elegance (I had some that had been kept for ten years recently, and it was truly sublime).
Slivovka Pron Slivowka. Plum-based spirit, usually referred to as schnapps. This is what is most often produced at home and can be rather nasty... or fabulous.
Sadjevec Pron. Sadyevets. Fruit-based spirit - an all-encompassing term that can be a bit naff.

Višnjevec Pron. Vishnyevets. Sour cherry brandy (the cherries are only sour before being processed with sugar, of course), almost always very good.
Travarica Pron. Travareetsa. Strictly speaking from Croatia, but plenty to be had in Slovenia. Flavoured with a mix of Mediteranean herbs.

The spirit world

It is a suburban myth that a still can produce the 'wrong' type of alcohol - i.e. methanol instead of ethanol. It's true that ethanol is what we're after, but methanol is in no way toxic (apart from being an alcohol, that is!).

The misunderstanding comes from where some authorities - especially in the States - insist that, when alcohol is being produced for uses other than happy imbibing, it is 'denatured'. This is a process whereby a toxic substance - methyl alcohol (NOT methanol) - is added... basically, to stop poor people drinking.

In other words, you're safe.