One of the more thrilling aspects of the current global bartending scene is the proliferation and spread of once-obscure liqueurs throughout the world. Take Becherovka, for instance. The herbal, botanical liqueur has been a native spirit of the Czech Republic since 1805, technically longer than the independent country itself has been around.
Despite its vaunted history, exports of the liqueur were severely restricted until recent years, with Pernod-Ricard launching the product in the United States starting in 2011. And while it is available now stateside, it’s still much more popular in the Czech Republic than anywhere in the U.S. “Everyone here, young or old, male or female, has some experience with Becherovka,” says Filip Stransky of the AnonymouS concept bars in Prague. “People drink it to celebrate and to mourn and to toast highs and lows. It’s part of our history.”
The arrival of Becherovka in the States brought with it the Beton, the signature highball of Prague. “We drink Becherovka in a traditional drink called the Beton, which was first published in 1967,” Stransky says. “It’s a twist on a Gin & Tonic.” Like the iconic G&T, the Beton is a simple concoction—just Becherovka, tonic water, and a wedge of lemon rather than lime. But also like the Gin & Tonic, its sum eclipses its parts, as the tonic water accentuates the unique elements of the Czech liqueur. Notes of cinnamon, ginger and licorice mingle with the quinine bittersweetness of the tonic water for a refreshing, bracing highball.
For those who want to add even more complexity and botanicals to the drink, there is precedence with a slight variation to the Beton. “...because we love a bitter taste, we are also adding Aperitiv KV14,” says Stransky. “Add this [to the tonic highball] and you have a Beton Bitter.” KV14 is an offshoot product in the Becherovka portfolio—red-hued, clocking in at 40% ABV and more potently bitter with no sugar added. A splash atop your Beton goes a long way to transforming the drink. Still, KV14 is definitely not nearly as available as Becherovka in most markets, and the uniqueness of the liqueur means there’s no clear substitute. Because of this, you may have to make do with the Beton, rather than the Beton Bitter. But one sip and you’ll know there’s nothing wrong with that.
- 2 ounces Becherovka liqueur
- 4 ounces tonic water
- Garnish: lemon wedge
Add the Becherovka and tonic water into a highball glass over ice.
Garnish with a lemon wedge.