Take a trip through Eastern Europe or the Balkans, and you’re bound to come across rakia, a vast category of fruit brandies. These spirits feature many different fruits and go by many different names, but one such example is slivovitz, a clear plum brandy that is especially popular in Balkan countries like Serbia and Croatia. If you get the chance to drink slivovitz straight from the source, by all means, do so. But you can also find the popular spirit in a handful of U.S.-based bars and restaurants, like Baba, a lively all-day cafe in Arlington, Virginia.
Baba’s menu features a few Eastern European spirits and cocktails, including the Monastery, a drink containing Maraska slivovitz, lime juice, honey syrup, plum jam and fresh basil leaves. Maraska hails from Croatia; its slivovitz is a kosher spirit made from blue plums, which are fermented for three months. The mash is distilled twice, and the resulting liquor is aged for a minimum of two years in oak casks.
With brandy, citrus and sweetener, the Monastery is not so different from classics like the Sidecar or Brandy Crusta, though it has a flavor all its own. The cocktail highlights the intense plum flavors of the slivovitz and the fruity sweetness of the plum jam. Lemon juice and honey provide balance, while the herbaceous basil lends bright green notes. The refreshing cocktail is a friendly introduction to slivovitz and is likely to make quick converts of the uninitiated.
Lightly muddle the basil leaves in a shaker.
Add the slivovitz, lime juice, honey syrup and plum preserves with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with a basil leaf and a few drops of Peychaud’s bitters.