Making Plum Alcohol – Slivovitz

Written by Filip Janac

Category: Czech Tradition

Slivovitz (Slivovice) is a fruit alcohol made from plums. Its name comes from the Slavic word for plum Slivka. The true Slivovitz is made for personal use and has about 51% of alcohol and if you don’t know anyone, who makes his own spirit, you can buy some Slivovitz in supermarkets, that has 40% of alcohol. If the Slivovice has less than 45%, it could have a sour taste – that is why homemade Slivovitz has more percent of alcohol.

In Moravia, the “national“ drink is slivovice as It is presented at local traditions and cultural events. It is produced in the many areas in Moravia and in Vysocina where plum tree are growing. It is illegal to have a home still but some do exist. Slivovitz is best at room temperature to bring out the flavor of the fruit. It is served in a small glass known as panak a shot or a stamprle a nightcap.

The process starts early in the Spring before the plum trees bloom the trees are pruned so that the fruit will be big. If it is a dry Spring they must be watered. Prayers are said to keep a late frost away from the blooming trees. and prayers for rain in a dry summer. The ripe plums are picked in August. They are cleaned, pitted and put into buckets and mashed. The mashed plums and juice are then poured into large open top barrels sugar is added then it will start to ferment lasting 5 or 6 weeks. The barrels are covered with a cloth to prevent insects or dirt from getting into the mash. If the temperature drops below 60 F it could slow or stop the fermentation. Also, a high-temperature could cause a loss of the aroma. The end of the fermentation is when the so-called fruit pie atop the juice starts to fall into the juice. The fermented liquid is taken to a distillery as it is illegal in the Czech Republic to distill alcohol at home (there is a fine up to 30.000,-). The distilling takes about three hours.

A visit to Moravia is not complete without stopping at one of the distilleries to sample the true Slivovitz. And you can try other fruit alcohols from cherries (Tresnovice), pears (Hruskovice), apricots (Merunkovice), grapes (Vinovice) or from apples (Calvados). The Slivovice is over 50% Alcohol that is 100 Proof USA. It takes about 71 pounds of plums to make 1 quart of Slivovice. This depends on the amount of juice and sugar used.