Croatia Week: Party at the Embassy
After Drink Local, Drink DC week, we thought it would be nice to get out of the house and do a little traveling. So, we’ll be spending this week in Croatia.
Why Croatia, you ask? Well, we had the honor of spending a recent evening at the Croatian Embassy with the HKS DC Alumni Council. It was our first experience on Embassy Row, and it didn’t disappoint. The embassy had all of the combined grandeur and charm you’d hope for from an 85-year-old mansion. We followed the trail of fine Croatian art from the St. Jerome statue (Jerome was born in what is now Croatia. Who knew?) in the circle drive to the large and well-appointed second floor foyer where we set up our bar and spent the evening serving drinks to the ambassador (whom you could easily pick out in the crowd without any hint) and about 80 Kennedy School alumni.
We don’t get nearly as much opportunity to travel as we would like. So we use events like this one as fun, highly targeted ways to learn about other cultures by researching, tasting, and experimenting with their locally favored fermented beverages. It’s amazing to see how pretty much every culture figures out how to turn what is readily available or well-liked in their neighborhood into an alcoholic drink.
Here’s what we found out about Croatian alcohol. Over the rest of the week, we’ll be sharing the recipes we used it in to give the guests the event at the embassy a little taste of Croatia.
While Croatian wine has only recently been making its way into international wine markets, Croatia is one of the oldest grape cultivating and wine making regions of the world. Having been at it since the time of Aristotle, Croatians are very attached to and proud of their wines. Though it’s not a large country, Croatia has two distinct geographic areas. The wines from the Adriatic coast resemble those of nearby Venice, while those from the interior are rather like neighboring Austria’s.
We discovered to our delight that it’s quite common in Croatia to make your own brandy. That sounds like our kind of country. We mentioned in our introduction to brandy that, while it’s most often made with grapes, brandy can technically be made from any fruit. They take full advantage of that freedom in Croatia. Sure, there’s grape brandy, but also fig, quince, plum, and more. Somehow, they even have herbal brandies. It seems to us like plum is the favorite, but we could be wrong. Croatians drink their brandies chilled and straight, both before and after meals (Here’s an Imbibe magazine article about Croatian brandy, if you’re interested in knowing more). We, of course, will break with their tradition and figure out how to mix with it.
Maraschino is the distinctive sweet, sour, and bitter liqueur made from the marasca cherry; you may have noticed it in several of our recipes. We think of maraschino as Italian, and that’s kind of right; but it was actually first made in the 18th century in the Croatian region of Dalmatia. Dalmatia was a Venetian possession at the time, and Italians owned the large maraschino houses; during WWII, they moved production within the modern border of Italy. But Croatians also, of course, kept making their own.
See, the Croatians know what they’re doing with their alcohol.
Follow along with us this week for some Croatian-inspired cocktails. You won’t be disappointed.