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Glory to Ukraine: Slivovitz and Molotov cocktails

by | Mar 6, 2022

photo/Jessie Lacey

It gets harder each month to write about cocktails and maintaining good spirits with everything going on in the world. It seems every new month presents a new and increasingly existential crisis. The torrent of news coming out of Ukraine is heartbreaking, and there is literally nothing folks with no power can do to help the brave souls in battle for their lives and country. When I researched traditional Ukrainian cocktails online, the search results returned stories about citizens learning to make Molotov cocktails — their own government, desperate to help and protect them, broadcast the recipe on local news stations. That shit is grim.

The term “Molotov cocktail” was coined by the Finns during the Winter War, which began in late November of 1939, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland. Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov had characterized bombing runs over Finland as humanitarian air-drops of food, which prompted Finns to sarcastically refer to Soviet bombs as “Molotov bread baskets.” The homemade firebombs Finns used to fight back thus became “Molotov cocktails,” a drink to accompany the Soviet propagandist’s free “bread.” Although hugely outgunned, the Finns put up a fierce resistence during that bitterly cold winter, forcing the Soviets to sign a peace treaty the following March. 

So history does that thing it does so well when we don’t learn from it: it repeats itself.

Like the Finns, Ukrainians are showing incredible strength in the face of unimaginable terror. Turning down an offer from the U.S. to evacuate him from Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

All I have is a bottle of Slivovitz, a plum spirit produced in Ukraine and numerous other Eastern and Central European countries, where it’s especially popular. Bulgarian monks began making this plum brandy back in the Middle Ages, and judging by the layer of dust on my bottle, that’s about the time it was added to my liquor collection. (It’s better aged, anyway.) Among the more well-known brands of Slivovitz is that made by R. Jelínek, a distiller based in the Czech Republic, and that’s what I have to work with. The use I have in mind is in a Guggle Muggle, a Jewish cold-fighting concoction, because it is warm and soothing (and simple).

A Guggle Muggle

  • 2 shots of the Sliv
  • hot water
  • honey
  • lemon

Combine ingredients and garnish with whole pink peppercorns, allspice, and a cinnamon stick.

Molotov Cocktail

  • an accelerant (e.g., alcohol or gas) 
  • 1 kerosene-soaked cloth 
  • 1 glass bottle

Fill the bottle with accelerant, stuff in the soaked wick, light the end of the wick and throw at the tanks of invading armies. Repeat as necessary.

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