Slivovitz -- nectar of HaShem
But to get to the point. Tonight my brain cells hve been assaulted by a good dose of of ethanol in the form of slivovitz, G-d's gift to k'lal yisra'el. Yes, the goyim in eastern Europe drink it too, but this plum distillate is the classic Pesach drink, which was introduced to me by my zayde of blessed memory (even though I called him "grandpa.") Grandpa always had a shot of the holy liquid right before we ate the afikomen. Alas, he passed to the olam haba before I came of legal drinking age, but my uncle accepted the task of serving me when I reached that milestone in my life. Now I return that favor by serving my uncle with a shot when he attends the seders that I host.
Once I started my own household, I was partial to the version produced by Carmel Mizarachi in the late 1980's. In fact, there was a time, on the last night of Hannukah, in about 1988 (or maybe it was '89), I took a bottle to a cabin in a National Park, where I spent the night with some friends in the immortal "brain fry," where we almost burnt down the cabin by lighting my Chanukkah menorah, but in the end it was a kiddush Hashem because my Gentile friends were very impressed with Chanukkah and with slivovitz. (There were other mind-altering substances present besides slivovitz, but I shall not talk of them at this time, except to say that after this experience one of my friends went "on the wagon" "cold turkey." But the "brain fry" did not result in any property damage or personal injury.)
Soon after that Yugoslavia became "the former Yugosalvia" and because of the trade embargo against Serbia, no slivovitz could be found anywhere. Even the Israeli stuff disappeared because (according to the guy at the liquor store) the Israelis had imported their plums from Serbia.
However, by '93 or '94, we began to see slivovitz available from Hungary and from the Czech Republic. At the dawn of the 21st century, after the former Yugoslavia has calmed down a bit, Croatian (Maraska) and Serbian (Navip) slivovitz are now available in the stores. There's even a US slivovitz fesitval complete with the results of a tasting competition.
As they say:
"What is Slivovitz? For you poor wretches who have never had the chance to taste slivovitz, it is pure plum brandy, carefully distilled from the finest plums and aged until the distiller knows it is ready to drink. Sipped, slammed, savored, or shot - Slivovitz will change your outlook on life just as it has for millions of fans for hundreds of years. Na zdravlje!"
Anyway, I would say that slivovitz and other forms of ethanol are what is keeping this Conservative Apikoris "on the derech." During the week, I don't particularly care to drink, as I have to get up early in the morning and face a long commute. But on Shabbos and Yuntiff, there's nothing like an alcoholic buzz to make me feel good about HaShem and His creation. And we're talking "buzz" here, not fraternity-party wasted. I do try to get up on Saturday mrning and get to shul before they do the 'amidah.
Tonight, while I was preparing an exquisite Sbaoos/Yom Tove Kosher 'lePasach dinner, I decided to experiment with slivovitz cocktails. Last year, I invented the "Serbian Suicide," which consists of a shot of the alcohollic plum nectar mixed with Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic. For some reason, our local stores did not stock any Cel-Ray that was kosher for Passover this year. But they did have the Black Cherry and Cream sodas on hand. So this evening, while I was waithing for dinner to cook, I experimented. Slivovitz and black cherry soda is very, very good, the plum notes from the slivovitz complement the cherry flaor very well. Slivowitz and cream soda is also not bad, certainly better than a Serbian Suicide.
Well, that's all for now, I'm starting to fade, better have another shot of slivovitz, or maybe 'arak.
On the other hand, I', supposed to daven pesukei d;zimra tomorrow morning, maybe I shoukd just take a couple of tums and an advil and go to bed.
Good shabbos, good yom tov!