“I have a challenge for you two,” Ben said to my husband, Alan, and me several weeks ago.
Ben is the owner of Wilder. He was testing out a new cocktail and wanted ideas for a name.
Ben’s face was mostly hidden behind his baseball cap and mask, but his eyes twinkled. He placed the drink in front of us, and I tasted it. Wow! Whiskey forward, my favorite, but it also had a herbaceous quality to it that clearly came from an amaro. It was well balanced, as all Ben drinks are, with a bittersweet flavor that had hints of citrus and plum.
The amaro he used was Amaro Jelínek, which is from a distillery in the Czech Republic. I didn’t know this at the time, but prior to WWII, the distillery had been owned and operated by the Jelínek family, Jewish distillers who became world famous for Kosher slivovitz (plum brandy). During the war, the Nazi’s aryanized the distillery and most of the Jelineks died in concentration camps. The only survivor, Jiri, took over the distillery after the war, only to lose it again in 1948 when the Communist Czechoslovakian government nationalized private enterprises.
“Czech amaro. Hmm. How about calling it Prague Spring?” Alan said.
Prague Spring was a brief time in the 1960’s when the Czechoslovakian government initiated reforms, including increasing freedom of speech. It is the time period that Milan Kundera highlights in one of our favorite stories—Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Ben scrunched his forehead. “That didn’t end so well.”
Hmm. True. In August of 1968, the Soviet Union sent troops, tanks, and aircraft into Czechoslovakia to put an end to all reforms. Hundreds of Czech citizens were killed.
“Maybe not the best name,” I said.
“How about Velvet Revolution,” Ben asked.
Palm to face. Of course!
The Velvet Revolution, the non-violent overthrow of the Czechoslovak government in 1989, is the perfect name for this drink, and this drink is the perfect addition to Wilder’s cocktail menu.
Ben’s recipe for the Velvet Revolution:
1 Part Bonded Rye Whiskey
2 Parts Amaro Jelínek
2 Parts Cnia Mata Vermouth
2 Dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters