What comes in your mind when you hear the word Tatratea? A hot drink? A party with friends? Or the High Tatras – Slovakia’s most dramatic mountains? Well, all images are relevant to Tatratea, the Slovak alcoholic drink with many faces and flavours.
I first got a taste of ‘tatranský čaj’ on my hiking tours with friends years ago. It wasn’t a brand name back then but a warming drink you could get at most of the High Tatras chalets. It would be made of herbs, sweetened with honey and laced with rum or other spirit. It was a good pick-me-up after a long walk in the mountains, especially on a cold day.
A good few years later Ján Semaňák – a creative businessman from the High Tatras region – took the tradition of fortified tea drinking to a completely new level. Having tested dozens of alcohol-infused herb mixtures and fruit extracts, he finally arrived at a tea-based herbal liqueur that became the flagship product of Karloff Tatra Distillery in Kežmarok.
The first Tatratea formula was launched into the Slovak market in 2003 as Tatranský čaj. Thirteen more have been developed since then, and the new liqueur not only got its international name, but also an innovative design.
To find out more about Tatratea and its captivating story, I went to meet the people who were at the heart of it – the team of Ján Semaňák at the Tatra Distillery. They were happy to share with me and Cookslovak fans a recipe for a cocktail, which had been developed by Marián Beke – a bartender and owner of London’s Gibson bar.
- 40 ml Tatratea 52% Original
- 20 ml Earl Grey tea sweetened with honey
- Kofola (a soft drink similar to Coke)
- freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
- marshmallow and/or gingerbread to garnish
- Prepare the tea and sweeten it to taste with honey.
- Squeeze the lemon into a mug and place a few ice cubes at the bottom. Pour in the Tatratea and top up with Kofola or Coke.
- Garnish with roasted marshmallow and/or gingerbread.
Watch the cocktail being prepared here.
To book an excursion around the Tatra Distillery, see the company’s website here.
Read more about the history of Tatratea and other Slovak liquors in the forthcoming book A Taste of Slovakia, Part 2 – Autumn.