The Ultimate Guide to the Local Liquor - Tuzemský (domestic) rum

The rum that isn't rum.

Be aware, if you have ever tasted rum of any kind (Cuban, Jamaican etc.), this one is compeletely diferent. In fact, it is advisable not to think of it as rum at all, the difference being far greater than between Scotch and, let's say, Bourbon. Don't be fooled by the sweetish smell, sweet it isn't, The taste, while being a bit alien at first, still holds some resemblance to what is generally known as rum. Tuzemský rum is the first liquor any Czech kid encounters in the household as soon as the cupboard becomes reachable. No decent home is without a bottle of this light brownish coloured liquid. Over the last fifty years it acquired the role of the most universal and dependable alcoholic companion of any social class in the Czech Republic, something like brandy in English-speaking countries. Favored by everyone from hardcore alcoholics to housewives baking cakes, rum has become a part of the culture, just like beer, only perhaps less visible.

A series of small "tuzemák" shots is possibly the least expensive yet most enjoyable way to get drunk without burdening your kidneys with a night's worth of beer circulation. Although getting used to it may take a while, it is still far closer to the average westener's taste than many of the Asian spirits. Another common way of consuming Tuzemský rum is Grog, a shot served in a glass of hot water, preferably with a slice of lemon. Add sugar if you like. It is especially nice in cold weather and available in any pub. You can add a shot of rum to your nice cup-o-tea or even a turkish coffee. A typical students' drink is a bottle of coke (or Kofola if you want to try out the original pre-Velvet taste) with a shot of Tuzemák added - the coke can safely disguise the rum's smell and the whole thing can easily pass into any classroom without having to hide it. It is also a good idea to have a small hip flask with you on a hike. Hardcore beer fans add a shot in their beer, and this combo repeated too many times is a sign of a typical Czech alcoholic.

Eager to test some of the recipes? Try this: beat an eigth of butter (250g) with a cup of icing sugar until creamy. Add two (or more if you like) spoons of Tuzemsk? rum, one egg yolk and two spoons of cocoa powder. Beat until nicely creamy. The cream is great for filling cakes, or just sticking two "pipkoty" together and refridgerating (you can also cover the whole thing in the rum cream and wrap it in ground cocnut). Rum is also used in home-made Egg Liquor (vajeen? kooak), a similar recipe being used for filling in Vosí hnízda (Wasps' Nests). Also the real punch cake, notoriously available in every cukrárna, although not containing real alcohol, depends on the liquor. Yummy.

Tuzemský rum is manufactured by practically every destillery in the Czech Republic, the best being perhaps the one from Bo?kov, although most of the other brands are just as good. It comes in bottles of all sizes - from one liter through the most common half-a-liter to a convenient hip-sized flask you can slip into your pocket. If you've ever considered gaining some local pub-culture experience, Tuzemsk? rum is something you just can't leave out. Na zdraví.

- Felix Neumann

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