Traveling Cocktail Series: Next Stop, Croatia!
THE COCKTAIL CULTURE while traveling abroad is an exciting part of experiencing the local culture. On my last fling of the summer, I visited the beautiful country of Croatia and its beautiful Dalmatian Coast. Croatia is rich in history, beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine, and fun cocktails. Several American mainstream cocktails were popular in the bigger cities, such as Split. On every menu in Split, you could easily find the Mojito, Sex on the Beach, Margarita, and a Dark & Stormy, but I wanted what the locals were drinking.
My first experience with the cocktail culture was at the World-Famous Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb, the capital city. The drink I tried first was The Hugo. The Hugo was a refreshing spritz cocktail featuring St. Germain, or Elderflower liquor served over ice in a wine glass. The Hugo was on every restaurant, bar, or poolside menu. It was a mainstay for me on the hot Croatian days.
- 1.5 oz St. Germain
- 1.5 oz Prosecco
- ½ oz fresh lime juice
- Fresh mint
- 3-4oz Soda Water
Next up, after a long day visiting the Krka National Park with its beautiful waterfalls, on the way back to the hotel, I spent the afternoon at the Bibich Winery sampling their delicious wines and hors d’oeuvres. I did not realize how many wineries were in Croatia. The red wines in Croatia were all deep in color, rich, and full of tannins. Several reminded me of a rich zinfandel. The white wines were also nice, crisp, and fruit-forward. The Bibich Winery is family-owned and operated. It is a MUST visit. They made me feel welcome and educated me on the history of Croatian wines. Their outdoor seating area was lovely.
Croatia is also full of truffle farms, and the delicious truffles paired easily with the wine. If you want to visit a truffle farm, the Prodan Family Farm was a beautiful experience. The daughter prepared our lunch and educated us on all things truffle; then, her brother took the group on a truffle hunt with the dogs. The granddaughter, who is three years old, is learning to truffle hunt and already has her own shovel.
My last stop was Dubrovnik. In the Old Town, I ate in a restaurant called Taj Mahal. It was not an Indian restaurant, as the name would suggest. It was Serbian. At Taj Mahal, I hit the jackpot on craft cocktails. While dining at the Taj Mahak, I tried the Disaronno Fizz, a new, fun way to drink amaretto.
- 1.5 oz Disaronno Amaretto
- ¾ oz Monin Lemon
- 5 oz Sparkling Water
Next, with the entrée, I tried the Lemon and Pepper Gin and Tonic. Gin is a popular option all over Croatia. And the lemon and spice from the cocktail paired perfectly with the delicious lamb dishes.
Lemon and Pepper Gin & Tonic
- 1.5 oz Tanqueray No 10
- 4 oz Tonic Water
- 8-10 Pink Peppercorns
- Lemon Peel
- Ginger Slice
My favorite, though, was the Dul Gin. This was a very Turkish-inspired drink, and so beautifully presented.
- 1.5 oz Tanqueray No 10
- ¾ oz Monin Rose Syrup
- ½ oz Fresh Lime juice
- 4oz Tonic Water
- 8-10 dried miniature roses
Combine all ingredients in a wine glass filled with ice and stir gently.
A trip to Croatia would only be complete with sampling Rakija. Rakija is a term for fruit spirits or fruit brandy prevalent in the Balkans. The alcohol content of rakija is usually 40% ABV, but home-produced can be stronger. In every part of Croatia, I sampled different versions of this spirit. I would say it closely resembles Grappa. In the town of Korcula, the rakija is made with anise. In the town of Istria, the rakija is made with honey or mistletoe. My favorite was the rakija made with dried figs. When sampling rakija, it was always served with candied orange rinds.
If you can visit this beautiful country, do so and enjoy a rich culture deeply rooted in history. Enjoy all the fresh fish from the Adriatic Sea, the local wines, and delicious cocktails.