“guys, i didn’t even know this country existed until i saw it on our itinerary.”
this is how we endear ourselves to the locals. but to be fair to our guitarist, the only thing -i- had known about Slovenia beforehand was that it is where Slavoj Žižek is from, and (pretty much) the only thing i know about it now is that it is where Slavoj Zizek and Pelinkovec are from.
Pelinkovec is a (apparently?) wormwood-based bitter that kind of reminds me of Czech fernet, but with only the subtlest menthol aspect, and the bitterness more submerged in a fruit taste. nonetheless it manages in its sweetness a freshness that other herbal liqueurs like Jägermeister utterly fail to retain. it’s curious, with such a wealth of regional bitters available throughout Europe, that North America does not seem to have produced its own indigenous product.
instead we have Coke.
bitters are still taken somewhat seriously as medicine here (by here i mean there – Europe); they have not been so shorn as Coca Cola of their tonic associations as in North America (although i am told that one can still buy Zwack Unicum in pharmacies in BC). which is not to say, however, that they are treated solely as medicine. Pelinkovec is still a drink. Pelinkovec is the drink in fact, for young (and old) Slovenians asserting a benign cultural nationalism within the dizzying scrawl of borders and bitters that is Europe. and drinking Pelinkovec (i am assured) is in no way equivalent to drinking a bottle of cough syrup, in terms of social opprobrium, however much it may be claimed to do double duty as a cure-all.
the middle-aged man at the gas station on the Austrian border smiled at me, and said
“This is good – if you have stomach problems, it will fix them. If you don’t, it will give them.”