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Becherovka at Sobo 151

Back in college, while reading some novel set in Prague, I became obsessed with visiting that city. I finally managed to get there a few years ago, and I loved everything about it — except the food. While I enjoy pork, I don't enjoy it at every meal. And that was my experience in the Czech Republic: roast pork, pork goulash, pork schnitzel. On one menu I even saw pork-stuffed fried olives. Three days into my trip, I was eating nothing but apple strudel. So when some friends suggested dinner at Sobo 151, the Czech watering hole on Broadway, I was less than enthusiastic — until Sobo 151 introduced me to Becherovka. At first I wasn't sure what I was drinking, because my friend asked for two shots of "Santa Claus's blood." Amused, the bartender just looked at her, then grabbed the bottle of Becherovka and poured two shots ($5 each). After just a taste, I knew why the bartender was amused: Becherovka tastes like cinnamon-flavored rubbing alcohol. And while that sounds appalling, the taste grows on you, becoming more complex the more you drink. Think Fernet Branca or Jägermeister — in fact, Becherovka has a similar history to those two digestive cure-alls. A home remedy for arthritis, it was first produced commercially in 1807 as a medicinal tonic, flavored with aniseed, cinnamon and approximately 32 other herbs. And I can attest to its curative effects, because after a few shots, I felt nothing — and when a big plate of schnitzel arrived, even that seemed tasty. Hold the apple strudel; I'll have another Becherovka.

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