Sunday, August 22, 2010

SPECIAL: [Name Unknown] Pelinkovac

As of the vile, vile affair that was Cossack vodka, I now officially have done twenty-five different reviews over the past several months, making that review a pretty big milestone for this blog. That's twenty-five different bottles,  ranging from non-alcoholic Busch to 100-proof banana hitler choked down by yours truly. And today is the last day of my summer vacation.

So I thought I'd hunt out something special. There's no brand name or title on this bottle, just PELINKOVAC (which is the type of liqueur) and bottling information, with a drawing of a feudal-era Slavic girl offering you a bottle (which, inexplicably, is also named in English like a weird, Escherian recursive hooch label). There was only one bottle left at the local ABC store, and a sign under it reading "Discontinued." Plus, I don't even know what a Croatian apertif is doing here in Carolina, so for all I know I've got the only bottle in the state. I've never seen it anywhere before-- never even heard of Pelinkovac, period --and when I saw that strange, lonely bottle I knew there was nothing in the world I wanted to review more.

Pelinkovac is, according to the sources I looked up, a liqueur native to Serbia, Croatia, and the Bosnian region, traditionally distilled from wormwood (which, in Ukrainian, is chernobyl-- the first of many good signs) and flavored with herbs and various bitters. It seems like it's  sort of the Serbo-Croatia-Bosnian answer to Malort, which, given Malort's reputation, seems like a very, very, very, bad idea.
Serbia's answer to Mario, for comparison.
Don't worry, I'm going to try to refrain from just making a GTAIV clusterfuck of an entry. That said-- I was in a war; let's see if this liquor means anything to me.

It's colored with caramel, so I really shouldn't even talk here. That said, from looking up some legitimate brands, it seems like Pelinkovac should be darker than this. The liquid inside the generic bottle is fairly translucent with an amber, slightly orange tint to it. It's the consistency of water, so it's not sluggish or strangely thick, which is simultaneously reassuring and disappointing. I should be happy it looks so threatening, but I'm a little worried that it's not even stranger-- its attempts at normalcy, besides being artificial, don't really hide anything, they just make me a little more afraid.
26 reviews in and I'm still not above using the most convoluted setup possible for a throw-away pop culture reference. I really will contort the flow of my comedy and stifle an actually creative observation just to make a gag about television. You know, like Family Guy.
 Man, considering the last 3 reviews have been vodka, cheap tequila-soda, and malt liquor, I'm honestly lucky to have  something that has a real aroma to talk about. Because, trust me, there is an aroma here. There's a really strong cinnamon note-- hot, spicy cinnamon, like in Big Red or Goldschlager. But there's a lot of really herbal and fruit flavors under it: fennel, anise, pear, and pepper all spring to mind. There's also some of that savory bitterness that I assume must be the wormwood (or vermut in German-- hence vermouth! I'm gonna get that funding yet!), since it's also really prevalent in the absinthe I've had. It's a shame the cinnamon is so strong, because the rest of these flavors are actually kinda nice, but the cinnamon is really intense--clearly more than it should be in bottles that don't cost ten dollars --and also smells really candy-like and artificial. Given that I really like the other scents there, this overpowering artificial aroma is the equivalent of taking a talented, subtle actor and wrapping him in pancake makeup and distractingly over-the-top costume work.
Goddammit Tim Burton stop doing that to your friend. Also get another friend.
First the good news: the artificial atomic-fireball-cinnamon flavor is not nearly as strong in sipping as it is in smelling.

Bad news: this stuff is not good to you.

It honestly doesn't taste that bad; it may be the most palatable thing I've reviewed (short of the beers) for this blog. There's a lot of the herbal flavors there that Jagermeister and absinthe have, but it's not as syrupy-sweet as the former or as licorice-y as the latter. It's a lot more bitter than either, though, and that's where the bad news comes in.

Wormwood, apparently, is a fairly lasting flavor, because after everything else fades there's this really strong woody bitterness that lurks around the back of your throat.
Silly Internet, that's not what I meant!
It's pretty much what I would imagine Croatia tastes like, and whether or not that's good  is up to you. I honestly kinda like it. It's weird and I don't know if it tastes particularly good, but hey-- I'd honestly recommend trying to find a bottle, if only so you can experience it. It's honestly the strangest and most unique thing I've reviewed, and if it's not terrible, at least it's weird. Just be warned that a large gulp is gonna make you queasy and a little ill. And then you realize that you are a poor wretch, and should have found a better way to live.


  1. You used "honestly" three times in the last paragraph-- makes me think you're being dishonest.

    And weirdly enough, I liked the stuff, too. How do we hunt down another bottle?

  2. This stuff is really popular in Beaver County, PA which is about 35 minutes north of Pittsburgh.

  3. i don't drink pretty much at all but this pelinkovac I love it since it puts me asleep in a few minutes

  4. it certainly is josh. that's because of all the eastern European 'hunkies' who moved to beaver county and the pittsburgh area to work at 'the mills' brought it and slivovitz with them from their homeland in eastern europe.

  5. This is really popular in the iron range, our family has a cabin in Ely, Mn and all the old guys up there order a beer and a plink! I have learned to enjoy it, it's a cultural thing up there! :)

  6. Im from beaver county, and I can confirm its popularity. Also, this particular bottle is the one thats popular. We put down more of this than Ireland puts down Guinness.

  7. I am also from The Beav, and I am a bartender. The bar where I work we go through 2-3 bottles a week.

  8. Really popular in Northern MN. Rumored that some guy makes it in his bathtub. Also rumored to have "medicinal qualities" from curing impotence to intestinal parasites. Makes for a crazy, blackout, lost Viking lumbjack kind of drunk if you have a bit too much. Enjoy!

  9. Pelinkovac. it is rather popular here in the Original-Bitter-Clinger county of Beaver in PA. As it should be.

    The Eastern Europeans worked in the steel mills and the Italians worked on the rail road. I grew up in that dynamic until the entire world came apart when the mills closed. I went to the army at 17, there was nothing left here.

    I just had a couple shots of Plinky with a nice Nicaraguan cigar out on the deck (AJ Fernandez San Latano Oval). From this deck i can see where J&L used to be on my left up-river and can see all the way down-river to the courthouse where the cake-eaters :) live on my right.

    Plinky is something near and dear to my heart and reminds me of the giants who made this pace, guys who busted their asses to get the later generation like me through college so that we didn't have to eat soot and break our backs in the infernos.

    Yeah, i payed my own way through school after the Army, but i was instilled with a real work ethic by those guys in the mills before me.

    for them, i'll raise a plinky, and always be a hunkie at heart.