Slovakian winters call for a honey-and-bacon hot brandy cocktail.
If you are trying hriatô for the first time, your Slovak host will likely advise you to look past its appearance. The second thing they will suggest is that you drink it quickly. Pronounced hree-AH-two-oh, hriatô is a mouthful even before the pork fat hits your lips. But this honey-infused, bacon-dappled hot brandy cocktail graces the upper echelons of winter warmers in Slovakia.
Traditionally served around Christmas, hriatô is relatively straightforward to make. Home cooks begin by frying up bacon in a healthy dollop of lard. Once it’s crisp, they drizzle in honey, allowing the sweet and salty blend to mingle. Finally, they add a stream of potent fruit brandy to the mix.
Hriatô can indeed look a bit unappetizing on first glance. As the cloudy, orangish liquid begins to cool, the fat separates, initially forming glistening droplets on the drink’s surface, then a layer of settled fat. But when enjoyed fresh, the fried bacon bobs in the boozy brew, balancing the honeyed liquid with a savory umami pork flavor. Slovaks know a thing or two about hogs. Pork is central to Slovakian cuisine, and even the national dish, bryndzové halušky, a rich meal of gnocchi-like dumplings and sheep’s milk cheese, receives a healthy smattering of bacon.
Hriatô’s base brandy, often the plum-based slivovka, is a potent distillate (usually more than 50 percent alcohol by volume). With such hard-hitting hooch, it’s probably helpful to have a little pork in your pot before toasting with this toddy.
Where to Try It
Vianočné trhy Christmas FairMain Square and Hviezdoslav Square, Bratislava, Slovakia
You can often find hriatô at this Bratislava market, which runs from late November through late December.