PRAGUE, with its inspiring architecture, picturesque squares and interesting museums, is a top tourist destination and a city where the party doesn't stop. Residents of the Czech Republic consume more alcohol than those of any other country in Europe, an average of 16,6 litres per person per year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Although most of that is beer, the country also has a tradition of drinking stiff liqueurs, which are usually consumed neat. Among these is the herbal Becherovka, which is often mixed with tonic water and lemon to create a refreshing drink called the Beton. US tipplers may be familiar with the tall green-glass bottle because Pernod Ricard USA added the spirit to its portfolio last year and relaunched the product.
Fruit brandies, particularly the high-proof aged plum brandy known as Slivovitz, is popular for toasting around the holidays and other special occasions.
Wherever visitors are headed in Prague, they can expect warm hospitality and the possibility of raising a glass with new friends.
"People are very friendly," says Czech native Vita Chase, manager of Hospoda, a Czech-owned beer hall and restaurant in New York. "Be ready. They may invite you for drinks. If you want to party, if you want to drink, they know how."
Chase advises travellers to look for the Vltava River, which divides Prague into two sections: Old Prague (Staromestke), the main tourist area, and the New Town (Malostranke). On both sides of the river, "every little street has a special bar or pub," she says. Beverages are not restricted to Czech products; alongside lots of beer, expect to find cocktails made with vodka or rum.
Her recommendations for business travellers include Café Savoy (bit.ly/bY2iOF) and the newly Michelin starred La Degustation (www.ladegustation.cz/en), both sister restaurants to Hospoda.
Also of note is Kampa Park (bit.ly/9iXbS7) with its expansive river view, and sister restaurant, the Cowboys steakhouse (bit.ly/pMhqYx). For late-night revellers, Chase's pick is Cuban cocktail bar La Boreguita de Media (www.labodeguitadelmedio.cz) in the centre of the Old Town, where dancing until the wee hours and Mojitos are on tap.
HERE'S an intriguing way to enjoy two of Prague's traditional spirits in a non-traditional cocktail.
RECIPE: Prague on Manhattan, courtesy of Mickey Alexander, Hospoda
Although this drink looks deceptively like a classic whisky-based Manhattan, one sip tells differently. The plummy notes of Slivovitz hit the palate first, finishing with the herbal notes of Becherovka.
45ml Slivovitz five-year-old
One dash Angostura bitters
Splash of cherry juice
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine all liquid ingredients with ice. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cherry.
. Newman is the author of The Secret Financial Life of Food.