Slovenes make alcoholic drinks of many different flavors at home, by fermenting fruit or some other flavoring agent (honey, hazelnuts, pine needles — let your imagination run wild!) with sugar, and combining the result with distilled alcohol in the form of schnapps or brandy. The result is typically consumed in tiny glasses before and after dinner. Restaurants sometimes presented them to us gratis, especially at the end of a meal.

In Germany, Schnapps can refer to any distilled alcohol drink, but most particularly it means alcohol distilled from fermented fruit. In Slovenia, schnapps is even made from grapes, though plums and apples are most common. Not being aged in wooden casks, it is usually colorless or very light-colored, and the flavor of the original fruit is not strong, sometimes not even perceptible. Plum brandy (or slivovitz as some Americans know it) is the whiskey of the Balkans, and seems to be what Slovenes most commonly use to make their cordials. (‚ÄüSlivovitz” is based on the Serbian and Croatian name for this brandy, šljivovica, but Slovenes call it slivovka.) They generally buy it, but some carry their dedication to home-madeness far enough to distill their own schnapps from various suitable ingredients.

The fruit or other flavoring ingredient is typically layered with sugar, left to ferment in the sun, and then mixed with schnapps. An expatriate New Yorker living in Slovenia posted in his blog a description, with pictures, of the process he uses to make blueberry cordial. (I've read that this is the commonest kind, and that most bars have it. I don't know if they all make their own, or if there is a commercial source.) You can read the blogger's account, and some interesting comments, at this URL: