Karlovy Vary is famous for its drinking cures at 12 public springs. We have discovered the 13th medicinal spring Becherovka.
What is Becherovka?
Admittedly, those who do not like drinking alcohol will not think much of the 13th medicinal spring in Karlovy Vary. The Karlovy Vary Becher Bitters is a herbal bitters produced by the Jan Becher company. It consists of the good Karlovy Vary water, high quality alcohol, sugar and 20 different herbs and spices. You drink the Becherovka pure or as a cocktail.
In Karlovy Vary, there is the Becherovka Visitor Center on Becher Square. Here, guided tours are offered in several languages. Those who would like to take part in a guided tour, for example in German or English, should find out in advance at what times the tours take place and reserve seats.
Guided tour of the Visitor Center in Karlovy Vary
The tour first begins with an approximately 8-minute film about the company. This is followed by a guided tour through the individual areas of the visitor center. First you learn about the history of Becherovka, about the production and in an interactive area a little bit about the ingredients of the herbal bitters.
Brief history of the origin of Becherovka
Josef Vitus Becher, a businessman from Karlovy Vary, sold sea and colonial goods. His main interest, however, was in the production of spirits and so he rented a distillery and began experimenting. Among other things, he produced a herbs liqueur.
In 1805, Prince Maximilian Friedrich von Plettenberg came to Karlovy Vary with his personal physician Dr. Christian Frobrig to be cured of an illness. The personal physician became friends with Jan Becher, the son of Josef Becher, and exchanged a lot of information about herbs and their healing properties. He even presented Jan with a recipe for a liqueur. Jan Becher tested the recipe and in 1807 began to sell this liqueur as “English Bitter” against stomach diseases. This was the beginning of the history of Becherovka.
The herbal liqueur quickly became very popular in Karlovy Vary. Here, where people came to be cured of stomach diseases, among other things, the mixture was not only soothing for the stomach, but also for the soul.
In 1838, Jan Becher finally took over the business and continued to expand it. The demand for the “English Bitter” increased and from the middle of the 19th century the product began to be exported. A new factory had to be built to serve the market. It was also at this time that the characteristic bottle of Becherovka developed (the green color came later).
In 1871 Gustav Becher took over the management of the company and registered the brand Becherovka as a trading company. He also came up with the idea of porcelain mugs. Becherovka is still drunk from them today.
Over the years, the herbal liqueur has survived world wars, nationalization and crises. Meanwhile, the company has been privatized again, the factory and marketing modernized. The recipe is still secret and the characteristic bottle has also remained.
Interactive exhibition in the visitor center
The recipe of the Becherovka is secret. Nevertheless, you can go on a little hunt for clues in the visitor center. In the interactive part of the exhibition, for example, you can learn that the secret mixture of herbs, filled into cloth bags, lies in tanks with alcohol for about a week. You can even smell some of the ingredients at a station. Once the extract has matured a bit, it is mixed with water and sugar and is stored in large oak barrels. It takes almost 2 months for the liqueur to be bottled.
I found the visit to the interactive area very interesting and would have liked a little more time. Unfortunately, it is also the case here that the tours are tightly timed and you are always pushed ahead a bit.
Finally the tasting
During the guided tour of the Becherovka Visitor Center, you can take part in a tasting at the end. Four different samples are included in the price of the tour, if you would like a fifth sample, you have to pay for it additionally.
After the tasting I have determined for me my two “taste favorites”: the original Becherovka and the Lemon variant. Oh yes, during the tasting I also realized why the Becherovka is called the 13th healing spring of Karlovy Vary. It tasted a bit like medicine.
If you want, you can buy your favorite at the end in the store of the visitor center. Price-wise, it was hardly any difference from the products in other stores.
T. G. Masaryka 282/57
Tuesday – Sunday: 9 am – 12 pm and 12:30 pm – 5 pm
Reservation required in advance
Normal tour (duration 45 minutes)
It includes tasting of 4 products (Becherovka Original, Lemon, KV14, Cordial)
Adults: 180 CZK
With the KarlovyVaryRegion Card the tour is free of charge.