Serbian plum brandy wins UNESCO heritage status

Serbia’s national drink Sljivovica, made from fermented plums and used to toast births, marriages and mourn deaths, was awarded UNESCO heritage status on Thursday.

The traditional brandy is beloved by afficionados for its fragrant aroma and a punchy flavour, and is sometimes known as slivovitz.

UNESCO tweeted that it had added to its intangible heritage list “social practices and knowledge related to the preparation and use of the traditional plum spirit”.

Sljivovica is almost exclusively drunk as a shot but can be boiled and served as a hot toddy during cold winter months, and in Serbian lore is considered a “medicine” for a battery of ailments.

A towel soaked in the brandy is placed around the neck to remedy a sore throat, while high fevers are tackled by massaging sljivovica into the patient’s feet.

Store-bought varieties come with an alcohol content of 40 percent, but it is often significantly higher in homemade varieties — traditionally a chance for families to come together.

Similar fruit brandies are produced across central and eastern Europe, but in Serbia sljivovica occupies a central aspect to life.

It is traditionally consumed at births, weddings and family celebrations, but also while mourning a loved one’s death.

Every family that can afford to, produces its own moonshine sljivovica.

“It’s a ceremony, an opportunity for friends and family to get together, have a good time and produce something that will end up in a little glass at the table,” 41-year old chef Dejan Lajovic told AFP.

Every September, he travels from Belgrade to his home village to make his own brandy and spend time with his loved ones.

The plums, once picked, ferment for about 10 days before they are placed in a barrel, which is then placed over a fire and the steam transforms into eau de vie.

More than 60 percent of plums in Serbia become sljivovica. In 2022, the Balkan country harvested more than 470,000 tons of plums. — Agence France-Presse