An evening at the pub in Czechia offers a rollicking good time with unique drinks and nibbles. Enjoy a glass of frothy mlíko while snacking on nakládaný hermelín, a pungent pickled cheese. And if that doesn’t make your pickle cravings subside, look to the corner of the bar for a jar of utopenci, Czechia’s “drowning men” sausages.
This stalwart of the pickled bar foods category involves sausages (typically slit in the middle), marinated with onions and red peppers in a brine of vinegar, bay leaves, salt, sugar, black peppercorns, and other assorted spices such as mustard seeds. Sometimes apple cider vinegar is used, while other times eggs and cucumbers are added to the mix. The jar of utopenci typically sits pickling for a couple of weeks before it is ready to be enjoyed. Bartenders usually serve an utopenec (singular) cold with bread, the slit in the middle of the sausage stuffed with some of the peppers and onions floating in the brine.
Czech food lore credits a pub owner and miller named Šamánek with the creation of utopenci. Šamánek is said to have lived in the town of Beroun, 19 miles from Prague, and the story goes that his drinking establishment earned much fame for its pickled sausages. But one day, while repairing his mill’s wheel, Šamánek drowned, leading his patrons to name his famous creation after his untimely demise. The alternate (and more likely) theory is that the sausages look like they’re “drowning” in the large glass jars in which they are preserved. Whether or not you’re drowning in drink, these meaty “drowning men” are sure to be excellent company.
Need to Know
If pickled meats don’t sound appetizing after a night of pickling your liver, think again. Czechs consider utopenci great hangover food.
Where to Try It
Baráčnická RychtaTržiště 23, Malá Strana, Prague, 118 00, Czechia
Wash down your utopenci with a crisp pilsner at this traditional restaurant.
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden29-19 24th Avenue, Queens, New York, 11102, United States
This popular Astoria spot has a sprawling outdoor beer garden and authentic Czech dishes and beers.