Tasting set of Belarusian liquors: heritage of the pleasant-chest maids

Tasting set of Belarusian liquors: heritage of the pleasant-chest maids

Liquors and tinctures, not cocktails

Krupnik, kalmusówka, kminówka, «Litwinka», «English pepper», kardamonówka, «żenicha», Kaziukówkа, trojankа, 999… And dozens of other mysterious names of traditional liquors and tinctures. Mostly, incomprehensible to the modern consumers. For centuries, these drinks were an integral part of everyday life of thousands of gentry manors in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was them, not today’s fashionable cocktails, that were typical for the old-time «home bars». To maintain the necessary assortment in a decent house, it was necessary to live in the rhythm of the natural calendar. To know perfectly the world of plants and related legends and beliefs. To be aware of the habits and problems of all kith and kin. A continuous painstaking work.

«Pleasant chests» and «their» maids

Drinks in the gentry house were usually stored in the so-called «pleasant chest». This was a special locker, usually hanging on a wall. Expensive spices and various delicacies were stored there. Raisins, almonds, jams, dried plums, gingerbreads, sweets. Further, exotic colonial goods like tea and coffee, etc. etc. The key to the «pleasant chest» was at the disposal of the house hostess or her confidant. In rich houses special women, usually poor but noble, were responsible for this. They were called pleasant-chest maids. All this stock had to be replenished timely. At any time a maid was ready to give a full account to the owners. A «pleasant chest» was somewhat similar to a modern home medicine kit. Since all tinctures were considered medicines for certain diseases. There were not enough professional doctors even for well-off families.

Incredible skills

They were really maids, unmarried women. No time was left for the family after taking care of the chest’s content. And the landlords were proud of the greatest craftswomen. Sometimes considering them almost family members. They were given proper content, and on occasion they could even find a good match. A chest-maid had to be well-aware both of scientific books on herbs and spices and their medicinal properties, and of folk medicine, to be practically able to recognize and pick all necessary plants. They also knew how to distill spirits, to infuse tinctures, to cook jams, to prepare various cosmetics. And of course, how to prevent stocks from spoilage and theft, for which certain accounting skills were necessary.

Packed up to the ceiling

Memoirist Lukasz Golębiowski recalled the the reign of Stanislaus Augustus (XVIII century). The princely pair, the marshal of Pinsk and his wife Lubeckis, had an exemplary housekeeper, a certain Pawłowska. The cellar could hardly contain all those stocks, all incredibly properly arranged and signed. Stored in bottles, jars, bags, on numerous shelves, completely covering the walls from top to bottom. In the less well-off houses, all these stocks were placed in one or two lockers. Whether all of these home remedies always helped, only God knows. However, this concern for the health of the family and the subjects has always been admired.

Kuhmistr restaurant has prepared for you a tasting set of 6 traditional liquors. They were carefully infused and lagered in our kitchen. They will help you to get acquainted with this important aspect of national cuisine. 30 ml each of tinctures: Horseradish liquor – plain and with honey, Cranberry, Cherry, Bison Grass liquors. And Krambambuli – honey & spices liquor.