The conception of Becherovka begins with the insight of a skilled businessman, Josef Vitus Becher (1769-1840). Besides his business with seasoing and colonial goods at his shop called at Three woodlarks', he had a special interest in crafting spirits. In 1794 he rented a wine distillery and started to experiment with liquers. Following in the legacy of his family, he also worked in the field of the public affairs, as boht a counselor and mayor. Josef was married twice, his first wife dying of pneumonia, and had sixteen children collectively. Only 5 daughters and 2 sons lived longer than he did. Josef's business practice was taken over by Johann (Jan) Nepomuk Becher in 1838.
Prince Maximilian Friedrich von Plettenberg came to Carlsbad in 1805 to be cured of an ailment. He was accompanied by his personal doctor, Dr. Christian Frobrig, hailing from England. Dr. Frobrig was a frequent visitor at Jan Becher's. They frequently met to discuss herbs, and their many healing powers. When Dr. Frobrig left, he gave Jan Becher the gift of a new, revolutionary liqueur recipe. Jan Becher tested this very same recipe many times over the course of two years before he began selling it in 1807 as "English Bitter," aimed to cure stomach illness.
May 1807 marked a significant day in Becherovka's histroy: the Three Woodlarks industry made its first sale. The drink was called "English Bitter," and was used for medicinal purpose: for curing stomach illness. The mix become wildly popular within the city, where people flocked for miles seeking this proven cure for stomach illness. Unlike herbs and seasoning that were sold in grams, Becher's drink was a magic concoction of herbs and spices that eased not only the stomach of the patient, but the soul.
The family of the founder started with the export of Becherovka already in the first half of the 19th century - in 1834 it was sold in Szczecin, a year later in Vienna and Munich and in 1838 it finally came to Paris. During the first World War, Becherovka arrived to Spain, Italy, Turkey and Egypt. Only in 1934 - after the end of the alcohol prohibition - could Becherovka conquor the United States and four years later finally England. After the second World War Becherovka received a permition to only export 500 bottles a year, in 1960 it became 100 hectoliters a year. Becherovka was one of the most popular export goods of the socialist Czechoslovakia.
In 1838 the son of Josef Becher, Jan (1813-1895) took over the colonial trade of liqueur making in the family house at Three woodlarks. He is considered as the founder of the company, responsible for the development of the Becherovka production for the course of almost 40 years. During this time he built a new factory and gave the family three inheritors: three sons from three different marriages. Jan's signature stamp of Becherovka's traditional quality and taste can be found on every iconic bottle in production today.
Upon commencing the contruction plan for the new factory, Jan Becher requested that his brother-in-law, Karel Laube design a new bottle for Becherovka. That's when the legendary flat shape of the bottle came to be. Later, in 1907, this same bottle shape would take on its recognized green hue.
In 1867 Jan Becher moved the booming industry to a new factory location in Steinberky. The original site of production since 1840 based in Philadelphia, Three Woodlarks, had grown too small for the production. Only Jan's brother-in-law, Karel Laube, was doubtful about the decision to relocate as the area seemed to be outside of the city's rush. All doubts were forgotten after the first train arrived at Carlsbad. A new era had begun. Carlsbad, Steinberky and Becher's liqueur soon after became regionally, and later, nationally recognized -- a revolutionary business of the new world. The new generations of the Becher family generations brought some architectural changes. For example, during the summer in 1900 Michael and Rudolf Becher added a new floor with spires. The second modernization happened in 1929 when Alfred Becher decided (MISSING TEXT). Since then, the building has seen little change up until the general reconstruction that took place in 1994.
In 1871 Gustav Becher took over the family business (1840-1921) and was successfully managing it for three decades until he sold his share to his step brothers, Rudolf and Michael. The reason might have been a young girl Crescentia Doile, who he later married. Gustav was a very smart and respectful business man - he was increasing the demand for Becherovka but he was also keeping it safe from the competitors. During the management of Gustav, the well known shot glasses from white porcelain started to sell.
Becherovka has been awarded great recognition during the span of its 200 year existence. One of the most important of these milestones, outside of the C.K. Chamber Supplier, received in 1907, include honorary titles and medals from World's exhibitions, including Grand Prix Paris in 1900. Many honorary titles and medals decorated Becherovka throughout the 19th century. It retained this renwon during the first republic and, surprisingly, stayed that way even during the time of socialism. In 1979 it received an esteemed work title, albeit seen as taboo during the social and political atmosphere. Liquer makers held a prominent role during this time, despite the restrictive time period.
As Becherovka's popularity sky rocketed, illegal activity of its competitors also increased. The fight against plagiarism began in 1904, when Jan and Rudolf Becher filed a lawsuit against those who attempted to steal their campaign initiatives. Even though they won, the aattle had only begun. Attempts to copy the labels, name, and actual liquer recipe continued to become more and more common. In recent history, for example, there was a Slovak version of Becherovka on the market, which was immediately rendered illegal in court. Luckily for Becherovka, today plagiarism is prevented by the modern protective meaures.
At the time of its 100th aniversary, Becherovka already has 12 000 regular subscribers, several affiliated companies and a registered trade mark. Ironically, Becherovka was introduced to all of the boats of a maritime transport company, Lloyd. The transport company found the benefits for the digestive system, heartburn, nausea, stomach cramps and sea sickness to be benefactory. One of the most important well-wishers for the Becherovka 100th aniversary is his royalty, grand duke Ferdinand Karl. Becherovka received the honorary title C.K. chamber supplier, since in 1904 they were a court supplier. 50 liters of Becherovka was sent to the duke's house on a monthly basis.
In 1910 the management of the company was taken over by two brothers, Michael and Rudolf, Gustav's step brothers who had been silent partners since 1889. Together they enlarged the Steinberky factory and focused on new markets. Michael began to sell traveller's sized bottles of Becherovka, while Rudolf focussed primarily on exports.
In 1917, shortly before his death, Michael Becher divided his share in the comapny amongst his son Alfred and his son-in-law Hans Klapka. Alfred (1883-1940) modernized the company and the production, built an enterprised in Dresden, and enlarged Becherovka's range of products. However, he was injured during the first World War and lost his life during World War II. After he died, his daughter Hedda took over the company. During Alfred had passed everything he knew onto her and, thus, she held the secrets of the recipe. She was also, notedly, one of the only women who held the capacity produce the herbal mixture at the time.
Due to the large popularity of the term Becherovka, both the Czech version and the German version, Becher Bitter were registered as trademarks in 1922. Until then, Becherovka was sold as English Bitter, Karlsbader Bitter, Karlsbader Becherbitter, Johann Becher etc.
It was in the year 1938 when Becherovka finally returned to the mother land of one of its founding fathers: England, after an incredible 133 years since its inception. At the time, it had aleady been exported to fifty other countries. Responsible for this was Lord Walter Runciman, who represented England and France at the Sudeten negotiation with the Nazi Germany. Part of the negotiation took place in the storage room areas of the company, in the "sweet storage" today called Kristynka. For Becherovka, this was one of its most revered missions.
The only woman and the last member of Becher family who knew the cherished secret recipe of Becherovka was Hedda Becher (1914-2007). She took over the company in 1941, after her father Alfred died. Before taking on her position at the end of the war, she was forced to give the family's secret recipe to the order of the communist regime: the original, hand written recipe from Frobrig's pen. Despite this set-back, Hedda started to make "identical" liqueur in Western Germany. From this concoction came to be a product that is what experts claim to be identical to the Carlsbad original. After 1972, she sold her company to a corporation called Underberg, with which the Carlsbad Becherovka agreed on division of amongst the Western European market. That when the blue-red export labels came to existence. Despite rumors, the liqueur the same in all bottles produced. Since 1999 there is only one Becherovka: that of the original Carslbad. Hedda Becher after 1989 came to visit Carlsbad several times. She died shortly after the 200th anniversary of Becherovka in 2007.
Back at the house at the three woodlarks in Philladelphia, the Steinberky's factory production increased and vaults began to grow beneath the surrounding houses of the neighborhood. Of course, the capacity was reached and exceeded. With the success of the business, the company was able to build a new warehouse space in 1973 in the town of Karlovarske Bohatice. Only after 40 years the vision of the company had been actualized and Becherovka was ready to celebrate its 200th anniversary as a new, modern enterprise.
After the war when the Becher family was put aside and the company was nationalized, the state owned it for 57 years. Its privatization took place from 1997 but it was successfully finished only in 2001. The current company owner (with almost 100% of shares) is French Pernord Ricard, one of the biggest producers of liquer and wine.
In 2003, together with some other marketing changes, the brand's look was revived. An English designer Martin Blunt, who was responsible for the changes, carefully built the new look around the key moments within the brand's history. He added soul to the timeless design: a classical blue and yellow combination on the original green glass, but with a new silver element and symbolic red seal: the Jan Becher signature. This creates a brand that is revolutionary yet traditional, and, undeniably Czech.
In less than a year of construction time, a modern enterprise suited to comply with market demand was recently built in the Carlsbad part of Bohatice. The loading hall is equipped with the latest technology, making it possible to transport the delicious liqueur product from the city center, increasing its capacity by 40%. In September 2010 the first bottles of Becherovka left the factory and Becherovka increased its export to more than 35 countries, including the USA.
Becherovka's 200 years old history is packed with stories that most brands would die for. However, the heart and soul of the brand was no longer coming across in the design. To bring this to life the Becherovka cryptogram was elevated, a symbol shrouded in mystery and magic that has been part of the brand since its inception. The entire design is now more clean, premium and contemporary with an inspiring essence at its heart.