On the tiny island country of Malta, people enjoy a liqueur called bajtra, made from local prickly pears. But, outside of Malta, bajtra is practically unknown.
Bajtra origin story
Malta is a group of three islands in the Mediterranean Sea, about the same distance from Palermo, Sicily as the north coast of Africa.
The hot, dry weather on Malta means that cacti, imported hundreds of years ago from the new world, grow like weeds. Maltese farmers often use cacti as a windbreak or to define property lines.
In late summer and fall, the spiny succulent produces pink/purple fruit. Known in Maltese as bajtar tax-xewk (spiny figs), prickly pears are harvested and the outer thorns are carefully removed. The fruit is sometimes eaten raw or made into jams and jellies.
But, the most interesting use of the prickly pear is in bajtra. The fruit is infused into alcohol until it becomes a slightly syrupy, pink liqueur.
How to drink bajtra
Bajtra is most often served ice cold, straight up as a digestiv. Many restaurants in Malta will offer a glass of bajtra at the end of a meal, much like a limoncello in Italy. Some restaurants even make their own!
You can also enjoy bajtra over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or, enjoy a glass of bajtra with a cheese platter.
Bajtra is also nice in a cocktail. Try an ounce of bajtra in a glass of prosecco.
Or, make a Maltese cocktail by combining two ounces of bajtra with two ounces of Campari. Add Kinnie, the Maltese soda, and a slice of lemon with a sprig of mint.
Where to get bajtra
Bajtra is widely available in Malta at liquor stores and restaurants. Outside of Malta, it is difficult to find. One website, maltaproducts.com, does ship to the US. But, you should be aware that shipping costs are understandably high.